Saturday 15 December 2018

Staff have to 'leave to survive' as conditions in Irish Defence Forces reaches an all-time low

Stock picture
Stock picture
John Downing

John Downing

A NEW study of life in the Irish Defence Forces has revealed that conditions have reached an all-time low, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said.

He told the Dáil that a major study for the University of Limerick (UL), which took evidence from 600 serving Army, Navy and Air Corps personnel of all ranks, had thrown up some very stark revelations.

These included an army officer revealing that he could not sleep at night with worry that travel in Air Corps aircraft was “not safe.” Mr Martin said he feared that so many skilled staff had left the service that maintenance was  left to people without necessary skills and experience.

Mr Martin cited a number of other revelations from the UL study which he found extremely concerning:

One member said the Defence Forces had been reduced to the status of the infamous JobBridge scheme recently scrapped by Government.

  • Chaplains had spoken of “giving up” trying to persuade personnel to stay in on in the forces.
  • Staff speaking of having to “leave to survive”
  • Soldiers obliged to sleep in cars

The Fianna Fáil leader cited a recent statement from Senator Gerard Craughwell, himself a former soldier. He had said that never before had any government so badly neglected the Irish Defence Forces.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted the Government very much valued the work of the Defence Forces. He was proud of their overseas’ service in places like Mali and Lebanon, the civil defence work like last week’s Storm Ophelia, and ceremonial performances like the 2016 celebrations.

“We very much value and respect our Defence Forces,” the Taoiseach said.

He said the Defence Minister had spoken with the head of the Air Corps and was assured that health and safety were not neglected.

Mr Varadkar said he was aware of the need to keep up recruitment and try to keep personnel with special skills in the forces. He said retention was being addressed by a special public service Commission who were looking at all issues, including salary levels.

“It’s not just about pay – there can be other issues,” the Taoiseach said.

Mr Varadkar added that pay restoration was now happening in the Defence Forces. There was also a major €406m capital allocation to buy new naval vessels, armed personnel carriers and carry out major barrack refurbishments.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News