Saturday 24 August 2019

'We must be careful not to allow others tarnish what is our defining strength' - Defence Forces chief hits out at keyboard warriors

Mark Mellett, an Irish Naval Service Vice admiral and the current Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces of Ireland
Mark Mellett, an Irish Naval Service Vice admiral and the current Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces of Ireland
Tom Brady

Tom Brady

The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces has opened fire on anonymous keyboard warriors for their personalised commentary and attacks online.

Vice Admiral Mark Mellett said those attacks, which had characterised some recent debate and discussion, were not "congruent" with the values that defined Óglaigh na hÉireann' as one of the State's most respected institutions.

It is understood his remarks were not aimed at specific anonymous commentary about the military but at online abuse and disinformation generally.

Vice Admiral Mellett was speaking at the annual Fuchsia appeal, which is run to raise funds for the military veterans' organisation, ONE ( Organisation of National Ex-service personnel), which has residential homes in Dublin, Athlone and Letterkenny for former members of the Defence Forces.

He said those safe and supportive environments were essential in assisting veterans that needed help.

Through Óglaigh na hÉireann's special heritage, volunteer ethos and shared history, soldiers of yesterday had a common bond with the soldiers of today, he added.

He said this bond was embodied in the Defence Forces values of physical and moral courage, respect, integrity, loyalty and selflessness.

"Those, who serve and have served are inseparable, unified by these values.

"Values that underpin collaboration across the institutions and loyal service to government, values that support a just culture, facilitating speaking truth to power.

"These values have served us well in the delivery of loyal, committed and dedicated service to the State and to the international community as servants and peacekeepers", Vice Admiral Mellett added.

He warned: "We must be careful not to allow others tarnish what is our defining strength".

He said that whether it was the military, the Gardai or political institutions, those who served could only do so because of support from their families and he acknowledged the families and those of the veterans and the sacrifices they had made.

He said Ireland held the longest unbroken record of United Nations peacekeeping service of any nation in the world.

They also needed to remember the tremendous contribution of the veterans, leaving the safety of their  families and homes to bring peace and stability to some of the most violent and tragic parts of the world, completing almost 70,000 individual tours of duty.   

Vice Admiral Mellett made his remarks as military personnel await an announcement from the government following a review of pay and conditions.

An unpublished report from the public service pay commission is understood to have recommended increases in the military service allowance and other minor benefits but does not deal with a rise in pay rates.

Over the past month,  Minister with responsibility for defence, Paul Kehoe has been trying to negotiate a number of additional proposals to improve conditions and take-home wages and build up a package that might be more attractive to the military, particularly in the worst hit areas.

In the meantime, morale is very poor in the Defence Forces with members voting with their feet. The organisation has an establishment strength of 9,500 but numbers have fallen to around 8,900.

Despite successful recruitment campaigns, the strength has not increased as the numbers coming into the organisation are matched by those walking out the barrack gates and huge gaps in some key areas of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps are not being filled.

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