Defence Force members who joined since 1994 will be entitled to continue to serve until 50 years of age following changes to the terms and conditions of their contracts.
Soldiers who joined after this date had to leave after 20 years if they hadn’t been promoted to sergeant. However, representatives said that the pace of recruitment was not keeping up with the amounts of resignations.
Mark Keane, president of Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA), which represents more than 6,000 Defence Forces rank and file personnel, said the rule depleted the military’s already struggling junior ranks.
On Saturday morning, Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney announced changes to the terms and conditions of contracts for soldiers to allow them serve up to 50 years and beyond.
Privates and corporals who joined since 1994 will be entiteld to remain in service up to 50 years of age. In addition, the Minister has secured arrangements that will facilitate sergeants to continue to serve beyond 50 years of age.
Details in relation to the proposal for Sergeants will be finalised following further discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and their representative association PDFORRA.
This change in policy will allow for around 500 personnel to have the option to continue in service beyond 31 December 2022, subject to meeting certain criteria including passing Defence Forces medical and fitness tests.
The Minister said a review of the service limits for enlisted personnel was oneof his priorities.
“We have a professional, fit and healthy defence forces who are required to pass regular medical and fitness tests. It is important for the future of our Defence Forces that these highly trained and experienced personnel are retained,” he said.
“It is also important for individual personnel in terms of providing certainty and clarity on their future careers. I know that this was a pressing matter for serving soldiers and their families. I gave a commitment that I would address this matter before the end of the year. I am delighted to be able to honour that commitment.”
The Minister acknowledged that because of the nature of their duties, there is a need for the Defence Forces to maintain a low age profile across all ranks but he noted that “even with the increase in mandatory retirement age for this cohort of personnel, the age to which certain Defence Forces personnel can serve is lower than other public service groups”.
The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Seán Clancy, welcomed the positive announcement in retaining Post 94 Permanent Defence Force personnel, stating “The men and women of Óglaigh na hÉireann are our greatest asset and therefore, retaining these experienced, highly trained and knowledgeable personnel is a key enabler in strengthening our capability.”
The Minister thanked his colleague Mr Michael McGrath, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform for his assistance in bringing this matter to a positive conclusion.