Monday 16 September 2019

President 'strayed from remit' in remarks on army pay

President Michael D Higgins meets members of the Defence Forces
President Michael D Higgins meets members of the Defence Forces
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

There have been claims within Government that President Michael D Higgins strayed outside his remit in his extraordinary intervention on Defence Forces pay.

Ministers were forced to defend the Government's record after remarks by Mr Higgins - the supreme commander of the Defence Forces.

At an event honouring soldiers, the President said it was "not too much" to expect that Defence Forces personnel should have "an income and prospects" to provide for themselves and their families.

Privately, the remarks raised eyebrows in Government, where some senior figures viewed them as Mr Higgins intervening in policy matters.

One minister said: "The President has his role and we have ours. He should keep to his."

Another said they saw the comments "straying outside his remit", but added: "We won't get into a barney over something like this."

Mr Higgins's spokesperson said last night: "The President's speech speaks for itself, and the President was speaking as a person with a particular connection to the Defence Forces."

Defence Forces pay has proved controversial for the Government in recent months amid Opposition claims that it is affecting the recruitment and retention of staff.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe and Tánaiste Simon Coveney were among ministers who defended the Government's record, pointing to measures put in place to boost pay and allowances.

On RTÉ Radio, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed described Mr Higgins's intervention as "quite unusual", but argued that the Government shares the President's views on the issue.

He said: "I'm not surprised or annoyed to be honest with you. I mean it is an issue out there."

Irish Independent

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