Sunday 25 February 2018

Minister urged to act in row over pay for navy on Med mission

A refugee gestures his thanks as he is rescued by the crew of the LÉ Niamh
A refugee gestures his thanks as he is rescued by the crew of the LÉ Niamh
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

A row has erupted over allowances to be paid to Naval personnel in the humanitarian rescue mission in the Mediterranean.

Defence Minister Simon Coveney has been called to intervene and end the dispute.

Gerry Rooney, general secretary of Pdforra, the association representing soldiers, sailors and aircrew of the Permanent Defence Forces, said the men and women of the Naval Service had volunteered for this important humanitarian mission.

He told his association's annual conference in Galway that they had carried out the difficult duties involved to a very high standard and to international acclaim.

"Now that the mission is ending, those involved feel that they have been duped and are being ignored," Mr Rooney said.

The Naval personnel have been offered a daily tax-free allowance of €50 each.

But they are seeking a rate of around €85, which is paid to troops involved in United Nations peace support missions on land. The difference between the two rates over a 12-week tour of duty works out at almost €3,000 each, tax free.

Mr Rooney said the claim for equivalent allowances was an open-and-shut case. The personnel were deployed on a warship and operated in often tense conditions, having to produce their weapons on a number of occasions, and dealing with the potential threat from traffickers.

He said their work was carried out in conditions that existed in peace support duties.

It is understood that, although the migrant rescues are part of an international mission, it is not a UN mission, so Naval personnel are not automatically entitled to similar allowances paid for duties in Lebanon.

Mr Rooney said it was disgraceful that the appropriate allowances had not been finally settled, even though the mission was coming towards an end.

Operation Pontus was launched last May. Three Naval Service vessels have been deployed 7,000 migrants, fleeing a series of crises in the Middle East and Africa, have been rescued so far.

Mr Rooney said: "They must be paid an appropriate allowance for this work and we now stress on the minister that he has a responsibility to ensure a positive outcome."

Irish Independent

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