irishtimes– Anyone looking to go to sea, to see what they might see, is being encouraged to swing by a new navy recruitment centre which has popped up this weekend on Dublin’s Sir John Rogerson’s Quay.
The Naval Service needs at least 200 new recruits to ensure it has a full compliment of sailors and, in an effort to boost its numbers, it has started what it has described as a “tailored recruitment drive” aimed at reaching anyone aged between 18-27, who might fancy a life on the waves.
On Saturday morning the LÉ Róisín made its way up the south quays to allow its sailors to set up their stall in a row of tents, with a view to expediting the recruitment process for those interested in joining their ranks.
Over the course of the day there was a stream of people inquiring about life at sea with Paddy McGovern and Aonghus Ó Neachtain amongst the naval officers on hand to assess would-be recruits and start the ball rolling.
“It has been steady so far,” said Mr Ó Neachtain, a staff officer at Naval Operations Command. “This is the very first time we have tried something like this and it is more a proof of concept than anything else. What we are trying to do is streamline the application process.”
People interested in joining the Naval Service normally start that process online, after which there has to be interviews, Garda vetting, fitness tests and medicals.
The first two stages of the process can now take place at the pop-up centre with the fitness tests and medicals subsequently offered to suitable candidates.
“The fitness tests are not so hard, although a bit of training ahead of them might not be a bad idea,” Mr Ó Neachtain said.
Both officers were equally effusive when they described their time in the Naval Service.
“I have been doing it for 20 years and I have had the time of my life,” said Mr Ó Neachtain. He pointed to all the training and education prospects that were available to new recruits “It can open a lot of doors for people and give them so many career opportunities.”
Lieut McGovern said that despite spending around six months at sea each year, “no two days are the same. The priorities for the ship are changing all the time so you could be doing a search and rescue one day and patrolling fishing waters the next or manning a Covid test centre or keeping an eye on foreign military activity.”
Mr Ó Neachtain stressed the need for more recruits. “We have a huge need to get personnel if we want to get all our ships out to sea and that is what we need to do.”
Life at sea
Both officers noted how life at sea has changed over the last two decades as technology transforms the manner in which the sailors on board can keep in touch with those on shore.
“Communication has changed so much since I started 20 yeas ago,” said Mr Ó Neachtain. “When I joined even access to email was limited but now people can talk to their family on shore on WhatsApp, although there will be times during an operation when there is a blackout and we make no apologies for that.”
Ahead of the campaign Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney joined the crew of the LÉ George Bernard Shaw to complete an overnight naval patrol from Dún Laoghaire.
“This recruitment campaign is one of a suite of measures. Other measures that I have introduced include the sea-going-service commitment scheme and a tax credit, both specifically targeted for sea-going Naval Service personnel,” he said.
He also saluted the Naval Service for the role it and other Irish authorities played in a “considerable” seizure of drugs off the Spanish coast.