Veterans to march over Defence Forces pay

A protest about Defence Forces pay, November 2017.

Defence Forces veterans are to march on the Dáil to demand the Government respect the loyalty of servicemen and women, and pay them appropriately.

Veterans want to force the Government to address the significant numbers of highly trained personnel who are leaving the Defence Forces for better pay and conditions in the private sector.

They are to hold their Respect & Loyalty Parade outside the Dáil on September 19 and in the meantime have started significant lobbying of politicians.

The veterans are expected to be joined on the march by members of the lobby group, Wives & Partners of Defence Forces (WPDF).

A recent report compiled by senior military officers, which has been seen by the Irish Examiner, said failure to address the exodus will increase the risk to the Defences Forces’ “capability, operations and reputation”.

Noel O’Callaghan, a retired regimental sergeant major, who is organising the parade, said members of the Defence Forces have shown “absolute loyalty to the State” but were being treated “disgracefully” by the Department of Defence.

“If we don’t challenge the department’s behaviour then we’re effectively endorsing it,” he said.

Mr O’Callaghan, who retired last December after 43 years’ military service, said he loved his job but would not recommend it to young people now.

He said he recently spoke to two men who had left the Naval Service to become prison officers.

Veterans to march over Defence Forces pay

“They were only on a five-year contract so they couldn’t get a mortgage and their pay wasn’t fit for purpose anyway,” he said.

Mr O’Callaghan said poor pay and short-term contracts had resulted in the Defence Forces “haemorrhaging serious expertise and experience” and recruitment would not solve that problem.

“It can take at least five years to get new recruits properly trained.”

He said the Army was spread so thinly on the ground that troops had to be drafted in for duties in Dublin from Donegal, Athlone and Dundalk.

Mr O’Callaghan said he has already lobbied a number of TDs, pointing out to them that pay and conditions need to be significantly improved or else the Defence Forces will not be able to maintain the stability and security of the State which is vital to attracting foreign direct investment.

He said the veterans’ parade is designed “to remind the political system that we were not just soldiers, we were taxpayers and are voters”.

A damning report compiled by Defence Forces senior officers shows their concerns at the number of personnel who are leaving the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps for better pay elsewhere.

Military chiefs point out that between 2013 and last year a total of 2,831 left the forces. Around three quarters of them left before retirement age and just under half of that cohort had served less than five years.

The report has been submitted to the Department of Defence for the Public Service Pay Commission.

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