Defence Forces feared that new rules on wearing of beards and grooming for soldiers would be weaponised by bigots and xenophobes

The Defence Forces were worried changes to their strict guidelines on personal grooming and appearance could be hijacked by the far right and result in “toxic behaviour” from bigots and xenophobes.

Earlier this year, the military announced they were easing restrictions on how soldiers could present themselves, including the wearing of beards, jewellery, and less rigorous restrictions on hairstyles.

In an internal discussion document, the Defence Forces said that many armies around the world were modernising their outlook on how soldiers could look.

The memo said Ireland was undergoing transformational change, was becoming more diverse, and that there was “a requirement of [the] organisation to reflect the society in which we have the privilege to serve”.

It added: “If Ireland has become more diverse, then we are obligated to ensure any citizen who wishes to answer the call to service, shall find the DF [Defence Forces] as a welcoming place.”

The document, prepared by a senior chief petty officer in the Defence Forces, warned however there was a risk of the changes being seized on by Ireland’s growing number of far right and fascist extremists.

It said there was a “small yet vocal section of our society which will make their bigotry and xenophobia loudly known” if the changes were too closely linked with religious beliefs and ethnicity.

“This toxic behaviour could undermine a positive action, and therefore it would be preferred that any changes be presented in terms of accommodation to the expectations of the youth of Ireland today and the adoption of a more progressive policy, with diversity as a central tenet,” said the discussion paper.