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For Oral Answer on : 23/03/2023
Question Number(s): 20,22 Question Reference(s): 14191/23, 13922/23
Department: Defence
Asked by: David Stanton T.D., Fergus O’Dowd T.D.


* To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Defence the actions that have been taken by his Department to support and encourage the retention of personnel in the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– David Stanton T.D.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 23 March, 2023.

* To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Defence the progress made by the Government in terms of reaching the number of Defence Forces personnel targeted.

– Fergus O’Dowd T.D.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 23 March, 2023.


The military authorities advise that as at the end of February 2023, the number of personnel in the Defence Forces stood at 7,917, some 83% of the authorised strength of 9,500.  

The Defence Forces are developing strategies to achieve increased recruitment and to address the current shortfall in numbers. The longer-term target is to realise a Defence Forces strength of 11,500 by 2028, incorporating an appropriate civilian component, in line with the recommendation of the report of the Commission on the Defence Forces. However, in the short-term the focus is on stabilising current numbers.

As I have outlined in an earlier response, there are a number of recruitment and retention initiatives currently underway. There is ongoing general service and direct entry recruitment and the re-entry schemes remain open. A specific general service stream is also now open for Air Corps recruits. The ‘Be More’ recruitment campaign, launched last year, highlights the career opportunities available in the Defence Forces and also the wider benefits of membership.

Retention measures include service commitment schemes in the Air Corps and Naval Service, and the sea-going naval personnel tax credit. Agreement has also been secured to allow for an extension in service limits for Privates and Corporals and on an interim arrangement, for Sergeants.

There has been significant progress on pay as a result of increases arising from the Public Service Pay Commission report and from recent pay agreements. The early implementation of some of the recommendations of the Commission on the Defence Forces report, have also had a substantial impact on starting pay rates in the Defence Forces.  

Current pay rates including Military Service Allowances for the ranks of Private 3 Star/Able Seaman, in their first three years of service start at €37,147 in Year 1, rising to €38,544 in Year 2, and €39,832 in Year 3 of service. A graduate cadet on commissioning starts on a payscale, which includes Military Service Allowance that ranges from €46,406 to €54,696 depending on the type of appointment.  A school leaver cadet starts at €41,123 whilst in full-time third level education.  These compare very favourably with the starting pay with other areas of the public service.

As noted, my immediate focus is on stabilising the numbers of personnel and thereafter increasing strength to meet the agreed level of ambition arising from the report of the Commission on the Defence Forces.