'I'm getting support from ex-colleagues in Lebanon and Syria' - former army ranger to stand in general election
Former army ranger and military medical officer, Dr Cathal Berry, will stand in the general election campaigning for better defence forces’ pay and conditions, he has confirmed.
Dr Berry will field as an Independent candidate in a newly expanded four-seat Kildare South constituency which gains an extra TD for this election.
He argues that, with 3,000 serving soldiers and ex-army members registered as voters there, plus their extended families in the constituency, he can cause an upset and take a seat.
“I’m getting messages of support from former colleagues in Lebanon, from Syria, Mali and elsewhere. They’re contacting their families, friends and neighbours at home already canvassing for me,” the candidate said.
Dr Berry said he was very proud of the Defence Forces and all the men and women serving there.
“But the appalling rates of pay are blatantly wrong and illegal. For example they get €3 per hour for night duty and €4 per hour for weekend duties. It’s in breach of the minimum wage act,” he said.
“Irish people are basically fair-minded and they need to know the facts in full. The minimum wage is set to go to €10.10 per hour on February 1. The only exemptions in law are if you’re employed by a close relative or you’re under 18 years,” he continued.
The candidate argues that soldiers, sailors and flight personnel are taken advantage of by the Department of Defence. “They know those guys can’t strike, they know they can’t speak out. So, they say ‘let’s turn the screw here,’” he added.
The Independent candidate became a member of the elite commando ranger wing in 2002. Later he took a career break and completed medical studies at his own expense before re-joining the Defence Forces as a medical officer.
He argues that he can appeal to voters beyond the army community in Kildare South.
“I have a huge interest in education, in health and housing. I served as army housing officer in the Curragh Camp for some time,” he added.
Dr Berry pays tribute to some other politicians, notably Fianna Fáil TD for the constituency Fiona O’Loughlin for her support on better pay. The other current sitting TDs are Fine Gael’s Martin Heydon and the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl who will be returned automatically.
“Because of the extra seat, there is an opening, and we are not out to take anybody’s seat. We believe we can win,” he said.
Dr Berry contrasted the treatment of former Fine Gael Cork North-Central TD, Dara Murphy, with that of serving Defence Forces members.
“He got two salaries and a golden parachute when he broke his contract with the people of his constituency. A soldier who wishes to leave early has to buy himself or herself out. Imagine somebody with a low-paid job in Tesco having to pay to move to McDonald’s?” he asked.