The Government Chief Whip has rejected suggestions from the soldiers' group PDFORRA that the Defence Forces are no longer fit for purpose because of ongoing cuts.

Paul Kehoe, who is also Minister of State for Defence, said that recent investment and recruitment was a major boost for the Forces and that morale is high.

Government spending on the Defence Forces has been cut by 22% in the last four years to €690m.

This has meant barrack closures, a reorganisation of remaining structures, transfer of personnel, and a cut in numbers over the past decade by 1,000 to a new limit of 9,500.

A review of military policy is also under way.

Outgoing PDFORRA President Willie Webb had earlier told the association's annual conference that the Defence Forces are not fit for purpose because of the cuts.

He claimed that there are certain elements of Government and the civil service who are trying to bring about the total destruction of the Defence Forces.

Mr Webb also said the reduction of the position of Ombudsman to a part-time position sent out a message that it was okay to bully and harass.

Chief-of-Staff Lieutenant General Sean McCann said the Defence Forces have had to reorganise to function as a conventional military force within allocated resources, but he said there will be no job losses.

General McCann insisted that sacrifices already made by the Defence Forces have not gone unnoticed by the Government which, he said, has responded to the distinctive needs of the Defence Forces.

Last night, General Secretary Gerry Rooney said allowances to enlisted personnel are part of an historic system introduced in the 1970s to deny them the chance to earn overtime payments.

He said this minimised the cost to the State at times when irregular and long hours were the norm for members of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps.

Mr Rooney insisted that allowances paid to members of the Defence Forces are properly part of core pay and should continue to be paid on this basis.

He said there is no "premium" element to these allowances and, in PDFORRA's view, they are protected by the guarantees under the Croke Park Agreement.

The organisation said it will be taking a very strong line on this issue, as many of its members have already taken cuts in income of up to 20%.