Thursday 17 October 2019

Micheál Martin tells Dáil Irish naval ships unable to sail due to 'huge safety issues'

The Government has acknowledged challenging conditions for Defence Forces members (Aaron Chown/PA).
The Government has acknowledged challenging conditions for Defence Forces members (Aaron Chown/PA).
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

MEMBERS of the Defence Forces are “discriminated against by the uniform that they wear”, the Dáil has been told

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has asked the Taoiseach whether he is “ashamed” of the manner in which the Government has allowed the army to be “dismantled and demoralised”.

He said naval ships have been unable to sail because of a lack of crew and there are “huge safety issues” within the Air Corps.

Mr Martin quotes retired Comdt Cathal Berry who has said the “sense of betrayal” within military families is at an extraordinary level.

“This level of criticism is unprecedented from a former head of the Army Ranger Wing but it shouldn’t be surprising to you and your government,” the Opposition leader said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted Mr Berry’s comments amounted to “stinging criticism”.

“Sometimes Government needs to hear criticism and take it board. I am very much aware of the anger,” he said.

However, he claimed recruitment to the Defence Forces “is actually going very well”.

“But we have a problem with retention. More people are leaving than coming in.”

Mr Varadkar insisted the Government are serious about responding to the retention difficulties.

He said the government are investing €50m in new vessels, equipment and better pay.

The Public Sector Pay Commission has also been aske to consider issues that are unique to the Defence Forces. Their report will be brought to the Cabinet in the coming weeks.

Mr Martin said the issue “is far deeper than just to refer to the public sector pay commission”.

“The Defence Forces goes to the heart of our democracy. Our army withstood subversion within this state for more than 30 years.”

He added: "Stop this codology that’s gone on for the last two years of burying your head in the sand.”

Read more here: Taoiseach has 'absolute confidence' in Defence Minister despite claims he is 'out of his depth'

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