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Saturday 25 November 2017

Irish troops' salaries are the envy of UK soldiers

Our peacekeepers' allowances are double those paid for Afghan war

Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

IRISH soldiers serving on peace-keeping duty with the United Nations in Lebanon, where there have been no serious hostilities since 2006, are being paid more than twice as much in operational allowances as British soldiers in war-torn Afghanistan.

An Irish private soldier serving with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon receives €15,834 on top of basic salary for a six-month tour of duty.

A British soldier serving in Afghanistan -- where 388 UK troops have been killed -- is paid just £5,280 (€6,183). The British Army operational allowance in Afghanistan was doubled last year.

Salaries for Irish soldiers are significantly higher than for their British counterparts. Privates in the Defence Forces earn around €36,000 a year, compared to £17,265 (€20,216) for their equivalents in the British Army.

The salary levels and foreign service allowances are also higher for Irish soldiers as they rise up the ranks. An Irish officer serving in Lebanon receives an operational allowance of €19,838 -- again more than twice the rate for British officers in Afghanistan.

The Department of Defence also confirmed last week that Ireland is still owed over €10m from the United Nations. This includes €3.5m for providing troops in peace-support missions.

The department is also in talks seeking €6.7m for the repatriation of personnel and equipment from the 18-month tour of duty by Irish soldiers in Chad, which ended in May of last year. A further €400,000 is owed from 2007 for the deployment of a small Irish contingent to the Lebanon.

The department said it expected that the €3.5m for the 2006-2007 Lebanon mission would be paid in the next three-to-six months. Discussions over the payment for Chad, however, appear to be stuck. It said talks were "ongoing". The Chad mission was the most costly ever carried out by the Defence Forces and understood to have cost well over €70m.

There are currently 540 soldiers in Lebanon. They are paid their extra allowances and the Government then negotiates with the UN for repayment. In the past two decades, the UN has been reducing its payments for peace-keeping missions.

While the issue of barracks closures in Ireland has again been raised in the media recently and led to the resignation of junior minister, Willie Penrose, there has been no discussion of the fact that the Defence Forces are among the better paid in Europe.

Pay rates have risen significantly since the Government agreed to the establishment of representative associations for the military in the 1990s in order to negotiate on behalf of pay and conditions.

Before the establishment of the Permanent Defence Forces Other Ranks Association (PDFORRA) which represent the non-commissioned ranks and the Representative Association for Commissioned Officers, the Defence Forces were paid considerably less than the British and other European armies. The British Government does not allow negotiations on military pay and conditions.

While there are only 9,500 members of the Defence Forces, there are more than 20 barracks, some with as few as 150 soldiers.

The British also closed down barracks and moved troops without protest. While the Irish Army has been allowed some recruitment to keep numbers to 9,500, the British Army is facing major cuts, with 5,000 redundancies and a 7.5 per cent budget cut in the next five years.

A leaked Ministry of Defence memo last week revealed that it intended to introduce redundancies among the 2,500 troops injured in Afghanistan and Iraq, who had believed that they could hold on to administrative or other non-soldiering jobs for as long as they wanted.

Sunday Independent

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