The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has agreed in principle to accept the representative body for enlisted members of the Defence Forces PDFORRA into associate membership, subject to further negotiations with the Department of Defence.
The application has already been strongly opposed by the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett, who told the Government the move could jeopardise national security.
Concern has also been raised about potential conflicts of interest in the event that the Defence Forces were instructed to intervene in a strike called by other ICTU affiliates.
Speaking after the meeting of the ICTU Executive Council, General Secretary Patricia King noted that PDFORRA would not be fully accepted until further negotiations with the Department of Defence conclude.
She disagreed that trade union membership could be incompatible with military service.
Ms King said that PDFORRA had already indicated that it was not pursuing the right to strike, but rather the right to play a full role in pay negotiations and to be represented by the Public Services Committee of Congress.
She said PDFORRA was representing public service workers, and she saw no reason whatsoever, security risk or otherwise, why they did not deserve to have their voice heard to the fullest.
A spokesperson for the Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Paul Kehoe, said the minister noted today's decision by the ICTU Executive Council.
The spokesperson said the feasibility of association is the subject of ongoing discussion and engagement with ICTU, and the implications of any possible decision around association or affiliation are being carefully considered.
In a statement, PDFORRA welcomed the announcement by ICTU and thanked it for its support.
The association acknowledged that it will need the permission of the Minister of Defence to affiliate to ICTU, adding that it will be writing to the Minister after receiving formal notification from Congress.
It said that given the current crisis within the Defence Forces, it was hoping that the Department would engage with the association as a matter of urgency on the issue.
PDFORRA stated that membership could only assist in maintaining and improving the pay/allowances of its members, as it has done with other public servants.
Vice Admiral Mellett declined to comment on ICTU's decision. He has previously written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who is in charge of the defence brief, warning that the move could jeopardise national security.