Document Type

Book Chapter


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Clonan, T., (2007): 'Civil Control Of The Military And The Police In Ireland: The Armed Forces', In TASC Audit Ireland, Power To The People? Assessing Democracy In Ireland, Dublin, TASC, Chapter 8.1,p81-6.


The Irish armed forces, known as the Permanent Defence Forces (PDF) or ‘Oglaigh na hEireann’ number approximately 10,000 personnel across the Naval Service, Army and Air Corps. The Defence Forces in Ireland play an active role domestically in ‘Aid to the Civil Power’ Operations or ATCP Ops with the Irish police force, An Garda Siochana. The Defence Forces are also active internationally in UN peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. As an organisation, the Irish Defence Forces is a direct descendant of the Irish Free State Army - initially formed in 1922 following the Irish War of Independence from Britain. From the inception of the Free State Army until 1954, the Irish armed forces were legislated for under the 1923 ‘Temporary Provisions Act’. This act was repealed by the Defence Act of 1954. Subsequently, the Irish Defence Forces are legislatively regulated by the Defence Acts 1954 – 1998. Throughout the turbulent years of the Irish Civil War and throughout the 1920’s, the Irish Free State Army operated under the constitutional authority provided for it under the auspices of the Irish Free State Constitution of 1922. This constitutional authority in tandem with the Temporary Provisions Act of 1923 enshrined in law the formal subordination of the Irish military to the civil authorities and the Irish houses of parliament known as the Oireachtas. Throughout the fraught period of the Civil War and subsequent war years of World War Two – known in Ireland as ‘the Emergency’ – the Irish armed forces and the Irish military authorities remained loyal to and subject to the direction and control of their civilian masters of whatever political persuasion. Over time, serving members of the Irish armed forces came to be regarded both internally within the organisation and externally in the public service generally as ‘non-political servants of the State’. Unlike some of our neighbouring EU states, the Defence Forces in Ireland are traditionally associated with compliance to the law and conformity to the twin concepts of accountability and subordination to the civil authorities. Throughout the lifetime of the Irish Republic to date, the Irish military have not been associated with independent military, political or lobbying activities.