Claims that Naval Service personnel should be paid more for their humanitarian mission in the Mediterranean Sea have gone to arbitration.
And Minister for Defence Simon Coveney said if a decision fell in favour of a higher allowance, the department will pay.
The minister said he would be perfectly happy to pay extra money, retrospectively, but he had an obligation to apply the current rules on overseas allowances.
PDforra, which represents enlisted personnel in the Defence Forces, maintains the navy crews should get a €80 per day allowance because the ship and personnel are armed, and not the €55 per day unarmed mission allowance they are currently receiving.
However, Mr Coveney asserted there was a difference between the navy’s migrant rescue mission and “somebody operating an armoured vehicle in a war zone with missiles flying overhead”, such as Irish soldiers based in the volatile Golan Heights.
However, it could take a couple of months before the arbitration board makes a decision.
Mr Coveney also said if the Italian authorities requested continuing support on rescue missions next year he would look seriously at it. LÉ Samuel Beckett will return to Ireland on December 4.
He said because of the commitment to the Mediterranean mission the navy would not make its fishery patrol targets this year “but would make no apology” for this as thousands of lives were being saved.
On the subject of housing refugees, Mr Coveney said the Department of Defence was carrying out an audit of its property to see what might provide suitable accommodation, as it had done for homeless people last winter.
He said while the audit had not been completed, refugees were more likely to be housed in former barracks rather than ones currently in use.
Mr Coveney said it was a matter of concern that so few women were in the Defence Forces. He said a White Paper envisaged doubling their participation in the next 10 years.
He said he was looking at making the military fitness tests easier for women to pass and
also added he wanted to increase the number of people serving in overseas missions from the current 496 to 850 within the 10-year life of the White Paper.
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