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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 20 June, 2019
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'People who've suffered for our country should get the support they deserve'

A fundraising appeal for ex-Defence Forces personnel launches in Dublin later today.

AT MIDDAY TODAY, the 9th annual fundraising appeal for homeless former members of the Defence Forces will be launched.

The fuchsia appeal provides much-needed funds to allow charity One – Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel of the Defence Forces – offer residential centres and support for those who need it.

Its CEO Ollie O’Connor told TheJournal.ie that the range of supports available to ex-members of the defence forces needs to be vastly improved and that these people deserve better.

“There’s no one reason someone becomes homeless,” he said. “It could be related to the service [in Defence Forces] or it might not be. Regardless of the factors, we’re there to provide support at a time of great need.”

One provides three residential centres throughout the country – in Dublin, Letterkenny and Athlone – and two veteran support centres in Limerick and Dundalk.

With capacity for 44 people across the three residential centres, O’Connor said there are usually between 35 and 40 people in them at any one time.

The residential homes provides subsidised accommodation for ex-service personnel who’ve hit on hard times, with the view to helping them get back on their feet before they find a more permanent home.

“Some find the adjustment after leaving the Defence Forces hard,” O’Connor said. “The Defences Forces is a unique way of living. You’re living life as part of a group. When you leave, it’s a completely different life.”

The veteran support centres, meanwhile, offer ex-personnel the chance to meet former colleagues and others like them, to support each other if they are having difficulties adjusting after their career finishes.

90385480_90385480 Service users Tommy Dowdall and Alan Byrne at the launch of the 2015 appeal. Source: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

The supports in place for people after they leave are not only inadequate, according to O’Connor, they are non-existent.

The conditions that the Defence Forces work under has been under scrutiny in recent months, with protest group Wives and Partners of the Defence Forces (WPDF) raising awareness of their plight.

At present, the group claims that many Defence Forces members are effectively working for less than the minimum wage, and have no method of recourse vie traditional industrial relations channels in Ireland.

While O’Connor said that there are certainly issues in this regard, his charity was focusing on engaging with the government to secure better supports for Defence Forces personnel after they leave.

“We’ve met with the Minister [for Defence Paul Kehoe] and have had some encouraging discussions,” he said. “There’s a few small things we’d call for as a starting point.”

One of them is to provide veteran support centres and put them in the barracks themselves. “It’s a great help to have a personal support service there to give people advice,” O’Connor said.

To raise the essential funds required to provide all of these services, the fuchsia appeal launches in Dublin later today.

It costs around €600,000 to provide these services that One provides on an annual basis, and the fuchsia appeal is an important source of funding for these projects.

“The British have the poppy appeal, and the French have the Bleuet de France, and this is of our way of supporting our veterans,” he said.

Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett will be there to launch the fundraiser, as will Minister Kehoe.

“It’s not a job, it’s a vocation,” O’Connor added. “Some men come back with catastrophic injuries. These injuries may not necessarily be physical.

We need to honour those who served this country – in the Congo, the Lebanon and elsewhere – to make sure they are not forgotten. People who’ve suffered for our country should get the support they deserve.

Read: Irish Navy revives infant found unconscious in Mediterranean as record numbers saved

Read: ‘We have no future’ – wives of defence forces march today over their spouses’ working conditions

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Sean Murray

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