Conscription: No (never).
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict: Signed (7 Sep 2000). Ratified (18 Nov 2002).
Voluntary recruitment age: 17; 16 as apprentices.
Conscientious objection recognised for professional soldiers: No.
Military expenditure: 0.6% of GDP (data 2009).
1) Defence Forces Regulations and Administrative Instructions stated that enlistment in any branch of the Irish Defence Force could take place at the age of 17. Cadets entering the Permanent Defence Force for year-long intensive training leading to a commission as a junior officer also had to be 17. The Defence Forces Administrative Instructions explicitly barred the overseas service of any member of the armed forces under the age of 18. Following enlistment, most 17-year-old recruits underwent a six-month period of “essential core basic training” before actively assuming military duties in the Permanent Defence Force. Consequently, the government emphasized that “the possibility of a person who has not attained the age of 18 being exposed to any ‘hostile’ incident is virtually negligible”. According to the government, “the only theoretical situation where a person who has not attained the age of 18 could be exposed to ‘hostilities’ would be where hostilities had broken out and were occurring within the State’s own jurisdiction”. Mandatory training requirements in the second year of the service meant that the 17-year-olds in the Reserve Defence Force were not permitted to take part in any actual operations until they were at least 18 or 19. Members of the Reserve Defence Force were expressly prohibited from participation in civil power back-up operations and were also prohibited from taking part in any international operations. All those seeking entry to any branch of the Irish Defence Forces who were under 18 were required to have the written consent of their parent or guardian prior to enlistment, and to have had a personal interview.
2) Irish military regulations allowed 16-year-olds to be recruited as “apprentices”, receiving special training for three or four years at both military and civilian technological colleges. They were completely prohibited from performing any military duties, and would normally be 19 or 20 by the time they completed their studies and gained their qualification. Only then would they assume active military duties including possible deployment abroad.
3) There is no right to conscientious objection for professional soldiers.
1) Stop the voluntary recruitment of persons aged under 18.
2) Stop military training and abolish military schools for persons aged under 18.
3) Recognise the right to conscientious objection for professional soldiers.
Notes: Article 256 of the Defence Act makes “interfering with recruiting” an offence which is punishable by a fine.