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Defence Forces White Paper – the Hailo effect

Disruption is a buzz word in business these days as young business turks try to find new and better ways of doing things. Mobile ecommerce has changed the face of retailing. Hailo has totally disrupted the world of taxis. AirBnB is having the same effect on the hospitality industry. By looking at things differently, by challenging the norms, humans can find ways of being more effective while using fewer resources.

The recently published Defence Forces White Paper is a publication that needs disruption. A White Paper is meant to offer us discussion points and possibly challenge the status quo. However, the top brass in our Defence Forces can rest easy as there’s nothing radical at all in these 120 plus pages that will disturb their siestas.

There are 9,500 personnel in our Defence Forces and that’s the way it’s going to stay says the White Paper. Of that number roughly 2,000 of them are in the naval and air services. Given how tight that number is there’s probably very little room for manoeuvre within these two smaller units. However why has no one challenged the necessity of having an ‘old fashioned’ standing army of 7,500 men and women? At ISME we recognise the great work that the Defence Forces have done at home and abroad, both in keeping our State free from subversive threat and in helping maintain peace in some of the world’s trouble spots. But in 2015 could some of these people’s services not be better utilised?

Thankfully the threat of subversion has greatly diminished but its legacy is that there are guns aplenty in Irish society. The threat from murdering drugs gangs, rural raiders terrifying older people across the country, diesel launderers, copper wire thieves, ATM ‘hole in the wall’ gangs, can only be dealt with by An Garda Síochána. The Defence Forces have no role in dealing with them.

Given what we’ve been through financially Garda resources had to be cut back and we’re paying the price for it now. So what about a bit of disruption that could give the State some valuable fire power that it’s already paying for but is, by law, forced to stand idly by? What if up to 1,500 personnel were retrained and redeployed from the army to create an extremely highly trained crack paramilitary unit within An Garda Síochána? Should a subversive threat return they would be armed and trained to deal with them. But meanwhile the State could use this valuable resource to crack down hard on those who are getting away with murder, literally and metaphorically.

In business you deploy your resources where they are actually needed. We need to restore law and order within the State and here’s a resources neutral way of doing it. But that needs radical action and in Ireland that’s always in short supply.