Irish Defence Forces

From Academic Kids

The Irish Defence Forces are the army, navy and air force of the Republic of Ireland. Their official Irish language title is Óglaigh na hÉireann, literally "Volunteers of Ireland". The President of Ireland is the formal commander-in-chief of the Defence Forces, but in practice they answer to the Irish Government via the Minister for Defence. The Defence Forces consist of the:

Irish Defence Forces
Military manpower
Military age17 years of age
Availability males age 15-49: 1,029,525 (2004 est.)
Fit for military service males age 15-49: 827,811 (2004 est.)
Reaching military age annually males: 30,083
(2004 est.)
Military expenditures
Dollar figure$700 million (FY00/01)
Percent of GDP0.9% (FY00/01)


The Republic of Ireland's favourable geographical location, between the United States and the European Union, makes any external threat or invasion unlikely. The state also has a long-standing policy of non-belligerence in armed conflicts that included neutrality in World War II. For these reasons, the Republic's military capacity is relatively modest. However, the state has a long history of involvement in United Nations peace-keeping operations. Functions of the Defence Forces include:

  • Preparation for the defence of the state against armed attack.
  • Assisting the Garda Síochána (police force), including the protection of the internal security of the state.
  • Peace-keeping, crisis management and humanitarian relief operations in support of the United Nations.
  • Policing the fisheries, in accordance with the state's obligations under European Union law.
  • Miscellaneous duties requested by the Government such as search and rescue, air ambulance provision, providing air transport for ministers, assistance in the event of natural and other disasters, ensuring the maintenance of essential services, and assisting in dealing with oil pollution at sea.


The Defence Forces trace their origins to the Irish Volunteers founded in 1913. This organisation was succeeded in 1919 by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the guerrilla organisation that fought the War of Independence. Shortly after the creation of the 1922 Irish Free State, the IRA was succeeded by the modern Defence Forces. The Irish title Óglaigh na hÉireann, that had previously been used by both the Irish Volunteers and the IRA, was adopted by the Defence Forces as a claim of continuity with these organisations. Today this Irish title is also claimed by the Provisional IRA and a number of smaller militant groups for the same reason.


As of 2004, the Irish Army consists of 8,500 service members supplemented by reserves. The Naval Service operates eight off-shore patrol boats: seven ships of 1,000-1,500 tons displacement with crews of 39-45, and one of 1,900 tons with a crew of 85. The Air Corps operates reconnaissance planes, transport helicopters and a presidential jet. It has seven propellor-driven aerobatics planes with machine guns and missile capability. In January, 2004 the Republic of Ireland had almost 800 military personnel deployed overseas in various UN and other missions.

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