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This statement from the Association of Retired Commissioned Officers (ARCO) is issued in solidarity with Óglaigh na hÉireann, its serving personnel and their families. 

In light of the prevailing remuneration, the service conditions, well-being and work-life balance experienced by serving personnel and their families, coupled with the status of the Defence Forces as an unique institution of State, ARCO now urges the Minister for Defence to present formal proposals to Government, establishing without delay a statutory based, permanent and independent Defence Forces Commission to address remuneration (including pensions), service and retention conditions, and the conciliation and arbitration architecture.

ARCO salutes all personnel of the Defence Forces, together with their families, who by applying values of Respect, Loyalty, Selflessness, Courage and Integrity, while serving the citizens of Ireland, continue to successfully execute the defence and security roles assigned by the Government, both at home and overseas. 

ARCO, whose membership reflects a significant reservoir of experience and expertise within the realm of defence, contends that the prevailing inability to retain serving personnel, even in the context of a buoyant economy, is destabilising leadership at unit level, is purging corporate military knowledge, is increasing operational and training risks, is impacting negatively on morale, esprit de corps and well-being, is reducing manning levels, resulting in the unprecedented decline of deployable land, air, maritime and cyber capabilities, thus leaving the State, its institutions and citizens, vulnerable in maintaining a stable environment for economic development, and in addressing the threat landscape.

Notwithstanding the Government’s endorsement of the recommendations of the Public Service Pay Commission and the associated High Level Implementation Plan, ARCO’s previous statements on the grave deterioration of service conditions for personnel of the Defence Forces and their families, and the deployability of strategic and specialised defence capabilities, remain pertinent.  

The Government’s decision arising from the Public Sector Pay Commission’s Report, coupled with the public service pay restoration process, fail to adequately address the adverse effects of the inadequate remuneration and poor service conditions accruing to our colleagues in Óglaigh na hÉireann. 

In reality, the Government’s limited financial package focuses on the restoration of allowances reduced consequent to the Haddington Road Agreement of 2013 and the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts 2009 – 2015.  ARCO notes that the Public Service Pay and Pensions Act 2017 already provides for the restoration of the majority of these allowances on 1st October 2020.  The disappointing increase in the Military Service Allowance will have only a marginal effect, if any, on the declining living standards, work-life balance and welfare values endured by serving personnel and their families.

Notwithstanding the reintroduction of the Service Commitment Scheme for Air Corps Flying Officers, ARCO remains deeply concerned with the retention challenges across all ranks in the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service. 

82% of the 3,400 personnel exiting the Defence Forces during the period 2014 to 2018 were of a voluntary nature, this trend continues.  Of particular concern to ARCO, is that the unacceptable turnover rate for the Army moved from 4.92% in 2014 to 7.27% in 2018, the Air Corps turnover rate moved from 4.24% in 2013 to 8.14% in 2018, and the Naval Service turnover rate moved from 7.23% in 2013 to 14.81% in 2018.  This alarming trend continues in 2019.  The critical turnover rate identified by the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom is 5%.

ARCO notes the release of the Government’s High Level Implementation Plan.  Phase 1 must bring closure to the recommendations contained in the Public Sector Pay Commission’s report.   ARCO asserts that the timely conclusion of Phase 2, which examines core pay, is key to resolving the recruitment and retention challenges in the Defence Forces. 

In summary, in order to address the serious retention and remuneration issues that are undermining the Defence Forces capability development and operational readiness, coupled with the weakening morale, well-being and work-life balance of its personnel and their families, ARCO now calls on the Minister for Defence to present formal proposals to Government establishing without delay, a statutory based, permanent and independent Defence Forces Commission.

ARCO’s Previous Statements

On 16 September 2018, ARCO released a Statement of Concern on the serious deterioration of the service conditions, and the depletion of strategic defence capabilities in the Defence Forces. 

On 29 April 2019, ARCO released another statement in the context of the Respect and Loyalty Parade, which took place on 04 May, in Cork.   

Both statements are posted on the Association’s website: www.iarco.info

For information: the Report of the Public Service Pay Commission: Recruitment and Retention in the Permanent Defence Force May 2019 may be viewed HERE; the Government’s Plan: Strengthening Our Defence Forces – Phase 1, may be viewed HERE; and a downloadable copy of the ARCO Statement may be viewed HERE.

Executive Committee

10 July 2019

Statement from ARCO

Statement of Concern from the Association of Retired Commissioned Officers (ARCO) on the serious deterioration of conditions of service and the depletion of strategic defence capabilities in the Defence Forces.

The Association of Retired Commissioned Officers feels obliged to express its deep concern at the progressive deterioration of the conditions of service of members of the Defence Forces, and its dramatic impact on depleting the strategic capabilities required to deliver the Government’s taskings, in the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service.

The Permanent Defence Force is currently struggling to cope with the continuous exodus of trained and experienced personnel of all ranks. The resulting depletion of leadership echelons and corporate military knowledge, is leading to a further strategic deterioration of defence capabilities, caused by the inability to retain personnel across all ranks having the necessary skills and competencies, and the challenges encountered with attracting appropriate personnel to the Defence Forces.

It is regrettable that the loyalty, commitment, contribution and immense personal sacrifices made by personnel in implementing the strategic downsizing and reorganization of the Defence Forces, is undermined and negated by the lack of meaningful Government action in providing appropriate remuneration and enduring conditions of service for personnel of Óglaigh na hÉireann.

For many who served in the years that led to the establishment of the Gleeson Commission, it is extraordinary that we are witnessing a return to a similar set of circumstances by way of active protest undertaken by retired personnel, and the families of serving personnel, highlighting unsatisfactory Defence Forces remuneration and conditions of service.

ARCO calls on the Government to ensure there is a meaningful engagement between the Department of Defence, the Military Authorities and Representative Associations to identify and develop policies that will address, without delay, the serious retention and remuneration issues that are undermining the Defence Forces operational readiness, coupled with the morale and well-being of its personnel.

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Minister for Defence’s Budget Statement

Statement by the Minister for Defence, Mr. Alan Shatter, T.D., on Defence Budget 2012

Re-organisation of the Defence Forces
A major re-organisation of the Defence Forces will be initiated arising from the reduction in strength of the Permanent Defence Force to 9,500 personnel. This will include a reduction in the number of Army Brigades from the current three to two.

“Because the Defence Forces have downsized faster than the rest of the public service and are already 11% below the 2000 strength level, the Government have decided that there will be no further reduction below the level proposed in the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure. The strength will be maintained at 9,500 but there will be a major streamlining of the organisation. No further barrack closures are envisaged as part of this process.

In the context of the downsizing of the PDF, I have decided that a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces is now necessary in order to prioritise “front-line” service delivery. This will include a reduction in the number of Army Brigades from three to two which will free up military personnel from administrative and support functions. The reduction in the number of Army Brigades will require a re-defining of territorial areas of responsibility”.

“I have asked the Chief of Staff and Secretary General to bring forward detailed re-organisation proposals for my consideration. This will include proposals relating to the Reserve Defence Force, which is currently organised along similar lines to the Permanent Defence Force.”

“The task of the Defence Forces in 2012 is to make the changes necessary to continue to operate effectively across all of the assigned roles within the restricted financial allocation. I am confident that they will meet this challenge”.

Defence and Army Pensions

Gross Expenditure

2011 Budget Allocation

2012 Budget Allocation


(Army Pensions and Defence)




– Current




– Capital




– Total




The gross allocation in 2012 for Defence and Army Pensions combined is €902m, an overall reduction of 3.4% on the 2011 allocation. Defence provision for 2012 at €688m is €38m (5.2 %) below the 2011 estimate. The provision for Army Pensions for 2012 is €214m, an increase of €6.3m (3%) on the 2011 estimate.

The expenditure reductions of c. €38m will be achieved mainly through:

· Pay and allowance savings arising from reduced Defence Forces, Civil Service and Civilian Employee numbers. (Note: A Permanent Defence Force (PDF) strength of 9500 is provided for in 2012.)
· The planned reduction of expenditure on equipment and capital works across the Defence Forces. (The procurement of two new naval vessels will continue within the reduced allocation for Defence spending.)
· Organisational efficiencies associated with barrack closures will achieve additional non-pay savings.

Notes for Editors:
In the mid 1990’s it was decided to reduce the strength of the Permanent Defence Force to approx. 11,500 personnel, with the Army being organised into three Brigades each of approx 2,300 personnel as well as the Defence Forces Training Centre and other elements. The White Paper on Defence (2000) further reduced the strength of the Permanent Defence Force to 10,500 personnel and retained a three Brigade structure. As a result of the further reduction to 9,500 personnel it is now necessary to fundamentally revisit Defence Forces organisational structures including reducing the number of Brigades to two.

There are currently three Permanent Defence Force Army Brigades, 1 Southern Brigade with its Headquarters in Cork, 2 Eastern Brigade with its Headquarters in Dublin and 4 Western Brigade with its headquarters in Athlone. Each Army Brigade is comprised of a Brigade Headquarters with infantry, artillery, cavalry and other supporting units. In Ireland, each Brigade has a defined territorial area of responsibility.

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Association of Retired Commissioned Officers