Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 3,705,000
    – under-18s: 996,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 11,460
    – reserves: 14,800
  • Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
  • Voluntary recruitment age: 17
  • Voting age (government elections): 18
  • Child soldiers: indicated in government forces
  • CRC-OP-CAC: signed on 7 September 2000; does not support "straight-18" position
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC, GC, ILO 138; ILO 182
  • There are indications of under-18s in government armed forces as voluntary recruits are accepted at seventeen.


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

There is no conscription in Ireland.960 In Irish defence provisions, permanent and reserve defence forces have always been based on voluntary service. Article 53 of the Defence Act of 1954, the principal statute providing for the regulation of the Defence Forces, states: "1. (a) A person (including a minor) may be enlisted as a man of the Permanent Defence Force for service for a period of twelve years or for such less period as may from time to time be prescribed, but not for any longer period, and the period for which a person enlisting under this section is enlisted is in this Act referred to as the term of his original enlistment. (b) The Minister, in special cases or classes of cases, may direct that where a boy is enlisted under this section before attaining the age of eighteen years the period of twelve years mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection shall be reckoned from the day on which he attains the age of eighteen years." Article 54 also states that: "A person (including a minor) may during a period of emergency be enlisted as a man of the Permanent Defence Force to serve for that period of emergency in the Permanent Defence Force."961

The usual methods of entry into the Permanent Defence Force are as an officer cadet, an apprentice or as a recruit.962 The government reported to the Committee on the Rights of the Child that "[t]he general rule with regard to enlistment is that a person under the age of 18 years (other than a person who is or has been married) may not be enlisted until the consent of his/her parent, guardian or other person in loco parentis, has been obtained."963 The minimum age required to enter cadetships in the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is 17, but the minimum age of recruitment for apprentices is apparently 16. Recruits as private soldiers in the Permanent Defence Force must be not less than 17 years old.964 Seventeen is also the minimum enlistment age for the Reserve Defence Force that comprises An Forsa Cosanta Aitiuil (FCA), or the Army Reserve, and for An Slua Muiri, or Naval Reserve.965 The minimum recruitment age is the same at times of conflict or emergency. Women may serve in the Irish defence forces.966

Military Training and Military Schools

There are a number of military schools in Ireland. The Military College is the institution designated for officer and non-commissioned officer career education in the Defence Forces. It consists of four schools which are the Cadet School, the Infantry School, the Command & Staff School and the UN Training School.967

Child Recruitment and Deployment

Although under 18-year-olds can be recruited into the defence forces, the government has stated that they are unlikely to be deployed operationally. "... persons under the age of 17 years can be recruited for specialist positions and must undergo courses of specialist training. It is highly unlikely that such persons would be involved in operational situations."968 In a speech to a conference on child soldiers and small arms held in Dublin in early October 1999, the Irish Foreign Minister declared that recruitment legislation could be reviewed following the adoption of a "straight-18" Optional Protocol.


International Standards

Ireland signed the CRC-OP-CAC on 7 September 2000 but does not support the "straight-18" position.

960 Horeman and Stolwijk op. cit.; also Initial Report of Ireland submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/11/Add.12, 17/6/96, para. 74.



963 Report of Ireland submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit., para. 74.

964; Report of Ireland submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit., para. 536.


966 Ibid.

967 Ibid.

968 Ibid.; Report of Ireland submitted to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, op. cit., para. 536.


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