President's 'distress' as Defence Forces 'give their all to serve State'
President Michael D Higgins has said it is "not too much" to expect that men and women serving in the Defence Forces should have "an income and prospects" to provide for themselves and their families.
He stressed that he was speaking in his capacity as Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces.
"I have heard and read with anxiety of the distress that is being experienced by some of those who are giving their all to serve the State," he said.
The President was speaking at the Defence Force Values Awards at Áras an Uachtaráin, where seven members, serving and retired, were honoured for embodying moral courage, respect, integrity, physical courage, selflessness and loyalty.
Corporal Caitriona Lacey from Athlone, Co Westmeath, received the award for moral courage after she spoke out in defence of the army's Personal Support Services and helped to abolish the taboo of mental health issues within the Defence Forces following her brother's death by suicide.
Awards went to Navy Engineering Officer Ryan O'Driscoll, from Rush, Co Dublin; Gunner David Stack from Cobh, Co Cork; Corporal David McCormack, from Galway; Private Thomas Carew, from Ferrybank, Waterford, and Sergeant PJ McCabe, from Newbridge, Co Kildare.
Regimental Sergeant Major John Murray, also from Newbridge, received the overall award for embodying Defence Forces Values. He has completed 16 tours of duty, including Somalia, Chad and Syria.
A special award was given to Charlie Watson (15), from Swords, Co Dublin, who has cerebral palsy and has a great interest in the work of the Defence Forces.
"I'm very surprised," he said, explaining that he will be doing his transition year work experience in the Curragh Camp.
Mr Higgins said it is "no secret" that changes in conditions for serving men and women had brought its own challenges. Many people are also "understandably concerned", he said, about the ability to attract and retain people of the highest calibre.