Chapter 4 – Organisational Development

OD Programmes

Organisational development programmes speed up refinement by emphasising the significance of goals and plans with structured learning activities designed to improve goal setting and planning skills.

Intervention agents favour flatter organisations for several reasons:

      1. Economic cost benefits accrue
      2. Delaying the number of vertical levels and widening the span of control reduces administrative costs and improves the process of communication.
      3. Wider span of control results in employees having greater autonomy over work processes.

OD personnel favour decentralised decision making by pushing authority downwards in the organisation. This creates power equalization as described by Robbins (1991), “it allows people closest and most knowledgeable about an issue to make decisions regarding that issue. Decentralization also gives lower-level employees greater control over their work“.¹

The Change Problem

The change dilemma can be defined in two ways as described by Kolb et-al (1984). The first contemplates the organisation change required. For example, is morale a problem, does the communication process require upgrading? The second considers what type of change is considered appropriate for example, is the style of managing the human resources in the organisation a problem?

People-Focussed Interventions (survey feedback)

One main tool for assessing attitudes held by organisational members is the survey feedback approach. Every member of the workforce can participate in the survey feedback process by completing a questionnaire. The questionnaire is usually structured around common perceptions, attitudes on a broad range of issues. For example, decision making, communication effectiveness, co-ordination between units, satisfaction with the organisation, job peers, and the immediate manager can all be tested. The US Military use such an approach.

Team Building

The objective of team building is to improve coordinating efforts among team members resulting in increased group performance. Team building efforts include goal setting, developing interpersonal relationships, role and tasking analysis etc. The results lead to high interaction between group members and increase trust and openness.

Action Research Model

The Action Research Model of planned change focuses on the cyclical activity in which the original research concerning the organisation provides required information to guide consequent action. All key planned actions are assessed to provide additional movement. The cycle of events allows for movement in the model. It involves significant co-operation between organisational members and OD personnel. Good results are dependent upon precise data collection and diagnosis before action planning and implementation. French and Bell (1978), cite a quote from Kurt Lewin, which sums up the action research process there can be “no action without research, and no research without action”.2 Additional action research goes beyond solving a precise organisational predicament to helping administrators gain the skills and knowledge to solve future problems.

Action research is conventionally designed to help organisations carry out planned change. Attempts to develop an awareness by increasing action learning about the process, can be applied to other situations. French and Bell (1978), describe action research as “an approach to problem solving a model or a paradigm, and a problem-solving process a series of activities and events”. 3 Primarily action research was developed, so that a balance could be found between change and knowledge, although in recent years the major emphasis is focussed on planned change.

The Action Research Model of planned change will now be tested on the Air Corps as suggested in chapter one of this study.

Reference to Figure 4.1 shows how planned movement is converted to action using the Action Research Model.

Figure 4.1

Period 1993

Tom Brady, Security Editor for the Irish Independent reported on Thursday 26th, August “A team of independent management consultants is being ordered to spearhead a fundamental shakeup of Defence Forces administration ….. And they are calling in the pinstripe brigade to show them how its done”.4

The article also mentions the Gleeson Commission (1990), the first independent examination of the Defence Forces, which examined pay and conditions in the Defence Forces and produced a report which “effectively sounded the deathnell for the current administrative structures of the organisation”.5

The impending review will be the biggest shakeup ever undertaken to streamline the Defence Forces under the control of the Efficiency Audit Group three. Assistance will be given by an outside management consultancy team. This measure was recommended by the Gleeson Commission (1990).

The review will affect all personnel of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service. Tom Brady suggests that the Gleeson Commission (1990), pointed out, present structures “impede simple efficiency measures”.6

The review of the Defence Forces will be established after the cabinet has approved proposals from the Defence Minister, on a redefinition of the roles of the Defence Forces.

It is anticipated the redefinition will encompasses the following elements:

      1. Operational Duties, i.e. combatting the threat posed by on island paramilitaries.
      2. Overseas participation with the United Nations.
      3. Daily Taskings, i.e. search and rescue and fishery patrols.

It is probable the review will speed up the transfer of the delegation of some financial control from the Department of Defence to the military authorities. Currently the military has responsibility for the expenditure of about £15 million a year. In future the military leadership should control between £50 and £70 million.

Using the Action Research Model this represents point one of Figure 4.1.

Period 1994

The Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA), for enlisted personnel, in their February/March edition of the Irish Defender, severely criticised the Department of Defence and the military leadership for not making copies of previous reports available to the organisation. To-date, two reports have been produced by the Efficiency Audit Group (EAG) one and two. PDFORRA believes the reports are “highly critical of Defence Forces management, both civil and military” and are concerned that the findings and recommendations coming within the scope of representation could have major repercussions for its membership. The article goes on to describe the EAG 3 “is currently in the process of carrying out a root and branch review of the Forces helped by management consultants, Price Waterhouse”.7

The Irish Defender, in the same February/March 1994 edition, of its monthly magazine contends that “up to 6,000 currently serving Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen will have to be shed from the Defence Forces, by the year 2000, to meet the Government’s plans to reduce the cost of the Defence Forces to the exchequer”.8 It is widely believed that future planned change will include:

      1. Reduction of Defence Force strength
      2. Rationalising deployment
      3. Reducing the age levels of Defence Force members

PDFORRA has held the view for a considerable period of time that the age of the average Irish service person is too high, for example, currently, the average age of a private soldier is 31 and should be brought more into line with other European Military Organisations where the average age for a private soldier is 19. The representative organisation, PDFORRA cites the terms of reference given to Price Waterhouse in the February/March edition of their magazine as follows.

“To develop feasible options for the overhaul of the Defence Forces structures and systems, having regard to the statement of roles as approved on 21 September 1993”, with the aim of achieving:

      1. The most efficient and effective procurement, deployment and use of resources, recognising
        resource constraints and with particular reference to geographic location.
      2. The optimal command, grading and management structures and systems (including arrangements in respect of the interaction between the Defence Forces and the Civil side of the Department of Defence).
      3. The appropriate level and composition of administrative and operational strength and equipment”.

The composition of the Efficiency Audit Group (EAG 3) consists of the following personnel:

      1. Four high ranking Civil Servants
      2. Three well-known business people
      3. One senior trade unionist

Steering Committee – Composition

      1. Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces
      2. Five senior Civil Servants
      3. One well-known business person

The core function of the above group is to oversee the assignment

Price Waterhouse Team

Core Management Consultancy Team

      1. Five personnel from Price Waterhouse
      2. One senior Civil Servant

The Military, Advisory Team

      1. One Canadian General
      2. One Canadian Lieutenant. General
      3. Two Canadian Colonels

Core Operational Cost Management Team

This committee consisted of nine Irish Defence Force officers drawn from the Naval Service, Army
and Air Corps.

During December 1993, the Minister for Defence, announced that 500 recruits would be induced into the Defence Forces on a short term five year contract with no option to extend beyond the initial period of service. This statement caused much concern among members of PDFORRA and at a meeting between representatives of PDFORRA and the Minister of Defence held during early January 1994, he would “neither confirm nor deny the decision to press ahead with proposals on recruitment as the decision was not taken in isolation but was part of a wider, yet unannounced, plan for restructuring of the Forces”.10

In response the Deputy General Secretary, of PDFORRA said “There is no doubt in my mind that major decisions have been made at this time and the EAG’s job is simply to produce a report on how and where these decisions are to be implemented”.11

Speculation at this time was intense about impending redundancies in the Defence Forces resulting in PDFORRA contacting a spokesperson for the Minister for Defence during January 1994. The Minister was asked, would he give an undertaking that the EAG report would not contain recommendations on possible redundancies for members of the force. In response the spokesperson said “that the EAG is appointed by and will report back to the Government, and not the Minister for Defence, therefore, he could not give any such undertaking which could be seen as preempting the recommendations of the group.”12

Between members and elected representatives of PDFORRA the fear remains intense “the term redundancy is about to enter the military vocabulary but with a new definition, e.g. termination of service or services no longer required, and without compensation”. 13

On 8th August 1994, the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, issued a memorandum titled ‘Leak Of Confidential Consultant’s Report On Defence Forces. The document instructs that all ranks are to be informed of the content matter. This was a serious attempt by the military leadership “…to sustain morale and operational effectiveness….” of the organisation. The memorandum also contained the following selected material:

      1. “The extracts of the Confidential report which were leaked to the media were selective, incomplete and biassed and so present a damaging and unfair image of the Defence Forces”.
      2. “The report in question, while it contains many worthwhile recommendations which are welcomed, also contains others which are ill-founded and impractical”.
      3.  “As Chief of Staff and representing also the views of the Adjutant General and Quartermaster General, I consider that many comments and key recommendations in the report are impractical, unworkable and potentially inhibiting to the maintenance of the operational capacity and future development of the Forces”.14

During August, PDFORRA, obtained a copy of the much talked about Price Waterhouse report. The following selected recommendations from the report only concern the Air Corps.

Price Waterhouse refers to “the Air Corps, unlike the Naval Service, does not have a separate existence from the Army. The 1954 Defence Act, does not make provision for an Air Command, nor is it provided for in Defence Force regulations”. The consultants are not sure if this poses a serious problem for the Air Corps. However, the report goes on to say, “if it does give rise to a major grievance on behalf of the Air Corps that it is consigned to a position as the poor relation of the three services and has to conform to Defence Force regulations having an Army bias and not relevant to the operation of an Air Corps “.15

The report also recommends the delegation of the Air Corps budget, to the Air Corps authorities and “all personnel assigned to the Naval Service and Air Corps be personnel of the respective services and that the practice of assigning army personnel to positions in these services cease”.16

On personnel issues the report refers to the high age profile of Defence Force members and the following classification is an example. The ideal age for privates/airpersons of the organisation is between 19 to 25 years of age, “less than 600 out of a total of over 6,000 fall into this category”.17 The problem of age bulging at Senior NCO and Senior Officer level is serious.

The high age profile has in many respects been assisted by a culture developing over the years commonly referred to as custom and practice of the service. This has been eased by Defence Force regulations by which personnel are usually allowed to continue in service to 60 years of age. The report therefore recommends “lower compulsory retirement ages need to be introduced and a higher level of turnover in the officer cadre is needed to prevent stagnation” 18

Military personnel who are medically graded as ‘C’ are discussed in the report (personnel medically unfit and unable to carry out a range of duties). With over 1,400 Defence Force personnel in the above category, Price Waterhouse views this as a serious problem having ” .. a serious impact on deployment capability and will have to be addressed in the new arrangements”.19

Price Waterhouse advises, to address the high age profile problem on a lasting basis it can only be realistically achieved by radical change requiring the following factors:

      1. “There needs to be annual recruitment and annual wastage from the system on an ongoing basis to keep the age profile in balance. This process needs to occur at all levels. Recruitment is an urgent requirement which cannot await the reduction in current numbers through the natural wastage mechanism”.
      2. “To install such a system on a permanent basis will require a radical culture change in relation to military service. There must be a change in the current de facto expectation of service, irrespective of rank, to age 60. Lower compulsory retirement ages are needed at all levels. Expectations of continued service beyond a specific set period must cease being regarded as an automatic entitlement. Such automatic entitlement is not consistent with the nature of military service”.
      3. “Special arrangements will need to be put in place to entice personnel to leave the current over-aged system. This will require a coordinated approach which will seek to target the individuals/groups needing to be enticed to move, free up the existing promotion log jams, take a rank by rank view to enable necessary recruitment/promotions to take place”.
      4. “An integrated manpower policy which will seek to proactively manage the overall force requirements on an ongoing basis having regard to the need to keep personnel at particular rank levels within acceptable age bands, thereby preventing age creep at each level”.20

Rank Structure

The Price Waterhouse report contends that the large number of Commissioned Officers in the Defence forces has the effect of “distorting the functions discharged at the various rank levels. Authority, responsibility and accountability have been inappropriately dragged up the rank ladder because of the excess numbers at the higher levels. This situation needs to be rectified in order to provide rewarding and challenging careers for officers (commissioned and non-commissioned) at all rank levels with each having duties, functions, authority, responsibility and accountability commensurate with their status, conditions of service and remuneration”.21

Aircraft Fleet

Price Waterhouse contends that a comprehensive review of the Air Corps aircraft fleet is urgently required. It is suggested by the management consultants that the fixed wing aircraft, i.e. Fougas (jets) and Marchettis (piston engine) aircraft be “mothballed or disposed of”.22 The conviction of the consultants advocates the development of the rotary-winged aircraft (helicopters) for the Corps.

Master Implementation Plan

It is recommended a master plan be developed on the basis of deciding the main targets to be achieved over the full implementation cycle. The strategy for change must be drawn up by the military and subsequently ratified by the Armed Forces Committee and the EAG. Price Waterhouse advises action in the following areas as a matter of urgency:

      1. “The development of a manpower plan and associated inducements to rectify the age profile and bring rank strengths at various levels into line”.
      2. “A study of the feasibility, costs and effects of barrack closures”.
      3. “A combat development plan to inform equipment spending plans”.23

Likely areas for civilianisation/privatisation/sub-contracting in the Air Corps.

      1. Equipment maintenance
      2. Catering, Messes/Canteens
      3. Maintenance engineering
      4. Non-technical stores management
      5. Personnel management and administration
      6. Medical – hospitalisation
      7. Medical records
      8. Personnel welfare
      9. General administration
      10. Audio Visual
      11. Ancillary services
      12. Aircraft support engineering
      13. Aircraft maintenance
      14. Air technical stores

From August to December 1994, media coverage on change in the Defence Forces was intense. The Star on Friday 5th August 1994, published an article “Lets see army plan”. The review called for the immediate publication of the EAG 3 report.

On Monday 26th September 1994, Tom Brady, Security Editor for the Irish Independent, carried an article titled “Army Job Cuts Scheme Being Prepared by Defence Dept.”. This article generally covered selected sections of the Price Waterhouse Report.

The Irish Independent on Monday 16th October 1994, published an article titled “Cash Cuts Threaten Defence Cutback”. This column stressed a shortage of available funds may turn planned change for the Defence Forces into a nightmare.

Tom Brady, Security Editor for the Irish Independent published an article on 17th October 1994, titled “Army report costing £0.5M likely to be damp squib”. This review stressed that “Senior politicians have joined the growing band of civil servants and military officers who believe the report’s main findings are doomed to failure”.

The Irish Defender carried an article in the October 1994, edition titled “Meeting The Minister”, which took place on October 3rd, when a PDFORRA delegation met the Minister for Defence, at the Department of Defence. The Association impressed upon the Minister the importance of the representative organisation “having an input to the recommendations of the EAG, prior to its being released into the public domain. The Minister assured them that the Association would be consulted at the memorandum stage prior to it being submitted to Government”.24 The Minister assured the Association representatives “there would be no forced redundancies and that if anything there would be voluntary early retirement”.25

Figure 4.1 shows the various stages included during 1994 of the Action Research Model, i.e. points two to seven.

Period 1995

Col O’Farrell (retired) who is now a freelance journalist composed and published an article in The Sunday Press on the 1st January. The main thrust of his argument is the situation is now so bad in the Defence Forces that the Commander-In-Chief, “President should direct that an inquiry be held into well-known areas of injustice and dissent”.

The article shows that serious problems exist largely caused by “blundering, lack of leadership, refusal to accept that difficulties exist and some archaic procedures”.26 are affecting the organisation. The commentary also shows that recent media reports show that morale is low in middle management (Senior NCO and Junior officers i.e. 2/Lt. Lt and Capt) largely due to lack of promotion.

The same paper also reported on the recent retirement of the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, who retired on his birthday on 25 December 1994. In the latter part of his term as Chief of Staff relations between him and Civil Servants in the Department have been strained over the Price Waterhouse report. It is known that Chief of Staff has been a strong critic of the plan to cut 3,000 jobs from the Defence Forces and close at least 16 barracks around the country. In his own words the Chief of Staff described the report as “seriously flawed”.27

At his retirement function on 20th December, none of the invited guest from the Department of Defence attended.

The February edition of the Irish Defender printed an article “Department demands end to public meetings”. Following a PDFORRA information meeting organised to distribute critical information about aspects of the impending restructuring process (barrack closures and job losses) in Kilkenny on 25 of January 1995. The General Secretary, was summoned to the Department of Defence and told he was trying “to influence Cabinet decisions on possible restructuring of the Defence Forces by holding an information meeting in Kilkenny” …. and “it was not to happen again”. Sometime after the meeting PDFORRA received a strongly worded letter from the Department of Defence, which quoted from paragraph 28 of the regulation “PDFORRA shall not resort to public agitation as a means for any purpose whatsoever”. The article went on to say “the dissemination by PDFORRA of material which is based on speculation and leaked reports and which, furthermore, comments on matters outside the scope of representation, amounts to a serious breech of regulations”.28 Currently PDFORRA is pursuing legal advice on the matter.

During July, the Department of Defence, released a document titled “Review of the Defence Forces 1995”. In six chapters the document outlined with an introduction, a background to the review of the Defence Forces, the Price Waterhouse report analysis, the Price Waterhouse recommendations, the Efficiency Audit Group report (acceptance of the analysis and general conclusions of the Price Waterhouse report) and Government policy on the matter.

The Government decided to accept in “principle the conclusions of the Efficiency Audit Group that there is a need for major reform in the structures and organisation of the Defence Forces”,29

In the Government policy statement, commitment is given to providing “a challenging and rewarding career for all personnel in the Army, Naval service and Air Corps and that management, organisation and operation of the Defence Forces are in accordance with best practice”.30 

To carry out planned change “the Government have decided to establish an Implementation Group to oversee the reform process and to pursue the ongoing implementation of the review of the Defence Forces”.31

The total period of planned change or restructuring the Defence Forces is to be phased in over ten years. This will be broken down into three phases. Each phase will be of at least three years duration.

Each stage will be fully detailed and costed as suggested by the EAG 3, and approved by the Implementation Group for the Minister for Defence. It is intended to present the first plan to the Minister for Defence not later than 31 October 1995, for submission to the Government.

The opening period of change will concentrate on recommendations which are easily carried out, giving a high financial pay-back to the State e.g. Voluntary early retirement (VER).

The Department of Defence assure members of the Defence Forces the “the Government are committed to ensuring that any necessary reforms will be carried out in a planned and sensitive manner”.32

Reaction to the Price Waterhouse Report and the EAG report was ongoing, swift and intense at times especially in representative circles. An editorial published during March in the Irish Defender, severely criticised The Rainbow Coalition’s programme for government, ‘A Government of Renewal’ includes a pledge to, the “continued commitment to the employment needs of all our people”.32 The article goes on to make the point, how can a government committed to the creation and protection of jobs, “reduce the number of people employed in the Defence Forces, thereby creating unemployment”.34 The Minister for Defence, comes into the firing line and is reported as a Minister shifting position, for example, the media Irish Independent, February 1995, reported that he would be proposing to the cabinet that the cost cutting report of the EAG, be adopted and implemented. In recent times and as a direct result of political pressure the Irish Independent on the 23 of February 1995, reported that he has denounced proposals for job cuts in the Defence Forces on foot of the Northern Ireland peace process as ‘rather careless’ and ‘foolhardy’. The Minister has admitted privately he was shocked by the ferocity of the reaction about proposals to cut the strength of the Defence Forces.

The representative association PDFORRA, were not happy with the way the EAG 3 report was conceived and produced. They remark that the only area which the “report received approval is from the financial mandarins in the Department of Finance”.35

The constant fear expressed by the representative body is the nations defence should not be decided by “financial experts”, are we on the road to becoming “defenceless”.36

On Thursday 9th of March, officials of PDFORRA met with the Minister for Defence, to discuss the implications of the Efficiency Audit Group Report. Items discussed ranged from personnel reduction, personnel medical category grade C, Military Ombudsman and barrack closures. The officials from the representative association put forward the view that the only way to reduce the high age profile of the Defence Forces would be to offer an “acceptable early retirement package for serving members”.37

The General Secretary of PDFORRA, informed the Minister, “unless the package is sufficiently attractive, in addition to what such members are already entitled to, there will be no interest and no take up”.38

In reply the Minister made no response to any of the issues raised. However, he did indicate “that he expects to make his decisions, on what he will recommend to the Cabinet, over the next three and a monitoring group would be set up to monitor the implementation of any weeks proposals accepted by Government and that PDFORRA would have full consultation with this group”.39

Figure 4.1 shows the various stages of the Action Research Model processed during 1995, i.e. points eight to eleven.

Period 1996

During February 1996, the long awaited Department of Defence, Defence Forces Review, Implementation Plan was released. The report consisted of ten chapters.

Personnel Model – Officers

In future commissioned officers will consist of three distinct groups:

      1.  Cadet trained
      2.  Direct entry
      3. Officers commissioned from the ranks

In the case of Enlisted Personnel aspiring to commissioned rank the report recommends that the method “should be developed in line with the recommendations of the Gleeson Commission and Senior NCO’s who are suitable should be commissioned to fill various selected administrative and instructional appointments”.40

“It is envisaged candidates for commissioning would undergo a short reorientation course of 2-3 months and be commissioned as Captains (Capts) in which rank they would continue to serve until 53 years of age”.41 (new retirement age for Capts)

Personnel Model – Enlisted Personnel

Potential recruits in the age bracket of 18 to 22 years of age with a minimum qualification of Junior Certificate should be targeted for service in the Defence Forces.

The first service contract period will be of five years duration. No extension will be given beyond the initial period unless personnel are selected to undergo a Potential NCO’s course and promoted to the rank of Corporal (Junior Leader). Currently, PDFORRA are negotiating at conciliation level an increase in the contract for this type of new entrant. The Irish Defender, March 1997, reports the General Secretary commenting “I am hopeful that we are near to resolving the five year contracts…. some considerable progress has already been achieved in negotiations which are ongoing”.42 On promotion to Corporal, a new contract may be offered to complete 21 years pensionable service from the date of enlistment. Again no extension will be offered unless the individual has been promoted to the rank of Sergeant. No extension will be offered to the contract unless the individual has been promoted to Senior NCO rank. The individual may be continued in service up to fifty-five years of age (new retiring age for Enlisted Personnel).

For personnel recruited before 1994, the maximum retiring age will remains at 60 years of age.

Apprentice training of the future will be carried out through a mixture of on-the-job training in Defence Forces workshop and block release to FÁS, Training Centres.

The February edition of the Irish Defender, in its editorial titled “Disgraceful treatment of members of the Defence Forces” points out members disquiet about “rank and file members of the Defence Forces have not been consulted on the terms of the Voluntary Early Retirement package which have been leaked to the media”.

The article goes on to castigate “the Government’s blinkered approach is the mismanagement of the Defence Force’s restructuring plans – particularly the communications aspect of these plans. It defies logic to think that those responsible would consider implementing a programme of change without first trying a consensus approach. It is difficult to accept the submission of a plan to Government which favour officers, one particular section, (and a smaller section at that), of the Defence Forces, while ignoring the concerns of 90%”.43

In another article of the same edition the General Secretary, protested to officials of the Department of Defence about the leaking of information regarding the VER package to members of the Defence Forces without any agreement having been reached with PDFORRA. The General Secretary, is concerned that this incident may be “orchestrated by unseen hands at Department of Defence, Department of Finance or military management levels, without the knowledge of the Minister”.44

The March edition of Connect, Newsletter of the Defence Community carried an in-depth interview with the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces on the Implementation Plan, accepted by Government on 5th of March 1996.

Selected extracts of the Department of Defence, Defence Forces Review Implementation Plan, February 1996, were also reprinted.

The Group Commander, Air Corps Group, circulated to all units of the Air Corps a letter on 12th April titled, Defence Forces Review Implementation Plan, Voluntary Early Retirement. The intention of the letter was an attempt to dampen fears and concerns about VER. He also stressed that details regarding the actual implementation of VER will not be available until Monday 22nd of April.

The Group Commander, reiterated the words of the Minister for Defence and the Chief of Staff “that the VER is, as its name applies, a strictly voluntary scheme and there is absolutely no question of compulsion or coercion”.

He concluded by expressing “it is imperative that a free flow of information is maintained concerning this matter and that personnel are kept well informed and up to date, particularly to avoid the cultivation of demoralising and invariably false rumours”.

On the 22nd April 1996, the Defence Forces Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme was launched. Applications were accepted from 29 April to 7th June 1996.

The eligible categories for VER during phase one are personnel in the following groups:

      1. Medical Category ‘C’.
      2. Naval personnel who suffer from Chronic Sea Sickness.
      3. Members of the 46th to 53rd Cadet Classes.
      4. Personnel over 50 years of age.

It is intended that all applications will be dealt with on a first come first served basis. Personnel in the above appropriate categories were invited to attend segregated information meetings in the Air Corps on 22nd April, to discuss aspects of the scheme. The Officer in charge of the Personnel Support Services, informed personnel after some questioning that on discharge from the Defence Forces, the subsequent discharge papers would reflect the following “the determination of service by the Minister of Defence VER”. Personnel were also informed that leaving the Defence Forces under the VER scheme will not be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefit.

An information booklet was also distributed to targeted personnel in the above groups. Its contents included extensive information on aspects of the financial package, support services, social welfare, health and insurance. The application procedure was also explained and an application form was included for the convenience of the user. A projected time scale from commencement of the scheme on the 22nd of April to projected final exit date on 7th October 1996 was outlined.

The PDFORRA disquiet regarding VER boiled over as reported in the Irish Independent on 3rd May, when officials of PDFORRA were summoned to the Department of Defence to explain their public reaction to plans to introduce change in the Defence Forces. The Department said PDFORRA “had made abusive remarks openly”. They were also accused of breaching regulations by organising public meetings without having the approval of the Minister. The General Secretary read out a prepared statement at the meeting, then he and his delegation left the meeting. A request was made that the Labour Court to appoint a mediator to establish a meaningful workable relationship with the department. This suggestion was flatly turned down by officials from the department since the conciliation and arbitration scheme does not allow for this on procedural issues.

A report in the Irish Independent on the 10th of May, by Tom Brady, shows the military leadership are seeking a total of 60 officers and 390 enlisted ranks to retire this year as part of the three-year plan.

Less than three weeks after the terms of the retirement package were published 120 officers and 850 enlisted ranks applied for the ‘Voluntary Early Retirement’.

Peter Leonard, reporting for the Cork Examiner, on the 11th May, described the Minister for Defence rejecting claims that the interest shown in the retirement plan is not a measure that there is disillusionment among military personnel.

During the middle of May, both the Chief of Staff and the General Secretary of PDFORRA countered each other by releasing written information to personnel of the organisation concerning views of organisational change, by posing a series of questions and answers.

At this time the Base Commander of the Air Corps, held an open meeting in Baldonnel to discuss aspects and developments of the evolving change process. The meeting was very badly attended, with less than twenty in the audience.

In an unprecedented move the General Secretary of PDFORRA, forwarded a personal letter to each member of the organisation on the 30th May. The members were informed the Conciliation Council, and PDFORRA, report no 79, that agreement was recorded there would be no redundancies or forced retirement from the Defence Forces. This totally and absolutely removed “the second sentence of paragraph 0.39 and the fourth sentence of paragraph 5.20 is therefore deleted from the Defence Forces review Implementation Plan”.45

To address the adverse strength of feeling in PDFORRA regarding planned change the organisation held a two-day special delegate conference on the 11th and 12th of May. The resignation of the Minister for Defence was demanded “in a motion passed…. calling for the Minister’s resignation on the grounds that the Defence Forces implementation Plan for the Defence Forces is seriously flawed… the motion also called for the intervention of the Taoiseach and the appointment of a mediator to resolve difficulties between PDFORRA and the Department of Defence”.46

Delegates at conference described morale in the Defence Forces to be at an all time low, because of introducing planned change, particularly those aspects for example, age capping according too rank, reducing the upper age limits, assessing the demand for a particular skill etc.

Mark Lane, presenter, of RTE Radio 1 programme, This Week, interviewed the General Secretary of PDFORRA, on 12th of May. In response to questions on the restructuring plan for the Defence Forces, the General Secretary, expressed concern that “service may not be extended depending on future manpower requirements, and capping of service on promotion to certain ranks”.47 During the programme he described morale in the Defence Forces to be at an all time low and he also stressed that PDFORRA had no real negotiations with the department regarding the  Implementation Plan.

Emer O’Kelly, newscaster, with RTE Radio 1, on the morning of 13th of May said Mr Barrett…. “regrets that PDFORRA… has chosen public agitation rather than constructive dialogue, to voice its concerns”.48

The Cork Examiner, on the 14th May, reported ‘Army talks agreed in bid to break stalemate’. Peter Leonard, narrated that PDFORRA and the military authorities agreed to meet to discuss the current difficulties at the Department of Defence the following Thursday.

The Pat Kenny Show, on RTE Radio 1, discussed the future of the Defence Forces on 21st of May. This was a lively interesting debate involving the General Secretary of the Officer’s Representative Association (RACO), the General Secretary of PDFORRA and the Army Press Officer. The main point discussed was the likely implications of effecting the plan to restructure the Defence Forces. Three military personnel also took part in the programme Commandant Pat Winters, Sergeant Sean Foley and Sergeant Thomas O’Doherty. Each of the above personnel described how the voluntary early retirement plan would affect their lives.

Oireachtas Report, RTE Radio 1, on the 3rd of July, reported that the Minister for Defence, was urged to speed up the decisions on which soldiers are to be allowed to go, under the Early Retirement Scheme, by the Fianna Fail Defence Spokesman, who described the scheme to be “in a shambles”.49

On Monday 15th July at 15.00 hrs. Price Waterhouse commenced their special study of the Air Corps with a formal brief being given to all Unit Commanders, Section heads, RACO, PDFORRA Chairpersons and Air Corps coordination committee.

Morning Ireland, presented by Michelle McCoughran, on the 15th of August, reported that the Cork Examiner, and Star (Irish Newspapers), describe “that hundreds of soldiers throughout the country, are in a state of panic over a Government plan to place five hundred soldiers on unpaid leave, for four months. In return, the papers tell us, the soldiers will qualify for a voluntary retirement scheme at the end of that period”.50 

Cork local radio, CKR FM, Points of view, on the 15th August, reported that “the prominent Defence Forces Other Ranks Representative Association, PDFORRA, has strongly condemned a special extension to the voluntary early retirement scheme. Under the scheme, soldiers will not receive their retirement lump sums until they have completed four month’s unpaid leave”.51 PDFORRA Deputy Secretary, described the consequences of this situation to be very serious.

The Sunday Independent, on 18th August, in a report by Jody Corcoran, described mounting concerns within the Defence Forces that a current review of the Air Corps and Navy will recommend that both services have no military function and should be civilianised.

In the same report RACO, the officer’s representative association describe Morale to be “at an all time low”. The Deputy General Secretary, said “it is lower at any time in my twenty-two years in the Defence Forces”. The main cause of low morale is that the Defence Forces have been subjects to reviews since 1988. The Deputy General Secretary, reiterated that the reviews are about introducing efficiency and effectiveness of the force, but to date there has only been a series of cost cutting exercises.

RACO and PDFORRA both agree that the question of civilianisation of the Naval service and the Air Corps has been on the agenda for some time and one source said “it now looks to those on the ground, that this will be the recommendation of the review”.52

David Hanly, presenter of Morning Ireland on RTE Radio 1, on the 19th of August, carried the above topic and asked the Minister for Defence “whether … this speculation is well founded”. The Minister replied “this is absolutely baseless speculation, and its doing nothing to serve the purpose for which this examination’s being carried out. The examination being carried out by Price Waterhouse, is a pro-Naval Service Air Corps. It’s designed to help the Naval Service and the Air Corps, to carry out the duties expected of them in a more efficient manner, and to ensure that they have the adequate personnel to do that job”. In the same programme the Minister went on to say “I just don’t know who’s creating this mischief, which I regard it as mischief, and whoever is doing it, should remember that they’re upsetting those in the Naval Service, and the Air Corps, and their families, who from time to time get extremely upset when these sort of malicious rumours are spread around which have no foundation whatsoever”.53

Reference to Figure 4.1, shows that points twelve and thirteen of the Action Research Model were processed up to the second half of 1996.


The period 1993 to 1996, has been discussed in detail. All major decisions in terms of organisational development have been integrated into the Action Research Model of Organisational Development. Reference to figure 4.1, clearly indicates the development of the process over the period.

During phase one of the VER, a total of thirty-nine Air Corps personnel applied for the package on offer and nineteen accepted the package and were separated from the organisation.


1 Robins S.P. – Organisational Behaviour. – P. 666.

2 French W.L. & Bell C.H. Jr. – Organisation Development: Behavioural Science Interventions for Organisation Improvement. – P. 95.

3 French W.L. & Bell C.H. Jr. – Organisation Development: Behavioural Science Interventions for Organisation Improvement. – P. 88.

4 Irish Independent – Thursday August 26, 1993. – Tom Brady, P. 1.

5 Irish Independent – Thursday, August 26, 1993 – Tom Brady, P. 10.

6 Irish Independent, Thursday, August 26, 1993 – Tom Brady, P. 10,6

7 Irish Defender – February March 1994. – P. 6.

8 Irish Defender – February/March 1994. – P. 12.

9 Irish Defender – February/March 1994. – P. 12.

10 Irish Defender – February/March 1994. – P. 12.

11 Irish Defender – February/March 1994. – P. 13.

12 Irish Defender – February/March 1994. – P. 13.

13 Irish Defender – February/March 1994. – P. 13.

14 Leak Of Confidential Consultant’s Report On Defence Forces. – August 8 1994.

15 Price Waterhouse Report, Review of The Defence Forces. – Para 9.10.

16 Price Waterhouse Report, Review Of The Defence Forces. – Para 9.11.

17 Price Waterhouse Report, Review Of The Defence Forces. – Para 5.20.

18 Price Waterhouse Report, Review Of The Defence Forces. – Para 5.21.

19 Price Waterhouse Report, Review Of The Defence Forces. – Para 5.24.

20 Price Waterhouse Report, Review Of The Defence Forces, – Para 11.55.

21 Price Waterhouse Report, Review Of The Defence Forces. – Para 11.30.

22 Price Waterhouse Report, Review Of The Defence Forces. – Para 5.33.

23 Price Waterhouse Report, Review Of The Defence Forces. – Para 13.5.

24 Irish Defender – October 1994. – P. 14.

25 Irish Defender – October 1994. – P. 14.

26 The Sunday Press, January 1, 1995. – P. 17.

27 The Sunday Press, January 1, 1995. – P. 17.

28 Irish Defender, February 1995. – P. 15.

29 Review of the Defence Forces 1995. – P.42.

30 Review of the Defence Forces 1995. – P. 42.

31 Review of the Defence Forces. – P. 42.

32 Review of the Defence Forces 1995. – P. 44.

33 Irish Defender, March 1995. – P. 5.

34 Irish Defender, March 1995. – P. 5.

35 Irish Defender, March 1995.-P. 5.

36 Irish Defender, March 1995. – P. 5.

37 Irish Defender, March 1995. – P. 11.

38 Irish Defender, March 1995. – P. 14/15.

39 Irish Defender, March 1995. – P. 15.

40 Department of Defence, Defence Forces Review Implementation Plan, February 1996. – P. 0.34.

41 Department of Defence, Defence Forces Review Implementation Plan, February 1996. – P. 5.51.

42 Irish Defender, March 1997. – P. 6.

43 Irish Defender, February 1996. – P. 5

44 Irish Defender, February 1996. – P. 7.

45 Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for the Permanent Defence Force, Conciliation Council Report No. 79.

46 Irish Defender, June 1996. – P. 1.

47 This Week, RTE Radio 1, 12th May 1996, @ 13,07 P.M.

48 RTE Radio News 13 May 1996 @ 8.00 A. M.

49 Oireachtas Report, RTE Radio 1, 3rd July 1996, @11.30 P.M. 49

50 RTE Radio 1, Morning Ireland, What it Says In The Papers, Michelle McCoughran 15th August @8.00 A.M.

51 CKR FM, Points of View, 15 August 1996 @ 11.30 A.M.

52 Sunday Independent, 18th August 1996, Jody Corcoran. P. 3.

53 RTE Radio 1, Morning Ireland, David Hanly, 19th August 1996, @ 8.00 A.M.