The Defence Minister has rejected criticism that the Government needs to do more to encourage recruitment and retention in the Naval Service.

Simon Coveney was speaking at a ceremony at the Naval Service headquarters in Co Cork, where the latest class of cadets were commissioned as officers.

He acknowledged that the Navy is around 200 members below strength.

Today was a welcome day at Naval Service headquarters in Haulbowline, as five cadets were commissioned as officers.

But as the members of the 59th cadet class stepped up to join the officer ranks, many others in the Naval Service are stepping down, leaving it so short that sometimes it cannot put its ships to sea.

Minister Coveney said Covid-19 was largely to blame for the cancellation of almost one third of the planned patrol days at sea this year. But he insisted issues of recruitment and retention are being addressed.

"Everything isn't as it needs to be," Mr Coveney conceded, after the commissioning ceremony.

"As we move away from Covid, we need to increase the numbers coming into the Naval Service. We need to invest in new equipment and we are doing that as well, investing here in Naval headquarters on Haulbowline significantly in terms of improving the quality of facilities here and, over time, we will resolve these issues."

The Naval Service is more than 200 members short of its establishment strength of 1,100.

Mark Keane, President of the Defence Forces' representative body PDforra, said more needs to be done.

The Government has taken a number of steps to bolster retention in the Naval Service. These include tax credits and a €10,000 bonus for sea-going duties.

"I will acknowledge that the minister and the previous minister have announced some initiatives and have made some moves and, as I said, we work closely with them," Mr Keane said.

"But, unfortunately, it's too little, too late. We need to see a genuine push on this. We need to see a mature conversation around this and we need all stakeholders to engage if we are to stem the tide."