Dail hears call to end use of anti malarial drug by Defence Forces

The record of the Government in their treatment of current and former members of Defence Forces has been criticised in the Dail tonight.

Sinn Féin TD Pat Buckley made his comments as part of the debate on his party’s motion to end the administering of Lariam in the Defence Forces.

Deputy Buckley explained that Lariam, or Mefloquine was given to members of the defence forces as an anti-malaria drug when serving in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Things like psychotic breakdowns or suicidal ideation and impulses have been experienced by those who took it in good faith believing that their superiors had their best interests at heart. These side effects have led to tragic circumstances and deep suffering.

"More than 4,500 soldiers were given this drug by the Defence Forces without any comprehensive screening.

Deputy Buckley pointed out that many Defence Force personnel are living week to week, hand to mouth "because of the disgustingly paltry rates of pay for ordinary soldiers".

He continued: "A new member earns just €200 a week, increasing to €350 a week in their second year. The wages do not increase much more after that for ordinary soldiers.

"It is impossible in the long term for a person to feed, clothe, and house a family on such low wages. That is why families have increasingly sought further assistance from the State and this can be seen in the number in receipt of Family Income Supplement. In just three years, the numbers have more than doubled from 49 in 2013 to 124 in 2016.

"I want to commend the families of defence force members who have been campaigning hard on third issue but often it feels that the government has no interest in listening. Shelley Cotter of WPDF and all its members deserve a very honourable mention in this house.

"Hopefully soon we will see members of the defence forces being allowed the proper rights as workers to argue for better pay and conditions but until then the government should step up."

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