Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Army Recruitment.

Paul Bradford

Ceist:

7 Mr. Bradford asked the Minister for the Defence the total number of applicants for the recent Army recruitment programme; the number due to be recruited; his views on future recruitment policy; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Michael Bell

Ceist:

15 Mr. Bell asked the Minister for Defence the number by unit, corps or command of recruits who were successful in the current recruiting campaign who were members of the FCA; if the results are disappointing to members of An Fórsa who have given long and loyal service to the Defence Forces and who carry out security duties and compliment efforts of the PDF; if, in any future recruiting, he will lay down at least a minimum percentage of places for serving members of An Fórsa who should be granted entry to the PDF; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

17 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Defence the total number of persons who applied for recruitment to the Defence Forces arising from the recent recruitment campaign; the total number called for interview; the total number shortlisted; the criteria used for shortlisting applicants; when it is expected that those selected will be recruited; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Martin Cullen

Ceist:

24 Mr. Cullen asked the Minister for Defence if the proposals for the introduction of short term contracts were acceptable to PDFORRA.

Bernard Allen

Ceist:

30 Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Defence his views on whether an age limit of 27 is fair for enlistment in the Army.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 15, 17, 24 and 30 together.

In the recent competition a total of 9,518 individuals applied for enlistment in the Permanent Defence Force and 8,280 attended for interview; 1,200 applicants have been shortlisted and 500 of these will shortly be recruited. The criteria used by the recruit selection boards in assessing candidates were general suitability in terms of motivation, communication skills and aptitude for group work; physical suitability as evidenced by sporting interests and hobbies; and general intelligence as indicated by educational attainments or otherwise. Under general suitability favourable consideration was given to the voluntary service of members of the FCA.

322 — 64.4 per cent of the first 500 candidates shortlisted by the selection boards are members of the FCA. This represents a relatively high success rate for members of the FCA and I do not, therefore, see the need to reserve a set percentage of places for FCA members. Details of the units, corps and commands of the successful FCA applicants are not readily available.

In accordance with the representative structures established for the Permanent Defence Force, PDFORRA was consulted in relation to the proposed recruitment. I extended the length of the term of engagement for the new recruits from three to five years on foot of the association's representations.

Having regard to the current age profile of non-commissioned personnel of the Permanent Defence Force and the need for young, fit and active personnel for operational duties, I consider that it would not be appropriate at the present time to enlist persons who are over 27 years of age.

The question of further recruitment will be kept under review in the light of operational requirements.

I noted with interest that approximately 6 per cent of those people who have been interviewed will be recruited during the next few months. In view of the fact that the average age of soldiers in the Army is one of the oldest in Europe will the Minister agree that the way to solve this problem is not through retirements at one end of the scale but through a major programme of recruitment? The fact that 9,518 individuals applied for enlistment indicated a tremendous interest among people in a career in the Army. Is not the solution to the problem one of recruitment rather than cost cutting exercises?

I agree it would be marvellous if we could have an annual recruitment campaign for the Army and to induct many individuals not only into the Army but the Air Corps and our exceptional Naval Service, despite criticisms I heard this morning about the latter which I totally reject. The reason for the upper age limit of 27 was to reduce the age profile. As the Deputy is aware there is a number of categories of enlisted men over the preferred age profile. In those circumstances we considered it appropriate that the conditions as set out in the reply to the question should apply.

While the five year limit for these jobs is a modest but welcome improvement on the original three year idea, does it mean that the posts on offer some weeks ago will simply allow people to take a job in the Army rather than have a career in the Army? Until we can offer careers in the Army things are not as they should be. Is it the Minister's intention that people will be able to seek recruitment to the Army as a career rather than simply a three, four or five year contract? These people are not offered an Army career, they are offered a short term job.

In the nature of things they are being offered a career which lasts five years.

The Minister is stretching it.

This is a stepping stone. It is important training for young people coming into the Army. They experience discipline and good order in the Defence Forces with the possibility of learning a trade or trades over the five year period. If after that time they are found to be Army or Defence Force material there is an opportunity for them to remain in the Army.

What is the percentage?

I do not have that information but I will obtain it for the Deputy. As regards a full-time Army career, I would like to think there will be an opportunity for that in the future. The Army serves the country well and it is important to maintain high standards to ensure it continues to do so. The present numbers in the Army must be maintained and increased if possible.