Soldiers attending the state funeral of former taoiseach Albert Reynolds had to scrounge clothing from fellow troops because many of them did not have full ceremonial uniforms required for such occasions.
According to members of PDForra, the organisation which represents the rank-and-file members of the Defence Forces, getting replacement uniforms was becoming increasingly difficult, especially as the clothing stores barracks used to have, had been centralised to one depot in Dublin.
Troops from Athlone were informed at short notice that 30 of them were needed to attend the funeral.
To ensure the order was complied with, 45 soldiers were asked to report to the barracks and parts of uniforms were swapped around until 30 of them looked presentable.
A tailor was also summoned because some of the rank markings on the jackets didn’t match the wearers’ status. He had to remove and restitch the flashes onto the appropriate uniforms.
PDForra president Mark Scally said members of the Defence Forces weren’t getting the clothing they needed. He claimed the debacle was due to cost-cutting.
PDForra members claimed it wasn’t just the lack of ceremonial uniforms that was causing problems. They said that on a day-to-day basis, troops were having to swap different parts of their uniforms with each other because they often didn’t have a full set of proper clothes.
They also said that if they put in requests for new items of clothing because they were worn or torn, they could be waiting up to 14 months.
Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Conor O’Boyle, who attended PDForra’s annual conference in Sligo yesterday, maintained there was no question of soldiers not having full uniforms.
However, he said he hadn’t been informed about problems encountered by the troops who attended Mr Reynolds’ funeral.
“I’m not aware of that. It hasn’t been brought to the attention of the chain of command,” the country’s most senior officer said.
Minister for Defence Simon Coveney said from what he’d been told by senior officers there wasn’t a problem with clothing, but said if there was, he would like to hear details about it.
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