Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Ireland

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Ireland, 2004, available at: [accessed 21 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 3.9 million (1.0 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 10,460 (estimate)
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 17 (16 for apprentices)
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 18 November 2002
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138, ILO 182

The minimum voluntary recruitment age was 17. The government said that the few under-18s serving in the armed forces were unlikely to be deployed in hostilities because of training requirements.


In 2001 the national Human Rights Commission was established in law and the constitution was amended to remove the death penalty. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published its report in September 2003 following its visit to Ireland in May 2002. The CPT found inhuman conditions for prisoners suffering from mental illness, and received reports of ill-treatment by prison and police officers. Legislation was introduced to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law.1


National recruitment legislation and practice

There is no conscription into the Irish Defence Forces. The Permanent Defence Force, comprising army, naval and air services, and the Reserve Defence Force are recruited on a voluntary basis.2 The 1954 Defence Act states that enlistment, including of under-18s, may be for up to 12 years and that "where a boy is enlisted ... before attaining the age of eighteen years, the period of twelve years ... shall be reckoned from the day on which he attains the age of eighteen years" (Article 53). The Act also allows boys under 18 "during a period of emergency [to] be enlisted as a man of the Permanent Defence Force" (Article 54).3

The usual methods of entry to the Permanent Defence Force are as an officer cadet, recruit or apprentice. The minimum age for boys and girls to become cadets is 17, although the Defence Forces said that most applicants were 18. The upper age limit is 25. Applicants under the age of 18 must have parental consent. In 2002, six recruits joined the Cadet School at 17; in 2003 the number was two. Recruits join the Permanent Defence Force for five years and then spend seven years in the Reserve Defence Force. The minimum age to become an apprentice, before enlistment, is 16.4

The Defence Forces said it was unlikely, because of training requirements, that under-18s would be deployed on combat operations. Recruits undergo a minimum training of six months, cadets 24 months and apprentices for up to 36 months, depending on the apprenticeship. After training, newly qualified personnel must spend a minimum of 12 months in their unit before they may be deployed overseas. There were no plans to raise the minimum age of recruitment.5


International standards

Ireland ratified the Optional Protocol in November 2002. Its accompanying declaration stated that "In general, the minimum age for recruitment into the Irish armed forces is 17. An exception is made in the case of apprentices, who may be recruited at the age of 16. However, apprentices are not assigned to any military duties until they have completed up to four years apprenticeship trade training, by which time all would have attained the age of 18". The declaration stressed that recruitment of under-18s is not forced or coerced, that all applicants are required to provide proof of age, and that unmarried applicants under the age of 18 must have parental consent.6

In international forums Ireland has backed efforts to combat the use of child soldiers. During a UN Security Council meeting on children and armed conflict in November 2001, Ireland's representative said that "the issue of children in armed conflict is of particular concern to the Irish Government and Ireland strongly supports international efforts to strengthen the level of protection available to children affected by armed conflict".7

1 Amnesty International Reports 2002 and 2004,

2 General information on armed forces, European Union Presidency 2004 website,

3 1954 Defence Act,

4 The Irish Defence Forces, information on recruitment,; Communication from Lt. Cdr. Anthony A. Geraghty, Irish Defence Forces, 27 April 2004.

5 Communication from Cmdt. Brian Cleary, Irish Defence Forces press office, 27 April 2004.

6 Declarations and reservations to the Optional Protocol, (subscription required).

7 Statement of the Permanent Mission of Ireland, 20 November 2001,

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