Personnel numbers are dropping.
Figures released earlier today show that despite a recruitment drive, the number of people in the Defence Forces is continuing to drop.
There are 100 fewer defence forces personnel now than at the end of 2015 despite the recruitment of 590 General Service Recruits and 100 cadets in 2016. And the number of women in all areas of the Defence Forces remains low.
Deputy Fiona O’Loughlin put this down to a lack of clear career paths and low wages.
The figures prompted a response from Deputy Fiona O’Loughlin who noted that “it is clear from these new figures that excessive recruiting has been implemented in a misguided attempt to solve the retention problem in our Defence Forces.
“The Defence Forces has such a high profile in Kildare and traditionally was seen as an excellent career path for young people.
"However, retaining force strength is becoming a greater issue all the time as members leave to pursue more financially lucrative options with better work / life balance."
She pointed out that with 20% of the families of Defence Forces personnel are on Family Income Support, it was clear that they weren't being look after properly. She said that if resources were put into providing good salaries and a clear career path for soldiers, and not just to cadets, then it would be easier to maintain numbers in the Defence Forces.
Speaking of the recruitment campaigns she noted that there was "no point in recruiting them if we can't keep them".
"It's great to see young people with ambition going into the Defence Forces, but they need a clear and attractive career path.
Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin was critical of the drop in numbers.
And she criticised a “new policy of taking in massive classes of 100 cadets,” saying it had not worked because it puts strain on resources “resulting in a shortage of expertise in other areas”.
On the issue of women joining the forces, Deputy O’Loughlin who is Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on Equality, pointed out that of 7,254 Army personnel, only 476 are women.
And women account for only 65 of the 1,087 Naval Service personnel and 34 out of the 703 Air Corp members.
“I am very concerned that the level of female participation in the Defence Forces remains so low, despite the money that has been pumped into advertising campaigns to encourage women to join.
“The Minister needs to look at why the gender ratio remains so skewed in the Defence Forces and at implementing new mentoring programmes for women within the Defence Forces to assist in career development.”
“This trend needs to be reversed if we are to keep our approved establishment strength at 9500.”