Kildare South TD, Fiona O’Loughlin has said that while the proposed additional recruitment of over 800 members of the Defence Forces is welcome, unless the Government put in place measures to retain existing members, the Defence Forces will continue to see a drop in force strength.

Deputy O’Loughlin was commenting after it became clear that the last recruitment campaign in April 2016 failed to materially affect the overall number of Defence Force members.

“Last April, the then Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney committed to recruit 600 additional personnel, yet the overall force strength actually reduced by the end of the campaign from 9146 to 9126.

“Kildare is home to the Defence Forces Training Centre, the Military College, as well as Curragh Camp. Over 1500 Defence Forces personnel, and their families, are based in the county.

“We have a long and proud military history in the county, and it must be protected.

“Committing to recruiting additional members of our Defence Forces is one thing, but unless a detailed, resource retention plan is put in place side by side the recruitment strategy, the Defence Forces will continue to deteriorate.

“What’s obvious to anyone is that last year’s recruitment campaign, and the one proposed last week, will barely keep force strength at above 9100.

“Fine Gael committed to maintaining force strength at 9500 but that commitment, in light of these figures, has been shown to be nothing more than spin.

“Since 2013, 10% of Officers have left the forces. The Defence Forces cannot maintain its readiness with such a large proportion of its leadership class leaving.

“Why is it that both enlisted members, and officers, don’t see the Defence Forces as a long term, viable career choice.

“The Government need to redouble its commitment to the Defence Forces, ensure that those who are recruited to the force receive the best possible conditions, and feel valued.

“There is no greater honour than serving one’s country, but the Government must treat them with respect at all times. Sadly, too many of our soldiers, sailors and air men don’t feel that they get that respect, and chose to leave Oglaigh na hÉireann,” concluded O’Loughlin.