Cabinet to approve high-level structural changes in Defence Forces

Plans follow 2022 report that found Defence Forces not equipped to perform their role

High-level structural changes will be made in the Defence Forces, including the appointment of a new chief of defence, under plans due to be approved by Cabinet on Tuesday.

Tánaiste and Minister for Defence Micheál Martin will ask Cabinet to approve the preparation of the plans which could also see the creation of a new Defence Forces headquarters.

The Commission on the Defence Forces was established by former minister for defence Simon Coveney in late 2020 in response to concerns about the capabilities of the Irish military and an ongoing retention crisis within the Defence Forces.

The commission, which reported in February 2022, said that Ireland’s military is not equipped to perform its tasks.


The report focused on increasing the size and role of the reserve so that it will be integrated into military planning and available for deployment overseas.

Mr Martin will outline plans to give effect to the recommendations of the commission, including plans to enhance military command to make sure there is effective accountability.

The recommendations from the commission’s report included the creation of a post of the chief of defence to replace the current role of Chief of Staff.

The new chief would be supported by a vice-chief of defence and would command and control the Defence Forces at a strategic level.

The creation of three service chiefs, and deputy service chiefs, for the land, air and maritime forces, is also outlined in the report’s recommendations.

The recommendations also include the creation of a Defence Forces’ headquarters that will report to the new chief of defence.

The Tánaiste will also tell Cabinet that the Attorney General has told him there is no constitutional bar to legislating for the recommendations.

Separately, he will also seek Cabinet approval for the Defence Forces to serve with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) for a further 12 months from May 30th.

The Unifil mission is Ireland’s biggest overseas deployment, with 340 personnel currently serving in southern Lebanon.

The 121st Infantry Battalion, which accounts for 327 members of the Irish mission, will finish its six-month deployment by the end of May and will be in turn replaced by the 122nd Infantry Battalion.

Earlier this month, Mr Martin carried out a ministerial review of the troops in the 122nd Infantry Battalion in advance of their deployment to Lebanon.

The decision will be subject to the renewal of the UN authority for the mission, with the current mandate due to expire on August 31st.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times