Tuesday, 25 October 2005
Department of Defence
Defence Forces Recruitment
Question 580: To ask the Minister for Defence his proposals to reduce the height conditions for female entry in the Defence Forces in view of the ongoing difficulty in recruiting women; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30072/05]
The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women in the Defence Forces, including the Army, Air Corps, Naval Service and the Reserve Defence Force and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities. In effect, this means that women are eligible on the same basis as men for participation in operational and ceremonial activities, for assignment to all military appointments and educational and training courses and for promotion. All female personnel undergo the same training and receive the same military education as their male counterparts.
In order to encourage increased participation by women in the Defence Forces my predecessor decided in March 1998 to reduce the height requirement for all female recruits to 162.5 cm or 5 ft. 4 in. This height requirement also applies to male recruits.
The Defence Forces actively encourages female applicants in several ways. Where possible, all graphical advertisements and booklets produced for the Defence Forces show both male and female personnel and emphasise that all applicants are assessed on an equal basis. At recruitment fairs the Defence Forces stands are generally staffed by male and female personnel. When the Defence Forces are invited to give talks at all-female or at mixed schools, every effort is made to have a female speaker.
Over the past eight years, the strength of female personnel in the Permanent Defence Force has grown from 244 at the end of 1997 to 524 at the end of August 2005. This constitutes an increase of over 100% in the number of females serving over this period. On 5 August 2005 I wrote to both the Department of Education and Science and Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform as well as a number of outside organisations seeking their views and recommendations on how more women might be encouraged to enlist in the Defence Forces. When the submissions have been received and examined officials, both civil and military, of my Department will meet representatives of each of the organisations which made submissions along with the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers, RACO, and the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association, PDFORRA, to consider the ideas and suggestions to ascertain what, if any, improvements or changes can be made to the programme of recruitment so as to encourage more females to join the Defence Forces.