The Minister of State for Defence has been accused of being “in a bunker of denial” when it comes to the hardships endured by members of the Defence Forces.
The accusation was made in the Dáil this morning after Paul Kehoe rejected claims made by the former head social worker for the Defence Forces, who told the Irish Examiner that the Department of Defence repeatedly ignored his warnings.
Mervyn Ennis, who was head social worker with the Defence Forces for 23 years, said the two schools in The Curragh - which have a high concentration of children from military families - have been classified as DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) by the Department of Education as they are deemed to be in economically disadvantaged areas.
He also claimed some members of the Defence Forces sleep in their cars and others struggle to afford food.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner last week, Mr Ennis said officials were dismissive of the concerns he had raised.
“I was told by a department official: ‘At least they have a job.’ The department simply don’t care,” he told the Irish Examiner.
Mr Ennis’ comments were described as “hearsay reports in the media” by Mr Kehoe in the Dáil who said Mr Ennis would have had dealings with the Defence Forces, not his Department.
“It's very easy to say something in the media,” Mr Kehoe said.
“There has been no correspondence whatsoever between this guy to my recollection, I've been looking for this, and there has been no trace of this person,” he said.
Fianna Fáil Defence spokesman, Jack Chambers, accused Mr Kehoe of questioning Mr Ennis’ integrity.
“That's just an unbelievable reaction from you, in your bunker of denial, when it comes to the issues of our Defense Forces,” Mr Chambers said.
“Do you believe him? Do you believe what he is saying here?
"And I think the fact that you're questioning his integrity and what he's put on the public record, isn't the prudent response, you should be acknowledging it and seeking to do something to help the personnel who he is he's talking about,” Mr Chambers said.