The treatment of thousands of members of the Defence Forces deployed on duties surrounding Pope Francis’s visit to Ireland has been condemned as "despicable" by a Galway TD.
Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish said the 3,000 members of the Defence Forces, including soldiers from Dun Ui Mhaoliosa in Galway, who were deployed to assist An Garda Siochana with security at Phoenix Park, Ireland West Airport, and Knock, had got “a raw deal", pointing out that while gardaí received approximately €30 per hour overtime, soldiers only received a daily €47.59 Security Duty Allowance.
“It’s despicable treatment of the men and women of our Defence Forces, and it’s another example of how their morale is constantly being undermined, against a background of falling numbers, poor pay and conditions," he said.
Dep Grealish said the situation highlighted the poor levels of pay of members of the Defence Forces, leading him to call on Dep Brendan Smith, chair of the Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade, to convene a special meeting to discuss the current state of the Army, and to invite the Minister for Defence - An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar - and Chief of Staff to attend.
"Numbers in the Army, Navy, and Air Corps are now at an all-time low, with retention a big problem because of the conditions being endured," he said. “Twenty years ago we had almost 12,000 in our Defence Forces, but the current strength stands at just 9,010 personnel. The number has been falling every year. Low pay is the biggest factor affecting recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces — and all the media coverage of how shabbily they have been treated during the Pope’s visit is hardly going to help recruitment efforts."