Tuesday 17 July 2018

'The politicians talk about recovery, but the soldiers are not seeing it at all'

Alisha Mahon (11) from Lucan, Dublin, leads the wives and partners of the Defence Forces in a protest at Leinster House. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Alisha Mahon (11) from Lucan, Dublin, leads the wives and partners of the Defence Forces in a protest at Leinster House. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Ian Begley

"We don't have a home and at this rate we never will," said Emma Magee as she prepared for a vigil in the bitter cold.

She was among more than 100 wives and partners of the Defence Forces who staged a 24-hour protest outside Leinster House over pay and conditions for serving members.

The demonstrators, led by the Wives and Partners of Defence Forces (WPDF), argue that army members are the lowest paid public servants in the country.

Serving soldiers are not permitted to strike or protest.

Ms Magee, from Coolock, told the Irish Independent her husband and three children have to live in her parents' house due to his "ridiculously low" salary.

"We live with my parents, but thankfully they have helped us out a lot over the years. If my husband earned a decent wage, we could afford a mortgage and get the home I've always dreamed of," she said.

"I'm out here today because I've always believed in a fair day's pay for a fair day's work... Politicians are talking about the recovery but the soldiers aren't seeing it at all. I just think enough is enough and it's time to stand up for what I and my husband believe in."

According to the Permanent Defence Forces Representative Association, a private earns about €27,000 in their first year of service. This remains the same for three years, rising to €37,500 after nine years of service.

Mother-of-five Shelley Cotter, who is PRO of the WPDF, told the Irish Independent that every day was a struggle.

"My husband has been in the Naval Service for 28 years and it's awful for everyone trying to raise a family.

"When you make a decision to have a family of five you get used to cutting corners, but it got to the point where you're counting pennies at the end of the week and learning to say no to your children more than you're ever saying yes," she said.

Ms Cotter added that Defence Force members weren't seeing any benefits of economic recovery.

"You have the highest paid public sector and then the lowest. The Government had decimated what was already an extremely low wage. Our men and women go to sea and would be lucky to come out with €400 or €500 when they come back.

"I just hope the ministers and TDs in Leinster House begin to appreciate the duty and service our soldiers are doing for this country."

A wreath-laying ceremony was held in honour of Defence Forces members who have died. Numerous retired members of the Defence Forces also assembled outside the Dáil in support of the WPDF.

It was then followed by a march, attended by hundreds of supporters.

Irish Independent

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