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Defence | Current strength of the Defence Forces

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Defence the current strength of the Defence Forces; the extent to which this is in line with the recent report on the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Bernard J. Durkan T.D.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 23 March, 2023.


As of the 28 February 2023, the strength of the Permanent Defence Force stood at 7,917 personnel.
Recruitment and retention difficulties in the Defence Forces have been previously acknowledged and 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.

In that context, 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, which compare very well to starting pay rates across 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.

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