The Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO) 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 its members (see attachment below).
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 98% 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 will not entitle the member to any voting privileges and will not entitle a cadet to a place on any Association committee.
A staff association such as RACO in the public service, operates within a Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme, which was established under the auspices of the Ministers for Finance and Defence. The scheme is designed to provide a means acceptable both to the State and to 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.