Plan delayed further amid ‘largest crisis of confidence in Defence Forces for 77 years’

Further delays to the Government’s implementation plan for the Commission on the Defence Forces (CDF) report has been widely criticised amid deepening concerns over cuts to the navy.

The Department of Defence said the implementation plan on the CDF — which reported in February 2022 — would be published “during the coming Dáil term”, which restarts at the end of September.

As recently as July 13 last, Defence Minister Micheál Martin told the Dáil the plan was at an advanced stage and expected to be published “in the coming weeks”.

Asked for the update, the Department of Defence told the Irish Examiner: “The development of the implementation plan for the Report of the Commission on the Defence Forces, is at an advanced stage and is expected to be published during the coming Dáil term.” 

When the Government published, in July 2022, its High Level Action Plan for the CDF, in which it accepted the second of three options – Level of Ambition (LOA)2 – set out by the CDF, it said a detailed implementation plan would be published “within six months”, or by January 2023.

Former Army officer and Independent, Cathal Berry, said: “Is that between September and Christmas or it is between now and July 2024? Who knows. The Commission on the Defence Forces reported 18 months ago now and we still don’t have an implementation plan in the middle of the largest crisis of confidence in the Defence Forces for 77 years. What does that say about our sense of priorities?” 

He said the CDF only took 13 months to report.

Professor at UCD School of Politics and International Relations, Ben Tonra, said it is “frankly extraordinary” that the Government has failed to set out an actionable implementation plan.

“We are now promised — only in the vaguest of terms — that such a plan may be expected at some point before the end of the coming Dáil term which extends to the Christmas break,” he said.

“Whatever the cause of these delays, it evidences an abject failure on the part of Government either to address the immediate crisis in the operational capacity of the Defence Forces or to address the underlying strategic requirements for profound change.”

Lieutenant Colonel Conor King, of RACO, the staff body for commissioned officers, said the plan should have been published “no later than January 2023”.

He said:

The fact that the Defence Forces retention crisis has been allowed to develop into a fully-fledged retention catastrophe since the publication of the Commission’s report tells us all we need to know about the political will to address the issues. 

“Meanwhile we see the continued prioritisation of recruitment over retention.

He added: “It is clear that the refusal to listen to the voices of our Naval Service personnel has led to the exodus in personnel, due to a failure to implement safe and fair working conditions, or pay adequate allowances for hours worked, which cannot but impact on capability.” 

He said the solutions are simple: increase patrol duty allowance as recommended by the CDF and implement the Working Time Directive. Mr Berry agreed and said the “number one priority” is the offshore allowance for navy personnel.

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