Saturday 23 September 2017

Defence Forces' appeal will help homeless veterans

Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

SENIOR Irish army officers are among the ranks of former servicemen who have become homeless since leaving the Irish Defence Forces (IDF).

Yesterday Oglaigh Naisiunta na hEireann (ONE), an organisation helping veterans in hard times, revealed that some of Ireland's overseas heroes have struggled with life after the army.

Chairman Ollie O'Connor said that high-ranking enlisted soldiers as well as senior commissioned officers were among those to have sought help from ONE.

He was speaking after the launch of the organisation's 2012 fuchsia fundraising appeal.

ONE operates three homes for ex-servicemen -- one in Athlone, one in Letterkenny and one in Dublin -- at a cost of around €600,000 per year. It houses 40 former servicemen.

Mr O'Connor said former soldiers become homeless for the usual reasons.

"They may have a social problem. More often than not now it's a marriage breakdown or a partnership break-up," he said.

"You might have somebody who has served all their life in the Defence Forces, have a particular regiment that they're used to and they want to live with people they're used to," he added.

One veteran to have benefited from the service was retired Corporal Patrick Gaughran (52) from Drogheda, Co Louth.

He served with the IDF for 12 years and completed a tour of duty in Lebanon in 1983 as part of the 8th Irish Component.

Mr Gaughran contacted ONE after he lost his job and became homeless.

"The service is absolutely brilliant, I'd be lost without it," he said.

"We have great banter here slagging each other and taking about the old times," he said.

Another resident was 23-year medical corps veteran Sean Keating from Dublin who contacted ONE after his marriage broke down.

"Sometimes it's hard to come out into civilian life after the army. It's a very regimented lifestyle," he said. "It's important to have that safety net."

IDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Sean McCann launched the appeal and said that the veterans were people who have given great service when the State needed them.

"It's only appropriate that we should try and support them when they need something now," he said.

Former servicemen who find themselves in hard times are proud individuals and must be treated sensitively, he said.

Michael Coyne (67) from, Cornamona, Co Galway, wanted to show his solidarity.

An Irish emigrant, he was drafted into the US army to serve in the Vietnam War. "It's very important to support the veterans," he said.

Irish Independent

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