The Adjutant General is responsible for personnel matters in the Defence Forces.

Age limits, heights and  physical standards are prescribed.  Soldiers may enlist for a period of 12 years or a lesser period as may be prescribed.  After this initial enlistment, service may be extended on application for up to a further period of 21 years with provision for some shorter extensions after that.

Certain persons are ineligible to be recruited to the Army. These include

  • persons discharged from the permanent or Reserve Defence Forces, military, naval or police services.
  • Members of an Garda Siochana
  • existing members of the forces.
  • persons convicted of serious offence by a civil court.
  • persons belonging to the armed forces or  police forces of another state
  • certain persons in receipt of disability pensions
  • persons ordinarily resident outside the state
  • persons convicted by the Special Criminal Court of certain offences against the State unless certain periods have expired, or a pardon has been granted.
  • persons failing to meet the requisite standards

Enlistment is undertaken by taking an oath, but is based on contractual terms. The contract has certain statutory terms and conditions.  However,  a soldier is an office holder and not an employee.

There are provisions subject to conditions, for transfer between one service corps and another.  Minimum periods may be required before transfer is allowed. Soldiers may be detached from the unit to which they belong and attached to another unit within the same command or another command by arrangement between the commanding officers.

Promotions up to the rank of Corporal require a recommendation by commanding officer, good military conduct ratings and completion of training courses and instructions. Promotions above the rank of Corporal to the rank of Sergeant are made by the Adjutant General.  Canvassing is forbidden.

Non-commissioned officers may be reduced in rank voluntarily, by court martial decision or by the Adjutant General where there are good grounds.

Persons may be discharged from the military

  • by order of prescribed military authority
  • on foot or a sentence of discharge with or without ignominy by court martial
  • or in pursuance of the direction of the Minister or authorised officer for prescribed reason.

Prescribed reasons (by which person may be discharged by direction of the Minister or officer authorised) include

  • improper enlistment,
  • application for discharge by purchase subject to certain conditions
  • own request after 12 years
  • conviction by the Special Criminal Court
  • appointment to be an officer
  • completion of engagement (requires to re-enlist).

A female soldier may request on marriage or becoming pregnant to be discharged

The officer commanding may discharge where

  • a person has been convicted
  • misconduct
  • on request to take up civilian appointment
  • on application for compassionate reasons,
  • is not likely to become efficient.
  • whose services are no longer required.

Other applications are made to the Adjutant General.

As an officeholder, the principles of constitution and natural justice apply to a discharge on a non-consensual basis. Where the reasons are discreditable, there is a greater obligation to ensure the person is given the opportunity to meet his case as it will reflect on his character.

Officers and soldiers of the Defence Forces are obliged to render military service within or outside the State.

Women were permitted to enter the Defence Forces in 1979. In 1992, women members were given access to all appointment. This applies to both the Permanent Defence Forces and the Reserve Defence Forces.

Females are entitled to equality of opportunity in relation to overseas missions with United Nations.  Cognisance may be  taken of the nature of the operation, facilities, customs culture, religious ethos and the role of women in the relevant society.

Terms and conditions, including pay and employment allowances, are prescribed by law.  Pay may be forfeited due to absence without leave, imprisonment and in other circumstances.

There are special provisions in relation to deduction of pay.  Deductions in pay are prohibited save on limited grounds.  There are special provisions allowing for deduction of maintenance orders which are over and above the standard provisions under maintenance and childcare legislation.  Military earnings are not capable of being attached for civil debts.

Member of the Permanent Defence Forces may not join any political organisation or secret society.  Members of the Reserve Defence Forces may not join a secret society. Member of the Reserve Defence Forces who are  continuously engaged in military service or called out on permanent service  may not take part in certain specific certain political activities. It is an offence to organise or attempt to organise any secret society amongst members of the Defence Forces or to assist or partake in any such activity.

Defence Forces members may not become members of local authority, ETB and may other bodies. They are ineligible for jury service.

Members of the Defence Forces enjoy certain exemptions from road traffic law while driving State military vehicles on duty.  They are exempt from certain tolls and charges.  The arms equipment clothing and service necessaries may not be ceased by a court order.

The officers commanding barracks and units, camps and posts are responsible for the health of all personnel, whom they  command.  They must have them  medically inspected when they consider necessary.  The medical officer may advise the commanding officer that a medical that a medical examination should be carried out.

A medical board classifies members of the Defence Forces in accordance with their medical category. Examinations are recorded and answered on the soldier or officer\’s medical book.

There are categories of mental and bodily fitness, prescribed by regulation.  They are categorised in accordance with their physical abilities and efficiencies. Their physical and mental constitution, vision hearing, and general health are considered. There are specific tests of hearing and vision undertaken. There are various gradings, depending on their ability to undertake physical exertion.

Recruits, cadets and other entrants are required to achieve minimum standards following examination.   Members of the Defence Forces undertake examination at least every 12 months and may be reclassified at intervals of three years or on certain other occasions as may be designate by commanding officers and other officers of the Defence Forces.

Once a member of the Defence Forces, is over forty years of age, he is automatically downgraded, from a fitness perspective. The effect of re-classification depends on the nature of the category and the soldier or officer\’s position.  Persons training to be officers may be unable to obtain the relevant grade.  A person may be ineligible for certain categories of service, including service overseas.  Eligibility for extension of service and reengagement may be restricted.

A officer or soldier who unable to perform normal military duties because of physical or mental disability may be granted sick leave.  He may be required to undergo medical examination as often as advised.  There are provisions for the extension of sick leave.  If a person is unable to resume duty after a number of extensions, he may be obliged to retire from the Defence Forces.

There are separate but similar rules in respect of non-commissioned officers and private soldiers.

Certain reclassifications have serious consequences for the member\’s future. Because of the fact that reclassification may have adverse effect on the career of a Defence Forces member Constitutional fair procedures are  required.  .  They must be informed of the re-classification given the opportunity to make representations before it becomes final.  He may have his own medical or legal representative for the purpose of making representations.  He is to be given  copies of the medical documents.

Courts of Inquiry are constituted by officers for the purpose of enquiring it in matters referred to them to make a finding or declaration.  The Court of Inquiry may examine into matters relevant to conduct and service. They may inquire into accidents involving weapons, where persons or animals are injured or property is damaged, outbreaks of fire, explosions, damage to property, accidents in which a person subject to military law are involved and the maiming or injury of a person, who is subject to military law, whether on or  off duty. There are  exemptions and cases where it is only held if directed.

The court comprising officers is made up president and members or assessors, unless otherwise required by regulation. The authority may order the attendance of persons subject to military law. Documents  in military custody may be produced.  An inquest may take place into the death of a person.

There are normally three members in the Court of Inquiry.  Membership will depend on the subject matter.  A civilian with the necessary technical qualifications may advise the court on technical questions. The court acts by majority.  Dissenting members may make a dissenting finding.

The purpose of a Court of Inquiry is to determine the truth of the matter under investigation.  The court does not express an opinion on the conduct of a person subject to military law unless required to do so by the authority which convened it.

Evidence is unsworn unless otherwise directed.  It should be recorded in writing. Persons not subject to military law may be the subject of an order for attendance by the convening authority.

The principles of constitutional justice apply to the proceedings of a Court of Inquiry, subject to qualifications and limitations.

The convening authority reviews the proceedings and signifies its agreement or otherwise with the finding.  The convening authority may direct the court to reassemble and take further evidence, review its decision or make new or further findings.

The proceedings of courts of inquiry including confessions and admissions made are not admissible in evidence against a person subject to military law other than on a trial for perjury.  Findings of the court are not admissible as evidence.  They are treated as confidential.


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