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Call to restore pre-crash allowances to 'stop members of Defence Forces leaving in droves'

There were 256 discharges in the first four months of 2019.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

THE DÁIL IS this evening debating a Fianna Fáil motion to restore military allowances to pre-Financial Emergency Measures (Fempi) levels.

TD Jack Chambers, who moved the motion in the Dáil, said his party had been compelled to raise this issue because of the retention crisis in the Defence Forces.

“I would much prefer if there was no retention crisis, I wish men and women weren’t leaving the Defence Forces in their droves, en masse, heading for the exit doors as quick as they can,” he said.

Chambers said the recessionary cuts to pay have had an effect on the well-being of military staff families, as they struggle with bills and face threats of eviction. 

‘On the breadline’

The Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence recently heard from the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (Raco) about the staff retention crisis in the Defence Forces.

It pointed out that despite the recent high-profile recruitment drives in 2017 and last year, there was a net loss of 120 personnel in 2018.

“There were 256 discharges in the first four months of 2019. This is by far the highest figure since the reorganisation of 2012. In April 2019 alone, there were an unprecedented 86 discharges,” General Secretary of Raco, Commandant Conor King said.

He said members were “living on the breadline”, with some dependent on welfare payments.

King last week also highlighted the fact that Defence Forces members working during US President Donald Trump’s visit last week were paid considerably less than gardaí on duty on those days.

He told TheJournal.ie it demonstrated “the value that government really places in the Defence Forces, despite words to the contrary”.

It is not the fault of gardaí that they are fairly paid; they deserve it. But the fact that they are paid over 14 times that of their Defence Forces colleagues for similar work is bizarre.”

Yesterday, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe told RTÉ that while he values the contribution of people in the Defence Forces, there is a collective pay agreement in place for public servants. 

He said the Public Service Pay Commission will deal with the issue shortly.

“We will still to the collective agreement that treats all public servants equally,” the minister said. 

‘Miserly’

Chambers this evening said leaked snippets from the commission report were “miserly” and would be “insufficient to stem the flow” of staff leaving the Defence Forces. 

“We cannot afford not to have a Defence Forces,” he said, adding that “Prudent Paschal is now Dangerous Donohoe”. 

Minister with responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe, told the Dáil he wanted to acknowledge the “ultimate sacrifice” made, in particular, by military staff who serve in countries overseas. 

He said turnover is “not out of line” with other defence forces internationally, but accepted there are “challenges” filling certain posts, in the Air Corps, for example. 

Kehoe also sought to clarify claims around numbers of military staff who are in receipt of welfare payments, telling the Dáil that 66 members are on the working family payment. 

“Pay was reduced during the crisis, I recognise the personal impact this had on all public servants,” he said. He said this is now being “unwound in a fair and sustainable manner”. 

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