Rank-and-file members want changes to the criminal justice system in line with minimum imprisonment terms already handed down for the murder of gardaí and prison officers.
PDFORRA, the association representing soldiers, sailors and aircrew, will bring up the issue at its annual conference which begins today in Carlow. Ahead of the meeting, general secretary Gerry Rooney said: “PDFORRA wants to see these provisions extended to all members of the defence forces operating in aid to the civil power. The bottom line is that they should have as much protection under the law in the performance of their duties as gardaí and prison officers.”
Army representatives want Defence Minister Willie O’Dea to address their concerns on the matter when he speaks to members today. “I hope this issue can be given early and positive consideration by the minister. The threat from political splinter groups and well armed criminals is very real and members of the defence forces can be targets so they must have the same legal protection as everyone else,” said Mr Rooney.
At present, 40-yearmandatory sentences are only in place for the murder of a defence force member operating in Portlaoise Prison or escort duties, according to members, as well as the killing of a garda or prison officer under the Criminal Justice Act 1990. The last soldier killed during the Troubles was Private Patrick Kelly, 35, from Moate, Co Westmeath.
During a gun battle in a dramatic rescue attempt for Quinnsworth supermarket boss Don Tidey from an IRA gang in 1983, Pte Kelly and trainee garda Gary Sheehan were killed.
Several concerns are expected to dominate this year’s conference including the issue of Defence Force members being prevented from involvement in protest groups over proposed cuts to emergency frontline services and proposed cuts under the Bord Snip report. Army chief of staff lieutenant general Dermot Earley will also address members today.