Country report and updates: Ireland

Ireland

Issues

  • Ireland did never introduce conscription. However, professional soldiers do not have the right to conscientious objection.

Military recruitment

Conscription

Conscription has never existed in Ireland.

Article 28 of the Constitution1 and article 54 of the 1954 Defence Act2 allow for conscription to be introduced in a state of emergency.

There is no further legislative provision for conscription and there never has been since Ireland became independent as the Irish Free State in 1922.

Professional soldiers

The minimum age at which a person can join the Irish Defence Forces is 17.

Volunteers sign up for a period they themselves determine, the required minimum being three years followed by six years in the Reserve Defence Force3. The usual term of a contract, however, is five years, and can be extended by four or three years up to a total of 12 years4.

Interestingly, article 256 of the Defence Act makes “interfering with recruiting” an offence which is punishable by a fine.

Conscientious objection

Conscientious objection for conscripts

As there has never been conscription in Ireland, there are no laws for conscientious objection in case conscription should be introduced.

Conscientious objection for professional soldiers

There is no right to conscientious objection for professional soldiers. Article 49 of the Defence Act 1954 deals with the resignation of officers, who can apply for resignation, but this has to be approved by the Minister of Defence.

Non-commissioned officers and privates are entitled to “discharge by purchase” according to Article 75 of the Defence Act 1954. The amount to be paid is laid out in a scale, but the exact amount is presently not known. However, this does not apply in an emergency.

In fact, in situations where it would be most likely that a conflict of conscience might arise, it is most difficult to leave the Armed Forces prematurely.

Draft evasion and desertion

Article 135 (Desertion) and article 137 (Absence without Leave) specify that the respective military offences can be punished with imprisonment awarded by a court martial.

The question of draft evasion does not apply as there is presently no conscription.

Information on practice is not available.

Notes

1http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/attached_files/html files/Constitution of Ireland (Eng)Nov2004.htm, accessed 23 April 2008

2Defence Act 1954, http://www.irishstatutebook.ie:80/1954/en/act/pub/0018/print.html, accessed 23 April 2008, last amended in 2006 with the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006, http://www.irishstatutebook.ie:80/2006/en/act/pub/0020/print.html, accessed 23 April 2008

3UN Commission on Human Rights, 1994. Report of the Secretary-General prepared pursuant to Commission resolution 1993/84 (and Addendum). United Nations, Geneva.

4Department of Defence, letter to Irish Embassy London in response to WRI questionnaire, 12 February 2008

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Articles related to conscientious objection

15 Jan 2009
English

In this presentation I will give an overview of the right to conscientious objection, its legal practices and frameworks in the 27 European Union member states. Before I do so, I want to step back a bit and have a brief look at the existing international standards about the right to conscientious objection, as these standards allow us to put the practices in the EU member states into a perspective.