Over 1,000 soldiers, sailors and Air Corps personnel paid money to leave the Defence Forces in the past five years, according to the association that representsthem.
PDFORRA says staff levels in the Defence Forces are at their lowest in over 30 years. It says the Defence Forcesare experiencing major difficulties in retaining and recruiting personnel - writes rte.ie.
The association also says the loss of highly-trained specialists is particularly acute in air traffic control, bomb disposal, and in the naval service, because staff are overworked and underpaid.
Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe and the Defence Forces Chief of Staff are due to address delegates at the association's annual conference in Co Cavan later today.
The association says the numbers interested in joining have halved in the past four years, with the majority of those applicants not bothering to complete the entrance test.
There are currently 9,070 serving in the forces, but its optimum strength is 9,500.
PDFORRA also says that because of poor pay and conditions, forced retirement and burnout, more service personnel are leaving than ever before.
It points to the fact that in the past five years over 1,000 of them paid €300 each to get out early, many with specialist skills valued in the commercial sector.
It has also highlighted the particular difficulties this has caused in the Naval Service, Air Corps and bomb disposal units, where it costs over €100,000 to train a specialist.
There are not, PDFORRA says, sufficient personnel to operate a 24-hour air service and air traffic controllers are now on call at night for medical emergencies, a duty they perform without extra pay.
The Naval Service it says has only sufficient numbers for seven crews for its eight ships.
The association says if the Department of Defence is serious about recruiting and retaining personnel, it needs to offer comparable pay and conditions to those in the wider public service.
Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, PDFORRA General Secretary Gerard Guinansaid that changes to contracts over the past number of years mean there is no security of tenure anymore for members of the Defence Forces.
He said that this, combined with pay cuts, meant a career in the Defence Forces is not the attractive career it once was.
"With the pay cuts that have occurred as a result of the Haddington Road Agreement, pay rates have been reduced. And also significant numbers are having to travel vast distances as virtue of the re-org [re-organisation].
"It's not the attractive career that it once was."
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