MORE than 400 soldiers, sailors, and members of the air corps have flocked from the Defence Forces in the last four years, before finishing their training.
According to figures from the Department of Defence provided to the Evening Echo under the Freedom of Information Act, 171 recruits out of 615 “purchased their discharge” last year.
Purchasing their discharge means they left the service of their own accord and had to pay at least €300 to leave.
The figures, released amid concerns that the Defence Forces have become an unattractive career option due to low pay and poor conditions, show that the 171 recruits who left last year all left of their own accord, while 123 of recruits who left the service in 2016 also left by their own choice.
Sixty-two out of 307 recruits were discharged in 2015, with 50 of those having bought their discharge.
And to date this year, 70 have already left of their own accord, out of an intake of 321 recruits.
The figures come after PDFORRA, which represents members of the Defence Forces, highlighted that there were 66 members of the Navy sleeping on naval vessels while inshore because they cannot afford rent or the travel expenses to go home.
Members of the Defence Forces are opting to leave to find a job in the private sector because of low wages.
The starting rate for a recruit into the Defence Forces is €14,000.
A starting private will begin on €27,000.
Sources said however that some members of the Defence Forces may have had to pay several thousand euro to leave the Defence Forces because of having done an apprenticeship while in service.
PDFORRA president Mark Keane said that an exodus is expected from the Defence Forces next year because several members will have reached 31 years of service.
This is the maximum length of time a member can stay in the Defence Forces, before retirement.
A campaign to highlight low pay in the Defence Forces has been mounted by the Wives and Partners of the Defence Forces.