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Varadkar's remarks on soldiers' pay 'showed a shocking lack of insight'

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(Stock picture)

(Stock picture)

Frank McGrath

(Stock picture)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been accused of a "shocking lack of insight" over his remarks about pay for the Defence Forces.

He has faced a backlash after he acknowledged that low pay is an issue for defence personnel, but also said it's a career choice that's "always about more than money".

His comments came during a visit to Irish troops in Mali and amid criticism of pay and conditions for Irish soldiers.

Fianna Fáil defence spokesman Jack Chambers and Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell - a former soldier - criticised the remarks.

Mr Chambers claimed Mr Varadkar dismissed genuine concerns around pay and that this "shows a shocking lack of insight".

He added: "When our troops are living below the poverty line and leaving the Defence Forces en masse, pay is going to be a central issue."

Mr Chambers accused the Government of "fudge and delay" in relation to the public pay commission.

In his comments, Mr Varadkar mooted overseas allowances as one area that could be looked at to boost pay for the Defence Forces, but warned the public service pay deal is at the upper limit of affordability for taxpayers. He said he was "a little bit disappointed" at comments by Ger Guinan, the general secretary of PDFORRA, who said he would find it hard to recommend a career in the Defence Forces.

Mr Varadkar said: "Joining the Defence Forces is always about more than money. It's an opportunity to serve your country... to learn new skills."

Irish Independent