Army privates and NCOs claim 'unwritten policy of favouritism towards officers' for career courses or selection for overseas service
Privates and NCOs in the Defence Forces say they are victims of discrimination when they apply for permission to attend career courses or selection for overseas service.
They claim there is an unwritten policy of favouritism towards officers when their bosses decide whether an application should be approved.
They outlined their allegations yesterday in Galway at the annual conference of Pdforra, the association representing soldiers, sailors and air crew in the military organisation.
The conference heard that positive recommendations were crucial for career development and advancement and all applications should be treated very seriously.
Association president Mark Scally said his members were also suffering when they applied for promotion or secondment to organisations such as the Agency for Personal Services Overseas.
He said the reasons given for turning down their applications were that personnel such as NCOs were too important to a unit, which could not afford to lose their services while they were away.
But at the same time officers were recommended for courses and overseas missions.
"It seems almost as if enlisted personnel are indispensable, in comparison with commissioned officers, and that home units cannot continue to operate without them.
"Strangely, commissioned officers can be done without or replaced with far less impact on the organisation and I find this very surprising", Mr Scally added.
He also suggested there was a trend, particularly prevalent in the Air Corps, for commanding officers to fail to give recommendations because their unit was perceived to be below strength.
"In other words, the stymied career advancement or development of a private or NCO is used to make an internal organisational point to someone else".
Mr Scally also called for more privates to be sent on courses in areas such as advanced driving or computer skills, to enhance their prospects of securing employment when they retired from the Defence Forces after 21 years, rather than facing a life on the dole.
New Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett has promised to examine complaints from delegates about families of deceased members, who were not allowed to hold onto the national flag, which had been draped over the coffin at funerals.
Under current regulations, it is not the custom to hand over the flag but general commanding officers can permit it, if it is deemed to be appropriate.
The conference was due to hold a debate on the issue yesterday but the motion was remitted to the national executive to raise it at talks with ,management.
Vice Admiral Mellett said he thought it was important that occasions like that were treated with the dignity that was required.
"If its a case whereby there is constraint in the current regulation, we will certainly look at it with a view towards giving the flag to the family, if it is requested and appropriate", he added.
The chief also pledged to examine claims by delegates that there was an accommodation problem at the Naval base at Haulbowline in Cork and sailors were being forced to sleep on their ships.
Mr Scally said sleeping accommodation on the two new vessels was fine but there were problems with the older ships and any accommodation at the base was sub standard.