All recruitment is on a voluntary basis. Recruits are enlisted to serve for five years in the Permanent Defence Force followed by seven years in the Front Line Reserve Defence Force.
The Forces consist of the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve Defence Force. The Permanent Defence Force, which includes the regular Army, the Air Corps, and the Naval Service, has an approximate current strength of 13,000 personnel. The Reserve Defence Force, comprising the First Line Reserve (former members of the Permanent Force), the F.C.A. (An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil - territorial second-line army reserve) and An Slua Muirí (the second-line naval reserve) has a total strength of about 16,200 personnel.
Under the Constitution, the supreme command of the Defence Forces is vested in the President, from whom all officers hold their commissions. Military command is exercised by the Government through the Minister for Defence. The Minister is aided and advised on matters relating to the Department by a Council of Defence consisting of two civilian and three military members, including the Chief of Staff.
The country is divided into four territorial commands, Eastern, Southern, Western and Curragh Commands. Defence Forces Headquarters are located in Dublin.The Army has four infantry brigades, comprising nine battalions in total, and an infantry force of two battalions. Each brigade has a field artillery regiment and a squadron/company size unit for each of the support corps (Cavalry, Engineer, Signals, Supply and Transport, Military Police and Medical Corps). There are in addition special military establishments which include a military College based in the Curragh, Co. Kildare, an Equitation School, situated in McKee Barracks, Dublin, an Army School of Music located in Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin and an Apprentice School at Devoy Barracks, Naas, Co. Kildare. The current strength of the Army is 10,900 personnel all ranks. The part-time reserve (An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil) has a strength in excess of 15,000 personnel and is organised into 18 infantry battalions, six field artillery regiments and a number of squadron/company size units of support corps.
The Air Corps’ bases are at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, Co. Dublin and at Gormanston Air Station, Co. Meath. Most of the Corps’ technical and administrative services are located at Casement Aerodrome which is also the main centre for flying and technical training. Fixed-wing aircraft types in service include Fouga Magister armed jet trainers, SIAI Marchetti SF 260W armed piston-engined trainers, Cessna F 172 reconnaissance aircraft, CASA CN 235 maritime patrol aircraft and Beech Super Kingair and Gulfstream G IV aircraft for VIP transport. Alouette III, Dauphin and Gazelle helicopters are also used. The Air Corps has
a current strength of about 1,000 personnel.
The Naval Service has six offshore patrol vessels and a helicopter patrol vessel which can carry one of the Dauphin helicopters operated by the Air Corps. All vessels are based at Haulbowline, Co. Cork and are mainly engaged in fishery protection duties. At present there are approximately 1,100 personnel in the Naval Service. The part-time naval reserve, An Slua Muirí, has 400 personnel and is organised in five companies located at Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Dublin (two companies).
Irish troops have participated in several United Nations peacekeeping missions since 1958. In July 1960, the first full unit of the Defence Forces to serve abroad, an infantry battalion, went to the Congo (now Zaire). Personnel are currently serving with peacekeeping missions in the Middle East (UNTSO), Lebanon (UNIFIL), Afghanistan/Pakistan (OSGAP), Cyprus (UNFICYP), Kuwait (UNIKOM), Western Sahara (MINURSO), the former Yugoslavia (UNPROFOR) and with the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti (UNMIH).
Expenditure on the Defence Forces accounts for approximately 1.3% of GNP annually.
Civil Defence provides community service and assistance throughout the country in support of primary emergency services.Ministerial responsibility for Civil Defence is assigned to the Minister of State at the Department of Defence. The Department’s functions include planning and overall direction and control of civil defence activities at local authority level.
The organisation, recruitment and training of Civil Defence units is the responsibility of the local authorities. Local units are formed mainly of volunteers who are trained and equipped to provide search, rescue and recovery in all weathers, crowd stewarding, first aid, fire-fighting, care of the homeless and radiation monitoring, amongst other tasks. The active strength of Civil Defence is approximately 6,000 persons
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