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Soldiers petition to stay in job up to age of 50

IRISH soldiers have launched their first-ever petition to Government in a bid to remain in the Defence Forces until the age of 50.

Over 1,300 members of PDFORRA (Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association), the association representing soldiers, sailors and aircrew of the Permanent Defence Force, have so far signed the petition.

The organisation represents 7,700 members of the Defence Forces. Under current regulations only officers from the rank of sergeant can continue to serve until they are 50.

Privates and corporals must retire after 21 years of service, meaning some leave before their 40th birthday.

More than 120 personnel, recruited in 1994, must leave the forces next year costing the State €2.1m in immediate gratuity payments and €1.3m in pension costs each year after that. The petition will be sent to Defence Minister Simon Coveney.

"Some personel serving as Privates and Corporals, who enlisted in 1994 and afterwards are now facing the prospect of dismissal and unemployment, based on a contract which must be revisited and revised," said PDFORRA general secretary Gerry Rooney.

"All the systems are in place for this to happen, like annual fitness and health checks.

"This the first time ever that ordinary members of the Defence Forces have taken the unprecedented step of signing a petition to the Minister for Defence. That fact that 1,300 PDFORRA members have followed this course of action so far shows the depth of concern and anger on this issue."

Mr Rooney said a change in the rules would save the Government money.

"It just makes sense for everyone, saving jobs and money and that's something everyone should want," he said.