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British Army recruits almost a third as many Irish nationals as the Irish Defence Forces
Kate Middleton presenting Shamrock to the British Army's Irish Guards on St Patrick's Day 2012. Image: UK Ministry of Defence
The British Army recruited almost a third as many Irish nationals into its service as the Irish Defence Forces over the past three years, new figures show.
The total number of Irish Nationals serving in the British Army is 415 soldiers, made up of 360 trained and 55 untrained soldiers, according to information received from the British Army under a freedom of information request.
The number of Irish people joining the army increased sharply over the last 18 months. Between 2009 – 2011, recruitment numbers had stayed level at approximately 70-75 recruits.
The 2011 – 2012 recruitment period saw that number rise to 95, and in the seven months of 2012 for which figures are available, there were already 60 new recruits.
That compares to varying figures for recruitment into the Irish Army General Service of over 500 in 2007 and 2008 to zero recruits in 2009 (because of a wider recruitment embargo in the public sector), 200 each in 2010 and 2011, and 539 in 2012. The Irish Army had a standing strength of 7,650 at the end of 2011.
That means that for 939 recruits to the Irish Defence Forces between 2009 and 2012, the British Army recruited approximately 300, or 32% of the Irish total.
Raw data from the British Army database. Figures before 2007 indicate officers who completed training.
But with 300 recruits in the last few years joining the British Army, the total strength of Irish nationals still stands at 415. Not all recruits would have finished their training, and some may have entered the private sector.
But a spokesperson for the Irish Defence Forces said it's not possible for officers trained in the British Army to move back to Ireland, without starting their training over again.
'The only method for an individual to enlist in the Defence Forces as a General Service Recruit is through the normal application process, when a recruitment campaign is open. It is not therefore possible to “move” or “transfer” from the British Army (or any other international military organisation) to the Defence Forces,' they said.
The 1954 Defence Act makes it illegal to actively recruit for another army in Ireland, in the strongest possible terms. It is illegal to 'induce, procure or persuade any person in the State to accept or agree to accept any commission', or to print promotional material for another nation's military.
The British Army statistics come from the Joint Personnel Administration system, where recruits have self-declared their nationality as Irish.
Recruitment figures before 2007 are not available, but the number of officers completing their training in those years rose from 20 in 2002 – 2003 to 30 in 2006 – 2007.
The period between 2007 – 2009 has no nationality data associated with it, as the British Army began using the JPA system in April 2007. The released data notes that 'the recording of nationality for recruits was incomplete' for the first two years under the new system, and therefore the figures are considered unreliable.
Many Irish soldiers in the British Army serve with the Irish Guards, a battalion often referred to by the nickname the 'Micks', which has an Irish wolfhound as its mascot.