A special meeting dedicated to serving Defence Forces personnel to discuss their present public service pay conditions predicament is expected to be convened in August.
The motion, raised by Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke, was one which garnered much discussion at the monthly meeting of the Athlone Moate Municipal District.
“This is a major issue and we need to give a voice to the people effected. Our Defence Forces personnel are the lowest paid workers within the public service and they are certainly not getting a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. Morale is at an all time low, with almost 2,900 staff leaving their Defence Forces emply in the last three years. These shrinking numbers are striking and need to be addressed in the immediate future,” Cllr. O’Rourke remarked.
Cllr. O’Rourke made reference to the words of the wife of a serving soldier, highlighting their present poverty plight, noting that the dream of owning their home would not become a reality, while the State neglected their present situation.
“Members of the Defence Forces are not allowed to speak in public and as elected representatives it is our duty to speak up on their behalf. Members of the Defence Forces in Custume Barracks have stood with us in times of need and I would like to hold a meeting within this Chamber in August, to which I will be inviting retired Army personnel who are willing to speak in this regard,” Cllr. O’Rourke emphasised.
Fine Gael Councillor, John Dolan, addressed the issue from a personal perspective, concurring with Cllr. O’Rourke’s sentiments.
“My daughter’s partner is a serving member of the Defence Forces so I know only too well of their financial situation. We rely on our Defence Force members both home and abroad and it is only fair and just that this should be acknowledged.
“I am aware that the present members are tied to a public service pay agreement until 2020, but their pay and conditions must improve. For example, my daughter’s partner was on 24 hour shift duty for which he was paid twenty euro. This is not on, we have to support our Defence Force members and to give due credit to Senator Gabrielle McFadden she has been highlighting their present predicament in the media for a number of years now.
Town Mayor, Cllr. Frankie Keena, noted the ongoing need to have the issue as a pertinent topic for discussion.
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“We are losing large numbers of trained Defence Forces staff to the private sector as the remuneration is much improved upon their current wages. We need to keep this topic on our agenda. I am aware that a review is presently ongoing, the results of which will be made public this week, with members to be briefed by the Permanent Defence Forces Representative Association (PDFORRA ) following its publication,” Cllr. Keena stated.
Speaking post meeting, Cllr. O’Rourke said that an invitation had been extended to the Minister for Defence, Paul Kehoe TD, defence analyst and writer, Declan Power, retired Brigadier General, Ger Aherne, former Head of the Irish Army Ranger Wing, Cathal Berry, General Secretary, PDFORRA, Gerard Guinan, retired Sergeant Major, Noel O’Callaghan and the wife of a present serving Defence Forces member.
Following much deliberation, the Public Pay Services Commission are imminently due to publish their recommendations on Defence Forces pay and conditions, a cause which has been to the political fore of Athlone Senator, Gabrielle McFadden.