Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Air Corps and Prickgate

I know that some of you must be shocked that, given my Walter Mitty-esque obsession with all things military, I have failed to comment on so-called "prickgate" - the Court Martialling of an Irish Air Corps officer for referring to his superior as a "prick".

The always-excellent Michael Clifford has a good column on the issue in the Sunday Tribune, and I think he covers a lot of the pertinent topics arising from the fiasco. Whatever way you look at it, this is a disaster for the Air Corps and the Defence Forces in general. For an officer to be essentially made redundant, in civilian terms, over an incident where he called his boss a rude name seems a little excessive, especially given that there were no witnesses to the event.

The severity of the sentence is particularly stark when one considers how essentially civilianised the Air Corps has become, at least in the eyes of fat civvies such as me. In contrast to the generation of men who took part in the "Vampire reunion" this weekend, the modern Air Corps does not even have a notional Air Defence mission (leading some less charitable members of the army and Naval Service to refer to their airborne colleagues as the "Bluffwaffe"). This lack of a combat capability is no bad thing when one considers Ireland's prime geo-strategic position (i.e. safely sanwiched between the US and UK), and it allows the Air Corps to focus on missions that actually matter, like maritime patrol. But it does raise the question as to why we are drumming an officer out of a service which will probably never see combat; surely discipline is not a matter of life and death?

That the officer in question, Commandant Donohoe, could be dismissed for such a small infraction even after saving the Air Corps over €1.5m in fuel-savings, and saving the life of a colleague while on UN duty, raises serious questions about the Air Corps morale, and (in civvy-speak) the management culture of the service. Is it simply that, at a time when budget's are being slashed across the public service in Ireland, the military is not overly-fond of someone who can spot that the Defence Forces might be carrying around a bit of extra fat?


  1. From what i have read on the papers there are nine further charges pending against this officer. The case is due for mention around the 26th of June, after the 21 day appeal date.

  2. True, and it will be interesting to see what those charges are.

    Would the military hear the most serious charges first, or is there any set order as to how the Court Martial would proceed, I wonder?

  3. I keep thinking of this article now that the US is embroiled in the debate over Gen. McChrystal's remarks.

    It seems to me that, in cases like this, there is often more behind the scenes than the mere name-calling. The word "prick" is just a convenient excuse to punish or remove someone.