Ongoing concern with regard to better pay and conditions for Defence Force personnel has been raised at Government level by Athlone Senator, Gabrielle McFadden.
On Wednesday afternoon, amongst large numbers, the Senator took part in the ‘respect and loyalty’ march, following which she summoned the Minister with Responsibility for the Defence Forces, Paul Kehoe, to the Seanad for a debate on the topic.
“I am not arguing that we need to pay members of the Defence Forces more in order to compete with other careers in an economy that is now approaching full employment. I am calling for better pay and conditions for one reason only, because they deserve it.
“Members of the Army, the Navy and the Air Corp are entitled to the same rate of pay as a civilian in a comparable job. On top of this, they deserve additional payment to compensate for the extra challenges they face as serving personnel, such as time away from family, unsociable hours and working under pressure,” the Senator commented.
Senator McFadden enthused with regard to the commitment levels to long working hours shown by members of the Defence Forces.
“These are personnel who get up early, work long hours, work nights and weekends and who serve us with loyalty and professionalism. They deserve a break and we must never shirk away from standing up for them, nor should we apologise for doing so.
“There is no point in continuing to blame Fianna Fáil. Fine Gael is in Government now and it is up to us to do what we have done all through the history of this State and do the right thing for the men and women of Óglaigh na hÉireann,” Senator McFadden continued.
Senator McFadden called for an immediate increase in the military service allowance and swift publication and implementation of recommendations of the Public Service Pay Commission.
“For almost 100 years, the Defence Forces have stood up for all of us, now it is time for us to stand up for them,” the Senator added.
This issue has gained considerable traction and with Athlone being the home of Custume Barracks for over three hundred years, housing the 6th infantry battalion, 2nd brigade artillery regiment and 2nd engineer company, effects a high number of the town’s inhabitants.
It was a matter for intense discussion when broached by Town Mayor, Cllr. Frankie Keena within the Municipal District, who echoed sentiments similar to those now expressed by Senator McFadden.
“On average, in excess of 20 percent of recruits depart the Defence Forces before completing training, citing the poor pay conditions as a major factor. General and technical service personnel are also leaving for better paid opportunities in the private sectors,” Cllr. Keeana acknowledged
Highlighting the fall in numbers in military personnel at Custume Barracks, the Town Mayor noted that Defence Force members were not entitled to strike with regard to their predicament and called on his fellow elected representatives to support the ‘respect and loyalty’ march.