THE number of people serving in the Navy has fallen by over 40 members since 2010 and is now at its lowest level in a decade.
Figures received by Fianna Fail's Deputy Michael McGrath show that there were 989 members attached to the naval service at the end of last year. This compares with 1,032 in 2010.
The figures have been released as families and supporters of Defence Forces personnel have highlighted low morale, decreasing personnel and poor pay and conditions as issues in the army, Navy and air corps.
Deputy McGrath said: "Our Defence Forces are a source of great pride for people, not only here in Cork, but right across the country. Every day they serve their country, whether it is as part of UN peacekeeping missions or humanitarian operations."
"It is a great privilege to have the Naval Base in Cork harbour. Over the past number of years morale within the Defence Forces has been eroded. We regularly hear stories of troops and Naval Service personnel struggling to pay for their mortgages and basic necessities because their pay levels are so low."
"It is one of a number of issues which has led to a crisis in retention. Indeed, the numbers in the Naval Service have fallen to their lowest level in almost a decade – with only 989 personnel currently serving."
He added: "The Defence Forces as a whole are now seriously below strength and it is time now to significantly rebuild. Fianna Fáil has been engaging with Defence Forces personnel and their families on an ongoing basis and fully recognises the frustration and anger they are feeling. We recently used our Private Members Time in the Dáil to highlight the plight of the Defence Forces and to call for a workable retention policy."
He accused Fine Gael of turning its back on the Defence Forces but he said Ireland "needs to recommit to its Defence Forces and its defence capability”.
The issues within the Defence Forces will be brought to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs, Justice and Defence on Tuesday by members of PDFORRA. Among those in the PDFORRA delegation will be president of the organisation, serving naval member Mark Keane.
The Echo revealed last week that members of the Navy have left to join organisations such as Aldi and Lidl, because of better pay and conditions.