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Irish Naval sailors forced to sleep on ships due to lack of accommodation, TDs told

PDFORRA’s Mark Keane said they “deserve a place to put their head at night”.

The LÉ James Joyce at Haulbowline Naval Base.
The LÉ James Joyce at Haulbowline Naval Base.
Image: David Jones/Defence Forces

AN OIREACHTAS COMMITTEE has heard that members of the Irish Naval Service are being forced to sleep on ships when not at sea because of a lack of accomodation. 

Senior members of PDFORRA, which represents rank-and-file members of the Irish military, told TDs and Senators  yesterday that moral in the Irish Defence Forces was “on the floor” due to a lack of investment. 

“I’m the living embodiment, I’m supposed to come here and represent my members and I can’t do it enough. You want to go and scream it from the rooftops,” PDFORRA general secretary Gerard Guinan told the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence.

Guinan said pay levels and a shortage of staff are having an affect on the mental health of members

“These staffing shortfalls have, as articulated previously, resulted in extreme stress and anxiety for personnel and their families. The lack of proper remuneration has further impacted on the morale of personnel, which ultimately reflects on operational effectiveness,” he said. 

Guinan went on to describe what he termed “the human cost of austerity” and a “denial of recognition of the problems that exist within the Defence Forces”.

His colleague, PDFORRA president Mark Keane, also described the lack of suitable accommodation for members of the naval service for when they come off patrol at sea.  

Keane said that, depending on their vessel, sailors may be at sea for 26 days or up to four months and that when they return to base they are forced to sleep on the ship again when off-duty. 

“These ships have 11 berths in them, so it means you have 11 personnel in a room. Now if you picture this deputy, they do 26 day cycles patrols,” Keane said.

PastedImage-40342 PDFORRA president Mark Keane. Source: Oireachtas.ie

“So they’re 26 days away from a naval base, that’s where they spend their time. They come back in for 16 day self-maintenance periods, they spend their time on that ship again. Now these people work 60/70 hours-a-week on average at sea.”

We take the larger ships, they do up to three to four months at sea away from home, which is the norm in any navy. They come back, again they’ve a sixteen day cycle, they’re back in the naval base. They also have to perform military duties on that ship, they’re forced to live in where they work. We wouldn’t ask anyone else to.

“We’ve heard a lot in the media about citizens we can’t afford accommodation, our members are citizens in uniforms as well. They deserve a place to put their head at night, they deserve a place where they can get off these ships.”

“These men and women, they served their country, they do us proud. You’ve seen them in the Mediterranean, you’ve seen them overseas and then we bring them home and ask them to live in these ships? That’s what we give them back?”   

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Rónán Duffy

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