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Irish Army enlisted personnel in training. Irish Defence Forces

Group representing Irish military personnel say they 'will not be silenced' by new defence law

PDFORRA President Mark Keane was speaking ahead of the group’s conference due to start this afternoon in Cavan.

THE PRESIDENT OF a group representing enlisted personnel in the Irish Defence Forces has said that they “will not be silenced” in speaking publicly about issues in the military. 

Mark Keane was speaking ahead of the PDFORRA conference due to start this afternoon in Cavan. 

More than 100 delegates representing personnel from over 40 Districts across the Army, Naval Service and Irish Air Corps, will debate 53 motions.

The main topics for discussion will be the proposed Defence Bill, the delayed implementation of the European Working Time directive, the provision of minimum levels of medical care for personnel going to sea, and calls for the proper payment of personnel assigned to the EU Battlegroup.

Keane said a lot has been achieved since the last conference with new rates of pay and allowances. He also said there had been an extension of mandatory retirement ages, provision of semi private health care and the application of the Working Time Directive.

“Years of underinvestment in the Defence Forces means that we are now only beginning to catch up with other areas of the public sector, which is borne out by the wide-ranging
spectrum of motions submitted by Delegates,” he said. 

Keane expressed concerns, like his colleagues in the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers, regarding a “gagging order” in the proposed Defence (Amendment) Bill 2023 which is currently progressing through the Dáil.

The PDFORRA President said that a proposed section which would stop representative bodies from speaking about Government defence policy had been “watered down but it is still there”.  

He said he believes the measure is an “innate fear” of potentially negative commentary.

“This is designed to stifle debate – there should be no fear from the members of Oglaigh na hÉireann expressing their views in a democratic society.  

“There are checks and balances in place, military discipline is very robust as it is and we have protocols to follow there. 

“PDFORRA can’t comment on anything operationally military, and we are subject to military law. 

“We are the members’ voice and the demand to be heard – we should not be silenced,” he said.  

Keane said that it was “in the gift of the Minister to make the Irish Defence Forces an employer of choice”.

During the three day conference there will be discussions between PDFORRA and officials from the Department of Defence and the Department of Public Expenditure National Development Plan delivery and Reform.

The Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Tánaiste Micheál Martin is due to address the conference tomorrow. 

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