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Women of Honour scandal among topics on agenda at PDFORRA conference

The annual conference takes places in Killarney.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

RANK AND FILE members of the Irish Defence Forces will discuss internal complaints mechanisms and the Women of Honour scandal at their annual conference this week. 

PDFORRA represents all ranks in the non-commissioned elements of the army, navy and air corps – its annual conference begins in Killarney today. 

The three-day meeting will see 150 delegates gather to discuss the worsening retention crisis, access to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, allowances and the use of the European Working Time agreement. 

Contracts for personnel who joined post 1994 is seen as a major issue among members as it could see personnel across all branches being forced to retire, and deplete the ranks further. 

There will also be discussions around the administration of complaints by members, and other service matters. Contained within that discussion will be the allegations of sexual harassment made by female members against senior officers. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney confirmed last week that independent experts will carry out a review into abuse experienced in the Defence Forces. The minister met with participants from the Women of Honour group and with a group of serving female members of the Defence Forces.

The women, who alleged they were sexually assaulted and discriminated against while serving in the Irish Defence Forces, had called for an independent inquiry into the allegations.

Staffing issues

Gerard Guinan, General Secretary said that PDFORRA members must be recognised for their work during the pandemic.

“This year’s conference takes place against the backdrop of the Covid pandemic and a severe crisis in recruitment and retention of personnel, with enlisted ranks being approximately 1000 below establishment figures.

“This personnel deficiency is simply not sustainable. Members of the Defence Forces have contributed significantly to the national effort with members being engaged in ambulance work, swabbing, testing and tracing, logistical management, deployed to quarantine centres and in some instances deployed to private nursing homes.

“They have made an outstanding contribution during this pandemic. Furthermore, our members who assisted the HSE following the cyber-attack have continued performing their normal internal and external security functions,” he said. 

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Guinan said that the staffing issues still remain the biggest issue for members and called for action.

“The issues within the Naval Service have been well publicised over the course of the past number of years, and we must stress that there are also significant shortfalls in the Air Corps.

“Additionally, there are increasing shortfalls at Corporal and Sergeant rank that is impacting on work life balance for members.

“This conference especially affords us an opportunity to highlight the severe deficiencies in numbers, which is impacting on our members and their families all around the country,” he said. 

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