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'I either have to leave the Defence Forces or stay and be homeless with my pregnant wife'

Officers today called for the provision of quarters for married couples or the introduction of a rent allowance to assist them.

Image: Irish Defence Forces via Flickr

DEFENCE FORCES OFFICERS have called for the provision of married living quarters or a rent allowance similar to that paid to gardaí, as they struggle to find affordable accommodation near their barracks.

At the biennial conference of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (Raco) today, members at officer rank described the standard of accommodation in barracks as “inadequate”, with up to three people sharing a room in some cases without any common areas.

One officer said there is no fresh running water in some of the accommodation and they have to go elsewhere in the camp to get drinking water.

The conference heard yesterday that, on average, there is a change in appointment for officer rank once a year which means a potential relocation every 12 months.

“It’s not tenable to move your family, for your spouse to move jobs or kids to move to new schools every time. And generally we can’t rent a place [near the barracks] on an ad hoc basis because of our salary,” the conference heard from one officer.

He spoke about the shortage of quarters and gave the barracks at the Curragh as an example, where he said an accommodation building had recently been closed because of safety standards.

One officer said he returned from a UN mission in 2017 and was, at the time, renting a one-bed apartment with his wife in Dublin for €1,600. He said their landlord told them their lease was up and the rent was going up to €2,400.

He said he told his superior: “I will either have to leave the Defence Forces or stay and be homeless with my wife, who is expecting a child. That was the stark reality facing me when I returned from overseas service.”

The officer said working in the Defence Forces was a job he loved but he had made a lot of sacrifices for it.

“I have put my family life on hold. I have been separated from my wife for almost as long as I’ve been married, so married for three years and separated one and a half years of that time.”

“Without married accommodation we will not be able to retain personnel,” he told the conference.

He said military housing should be seen as an asset as it creates flexibility for the State to move personnel around the country to respond to incidents such as the extreme flooding seen in recent years.

Chief of Staff Mark Mellett told reporters he was aware of the accommodation difficulties his personnel are experiencing.

“It’s very much tied in with the overall remuneration available to members of the Defence Forces,” he said.

He said there are a number of initiatives in relation to retention on the table that the organisation and the department will be looking at in order to make it more attractive for people to stay.

When asked whether he would be in favour of the introduction of a rent allowance similar to the one paid to gardaí, he said: “Any initiative that improves retention in the Defence Forces I’d fully support.”

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