Government urged to further enhance Defence Forces conditions

RONAN FAGAN

Athlone Senator, Gabrielle McFadden, has urged her colleagues in Government to continue the process of pay and work conditions enhancement for members of the Defence Forces following the release of an Independent Public Services Pay Commission report which examined recruitment and retention issues within the military.

The Fine Gael Senator welcomed the Government's acceptance of the provisions detailed in the report but emphasised that it was only the start of a campaign to improve upon the current conditions being experienced by its members.

“The detailed elements of this report are pay and work particulars for which I and others have been calling for over a long period of time and I welcome them all. However, this should not be seen as the end of the process, rather a first step," Senator McFadden remarked.

Among the proposals contained in the €10.1 million package of measures is a ten percent increase in Military Service Allowance, which applies to all Defence Force personnel and is a unique payment taking account the obligations of military life, the restoration of ten allowances, such as Patrol Duty Allowance, the Security Duty Allowance, the Army Ranger Wing Allowance and the Explosive Ordnance Allowance that were cut under the Haddington Road Agreement, a return of premium rates of certain allowances for duties performed at weekends and the restoration of the ten percent cut to Overseas Peace Support Allowance and Overseas Armed Peace Support Allowance.

“Many sectors of the Defence Forces are currently running below their establishment figure and I welcome the loyalty bonuses being put in place for certain grades and a review of pay for those with specialist or technical skills.”

“We need to ensure that we do more for enlisted members and recruits. I believe that no person wearing an Irish uniform should be earning less than the living wage and I am calling on the Taoiseach, and Minister Kehoe, once the current proposals have been implemented, to make that their next priority.”

“Defence is our ultimate guarantee of freedom. If we truly value this freedom, then we must ensure that military service is an attractive career option for young men and women," Senator McFadden commented.

Town Mayor, Cllr. Frankie Keena, noted that the report, while welcomed, would not solve the Defence Forces retention issue.

"It is interesting to note that since Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO ) and Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA ) made their written submissions to the PSPC in February 2018, 130 officers and 1100 enlisted personnel have left the Permanent Defence Forces.

"It is difficult to see how the conservative measures recommended within this report will restore confidence of Defence Forces members and prevent further exodus of trained personnel.

"Apart from the fact that there was no increase in core pay within the report, it is my educated guess that this report will not solve the retention issue," Cllr. Keena stated.

From ongoing interaction with Defence Forces in Custume Barracks, Cllr. Keena is of the opinion that local military personnel do not feel valued by the Government.

"The perception and feedback that I am receiving from military personnel in the Athlone area continues to be that they are not valued by Government and that this report is not going to cut any muscle for them. The immediate implementation of tangible retention initiatives through a Pay Review Body is vital if that perception is to change, as Defence Force members continue to be the lowest paid group across the public and civil service," Cllr. Keena concluded.

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