'Nobody who serves their country should need welfare to feed family'
An Air Corps corporal's wife has revealed that she resorts to moneylenders and the credit union to mark almost every big day of the year for her children.
Emma Magee, from Coolock in Dublin, was one of scores of protesters who took to the gates of Defence Forces' barracks around the country to raise awareness over cuts in pay and allowances which leave many struggling to make ends meet.
The couple live with the 34-year-old's parents and have a six-year-old and 11-year-old twins, one of whom is on the autism spectrum.
Ms Magee, who quit her own job to help her son's development, said the family are €150 a week worse off than they were in 2007 and 2008, because of cuts to allowances and restrictions on overtime and bonus duties.
"We just seem to be on an endless loop of debt," she said from the protest at McKee Barracks in Dublin.
"We are living off my husband's wages. We don't make it through the week any more. We don't have a social life."
They also borrow from the local credit union but have been forced to go to money lenders, including last Christmas.
"We couldn't say to the kids on Christmas morning, sorry kids, Santa didn't come," she said.
"It's Christmas and then Easter and then back to school. But we are very lucky that my husband has a job.
"I'm not the worst off. We know that. There's people out there in a hell of a worse situation."
Army wives took to the streets to protest yesterday - 29 years after their intervention helped pave the way for the setting up of a representative association for soldiers.
The recently formed group WPDF (Wives and Partners of the Defence Forces) staged two-hour demonstrations outside military barracks around the country at lunchtime yesterday.
Its aim is to highlight the poor pay and conditions experienced by Defence Force personnel.
A spokeswoman for WPDF told the Irish Independent that more than 20pc of enlisted personnel were receiving the family income supplement because they could not afford to feed their families properly.
"No person who volunteers to serve their country should be allowed to have wages so poor that they need social welfare," she said.
Defence Minister Paul Kehoe said he had given an assurance to the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces that concerns raised would be dealt with by the new Public Service Pay Commission.
"I will continue to work with their representative associations in order to achieve the best possible outcome," he said.