Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Army Strength.

160.

asked the Minister for Defence when he will make arrangements for a substantial increase in the strength of the Army.

161.

andMr. Timmins asked the Minister for Defence if there are any proposals for increasing the strength of the regular Army, and, if so, what total membership figure is contemplated.

With your permission, a Cheann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 160 and 161 together. Recruitment is a continuous process, but with a view to improving the normal flow of recruits, local measures were put in hand some time ago to stimulate the intake of personnel. No particular target has been set but it is hoped that there will be an appreciable increase in the strength of the permanent Defence Force in the coming months.

Does the Minister agree that his reply to these questions is the same as his replies have been since he took over this Department, that recruiting is going on all the time and that he hopes for a satisfactory response? Has the Minister looked into the matter seriously to see why people are not joining the Army? Is it accommodation, or pay, or conditions generally? What new inducement has he to offer people to join the Army? The Minister must admit, I think, that the Government have allowed Army strength to drop to a dangerously low level having regard to the circumstances of the present and, indeed, the future?

The answer I have given is not the same as the answer given on previous occasions in so far as I indicated that local measures were put in hand to accelerate and improve the intake of recruits. This is having a good effect. The Deputy also comments on the rundown condition of the Army. I should remind him that the present strength of the Army is the highest in ten years. I admit it is not good enough and we are seeking recruits. It is hardly correct to say the strength has been allowed to run down.

What is the present strength?

8,817 on 30th September last.

Would the Minister consider recruiting young married men?

This question is raised at a later stage.

162.

asked the Minister for Defence the number of officers and men in the Defence Forces on 1st October, 1970, and 1st October, 1971.

On the 1st October, 1970, there were 2,135 officers and 27,447 men in the Defence Forces. On 1st October, 1971, there were 2,132 officers and 27,490 men.

I am not sure if I heard the figures correctly but assuming that there was a drop in the number of officers could the Minister give any reason for this? Is it because of discontent in the forces? In view of the fact that the Minister said that the Army is now at the highest level in ten years could he explain why there has been a drop in the number of officers?

The strength is subject to fluctuation from time to time. We are well aware that we could do with more junior officers.

163.

asked the Minister for Defence the number of NCOs who have resigned from the Defence Forces between 1st October, 1970, and 1st October, 1971.

The number of non-commissioned officers of the Defence Forces who were discharged during the period between the dates mentioned by the Deputy was 568 of whom 221 were non-commissioned officers of the permanent Defence Force. The figure of 221 includes those discharged from that force on the termination of their engagements, those discharged on pension, and those discharged for the purpose of appointment to be officers.

Does the Minister not think that this is a very high number for the Army to lose in one year, practically a quarter of the total of the officer strength in relation to the figure of 2,000 mentioned in the previous reply?

It is fully explained in the reasons for their discharge, on pension or on appointment to be officers,et cetera.

Is it not true that if conditions were good in the Army a number of these men would have re-enlisted?

Conditions in the Army in regard to pay have been considerably improved recently and from my observation of Army re-actions I know that the matter of pay and conditions is not the important one.

Is there not a certain amount of futility in attempting to recruit and train new men while at the same time losing fully trained men who could continue to serve were it not for the type of conditions of service existing at present? There is a good deal of discontent.