The Representative Association of Commissioned Officers was formally established in 1991 by statute under the Defence Amendment Act. Defence Forces Regulation S.6 is the Statutory Instrument that gives effect to the Act and governs, inter alia, the establishment, funding and operation of Representative Associations in the Defence Forces. The Scope of Representation of the Association, as set out in DFR S.6, includes the pay and conditions of service for members of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service.
The Association has two full time officials; Comdt Earnán Naughton (General Secretary) and Comdt Derek Priestley (Deputy General Secretary). Ms Sophia Fitzsimons is the Secretary/PA to the General Secretary.
The National Executive consists of nine officers; the President who has a casting vote only, the General Secretary in a non-voting capacity and the elected Chairs of the respective constituencies. These are the 1 Brigade, 2 Brigade, the Defence Forces Training Centre [Curragh], Defence Forces Headquarters, the Air Corps, the Naval Service and a Lieutenant's Representative. With the exception of the Lieutenants’ Representative, each of these constituencies has 5 elected members.
Membership of the Association is voluntary and open to all serving officers of the Permanent Defence Forces; from 2nd Lieutenant to Colonel and equivalent ranks in the Naval Service. Almost 96% of all officers of the Permanent Defence Forces are members of the Association. Cadet membership of the Association is voluntary and open to all cadets of the PDF. Cadet membership does not entitle the member to any voting privileges and will not entitle a cadet to a place on any Association committee.
A public service staff association such as RACO, operates within a Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme. The Scheme was established under the auspices of the Ministers for Finance and Defence. It is designed to provide a means acceptable, to both the State and officers of the Permanent Defence Forces for dealing with claims and proposals relating to their conditions of employment as well, as to secure the fullest co-operation between the State, as employer, and Defence Forces’ officers, as the senior management of the Force, for the better discharge of business. As an aid to the negotiation process where, at the culmination of the negotiation process, the parties agree to disagree on a particular issue or claim, recourse to an independent third party is available. Depending on the nature of the claim, this third party may be a facilitator, arbitrator or adjudicator.
RACO is affiliated to Euromil, the association of European Military Representative Associations and the Irish Conference of Professional and Service Associations (ICPSA).