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'Exposure to infectious diseases deeply worrying': Soldiers forced to bed down close to needles in Phoenix Park

The Permanent Defence Forces Representative Association says it intends to fully investigate with its members in the coming days.

image2 (2) A member of the Defence Forces in a rest area in the Phoenix Park over the weekend. Source: Photo supplied to

THE REPRESENTATIVE GROUP for members of the Defence Forces has expressed its concern over the conditions endured by troops stationed in the Phoenix Park for the papal visit over the weekend.

Images emerged online of troops bedding down in a former homeless camp while tasked with securing the perimeter of the Phoenix Park in support of An Garda Síochána.

Needles were also found in close proximity to where the soldiers were sleeping and resting under canopies.

The Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Association (PDFORRA) has said that the images of hypodermic needles were appalling, and “gave rise to serious health and safety concerns within the association”.

PDFORRA has written to military management expressing its concerns and asked for an explanation as to how this occurred.

image4 (1) Image shared by members of the defence forces of a needle found in their camp. Source: Photo supplied to

“While members of the Defence Forces expect to endure robust conditions during their careers, the apparent exposure of members to the potential of infectious diseases is deeply worrying.

“PDFORRA intends to fully investigate the circumstances with its members in the coming days and to subsequently address any issues arising with military authorities,” a spokesperson said.

As part of the papal visit over 3,000 Defence Forces personnel were deployed in support of An Garda Síochána in securing the Phoenix Park, Ireland West Airport and the Marian Shrine in Knock.

A spokesperson for the Defence Forces said in a statement that a number of tents were available at rest areas throughout the operation while troops also set up their own rest areas “by bivouacking in their specific areas of responsibility in order to rest between patrols”.

This is standard practice and some of these patrolled areas were unfortunately left in unsanitary conditions prior to the operation and were treated with due caution.

Members of the Defence Forces were tasked with securing the perimeter of the Phoenix Park from 6am on Saturday as part of the broader security operation surrounding the papal visit.

“This perimeter was necessary to maintain the security of the area after a search was conducted by Defence Forces Engineer Specialist Search Teams, until the conclusion of the ceremonies.

“This was designed to guarantee the safety of all pilgrims and VIPs to the highest degree of assurance possible and was enforced by regular patrols,” a Defence Forces spokesperson said.

image3 (1) The remains of a homeless camp by the Defence Forces rest area. Source: Photo supplied to

Dublin inner city councillor Gary Gannon told that members on duty over the weekend had been in touch with him to say that they had to sleep outside on roll mats in a former homeless camp.

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“The soldiers in the Phoenix Park were basically sleeping outside and not in tents, which was not appropriate.

“They’re positively disgusted about the whole thing. There just wasn’t enough tents,” the Social Democrat councillor said.

image1 (4) A rest area for members of the Defence Forces in the Phoenix Park. Source: Photo supplied to

As well as securing the perimeter, the Defence Forces provided assistance to the gardaí in a support role by assisting with the movement of people, assisting people with directions and assisting gardaí in the event of an emergency.

For meals, troops were rotated through McKee Barracks and provided with supplementary rations for use.

A delegation from PDFORRA is expected to meet with the chief of staff this afternoon to address the serious concerns of the association.

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Adam Daly

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