DUBLIN, Ireland: The Irish Navy has reported that it canceled 12 of 26 patrols scheduled for January, primarily due to its inability to staff its ships.
Further, the navy has taken out of service two more ships, the LE Niamh and the LE Roisin, and put them into storage, one of them for a refit.
In 2021 the Irish navy had nine patrol ships, while it will soon drop to four ships.
Officials also report that the navy has lost 294 staff members, falling from 1,094 to 800 members. Departing sailors blame poor pay and too many long hours at sea, as they seek work in the private sector.
This week, Sinn Fein Defense spokesman John Brady TD said Ireland's national security has been placed at risk, as the navy is no longer able to patrol along Ireland's 200 mile exclusive economic zone in the Atlantic.
"We are rapidly approaching the point of no return, a tipping point from which the Permanent Defense Forces can not recover," said Brady, as quoted by the Irish Mirror.
"The understaffing is placing incredible strains on remaining members. One member of the naval service has reported that in one year alone they spent 320 days onboard a ship."
Brady has accused the Government of not following the recommendations of the published Report by the Commission into the Future of the Defense Forces.
Commenting on the state of the navy, New Defense Minister Micheal Martin said, "A range of factors, including adverse weather conditions and unscheduled maintenance as well as staffing issues, can impact scheduled patrol days," as reported by the Irish Mirror.
"I acknowledge the current staffing difficulties in the Naval Service are very serious. I have received a briefing from the military management and met them on their proposed recruitment strategy for 2023. Recruitment was notably slower last year than in previous years.
"The situation is not good now, in terms of the naval service. The numbers are simply too low. We need a radical look at the whole organization, in terms of recruitment and retention. We need to stand back and do everything we possibly can to arrest this decline."
The stated role of Ireland's navy is to maintain a fishery protection service for the EU and to patrol from the shoreline to the outer limits of the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone.
The navy is also tasked with arresting drug traffickers and are protecting the underwater internet cables connecting Ireland and Europe with the rest of the world.