Two Irish naval ships have been tied up in port due to a deepening manpower crisis.

The Irish Examiner has reported that the nine-ship fleet will be reduced to seven as the navy’s flagship, LÉ Eithne and coastal patrol vessel LÉ Orla will be taken off operational duty for the foreseeable future.

Eithne was originally built as a Helicopter Patrol Vessel for long-range fisheries patrol, the vessel was built in Cork and displaces around 2,000 tonnes.

Despite her age, LÉ Ciara, which was purchased from the UK in 1988, is to remain on patrol say local media.

In a statement, the Defence Forces press office said Flag Officer Commanding the naval service, Commodore Michael Malone, was “currently managing the consolidation of naval service assets”.

The paper also reported that, as a result of poor pay, up to 80 sailors are currently sleeping on ships when off-duty. PDforra, (which represents personnel in the Defence Forces) president Mark Keane told the committee that on average 11 or 12 were sleeping nightly on each ship.

“The older ships do 26-day cycle patrols and are then back in [port] for 16 days,” he said according to the Irish Examiner.

“The sailors are working onboard 60-70 hours a week and then sleeping on the same ships when they are off duty. They deserve a proper place to go and put their heads down at night.”

The Irish Naval Service is struggling to retain or attract recruits in the face of competitive private firms.

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Sadly, this will not be the preserve of the Irish Navy, as recruitment becomes a growing problem in a number of countries. Today, the MOD was criticised for its housing quality, which in turn is affecting retention of service personnel.

I do get the impression that remote vehicle developed, is too dilatory? Unless the move to UAV’s and their like is speeded up, we could be in trouble. This growing crisis may lead to ineffective voluntary forces, in both Britain and Europe? Conscription may be nearer than we think, as our national security is weakened by this issue?


Yup, this is a global issue. The US and Australian Navies are also short of sailors and are struggling to recruit enough to meet their needs.


The US Navy is short of sailors because of a rather stupid decision to reduce the number of authorizations for its ships, specifically destroyers taken about a decade ago. In 2012 the number of billets on a US destroyer was 240. In 2017, it rose to 270. By 2023 the US Navy plans to get it back to 318, the original size for a DDG. It’s the result of 20 years of neglect for the surface fleet. The US Navy is meeting its recruitment goals for new sailors. The real problem is in the experienced tech billets. That is being… Read more »

Andy P

Maybe a bit avant garde but it the Forces treated the lads with a modicum respect then they’d maybe have better retention. Can’t comment on the Oirish navy but when you’re being lied to and you KNOW you’re being lied to, its kind of hard to believe that your ‘betters’ actually give a toss.

By the sounds of it, at least the Irish lads have some sort of Forces Federation which is long overdue for the UK.


It’s not actually the High Command but the Civilian DoD that’s being pointed at by the DF reps as the main cause, along with relatively low political/public interest/understanding of the issues.

Andy P

Meh, tomatoe, tomato. I didn’t really care who was bending me over, it was getting bent over that was the sickener. Then being expected to smile afterwards.


I am not sure unmanned systems will really solve personnel problems. Unmanned systems just move the people elsewhere. Maintainers, operators, programmers etc will still be required in large numbers with unmanned systems and those professions will be in high demand in the civilian work force. Retention of unmanned systems experts will be difficult.


What! Ireland can’t even crew 9 vesssels…. That’s embarrassing. Now I understand why british jets protect all Irish skies.

Don Lavery

Defence is ignored by the Irish Government, until crises such as The Troubles, 9/11 etc come along. Then the question is, what are the underfunded, undermanned Defence Forces going to do to protect us?
Governments, and civil servants, never learn.


Hell 9/11 didn’t really change much at all for the DF, when you think about it, only 5 years before that Defence spending was above 1%, think about what state the DF would be in if it had held even that level from then to now…

Gavin Gordon

Interesting that they’re apparently keeping the older british vessels. Sound, military-standard hull design maybe?


@Gavin Gordon

Ah no, the Peacocks are the least used in the fleet and generally stay up the East Coast only, in fact they’ve been informally laid up for about 6 months now. Moreover they are the major headache for crew conditions compared to the rest of the fleet.

For Eithne going out of service, I wonder is their other thinking about this? Reportedly her replacement is finally crawling towards tendering, with some suggestions that Vard, the designer of the 50’s/60’s might have something close to the EPV spec.


Ireland is pretty much at full employment meaning high private demand, meanwhile the DF is the least paid PS, in terms of the NS I also wonder if there’s impact from the ending of the Med operations and reversion to Domestic operations.

Steve Taylor

Tied up? Boot laces are tied. Ships are berthed or secured alongside.


But they are tied to a mooring aren’t they?


Rumour has it that there are more Irish sailors in the Royal Navy than there are in the Irish Navy. Is this true? 😉


I think there are more sailors in the Royal Navy than the entirety of the Irish Defence Forces!


That’s true.


Is sad but many Irish people probably think Britain, NATO, EU, ect will protect them so why should they join the Navy. Maybe it’s time to bring back conscription to countries that aren’t willing to do their fair share.


It has vastly more to do with Retention due to the impact of the 08 Crash being resolved slowly, also how exactly would Conscription work if that’s your argument?

Sean Crowley

This is same for Australia , in fact we sent RAAF FA18 Hornets to a New Zealand Airshow in the keen hope of getting Kiwis to join up , in fact if we dont get enough Kiwis then there is talk of inducing US Navy Pilots , if we dont , we will soon have a ratio of 1.3 Pilots Per Air Frame by 2021 !


The RAF and I suspect the RAAF did quite well out of the RNZAF’s cessation of fast jet capabilities a while ago. The ENZAF guys packed up en masse and ended up in the RAF and RAAF.
Mind you the RAAF has been poaching from the UK for a long while. The Australian Army was as well, particularly for ex Apache pilots for Tiger.