RACO (Representative Association of Commissioned Officers), the association which represents the Defence Forces’ 1,200-plus officers, says the disbandment of the 4th Western Brigade means some of its former members have to pay up to €500 extra a month to commute to postings with the remaining two brigades in the south and east of the country.
Around 40 officers face lengthy commutes — some travelling from Donegal to Rathmines.
At the association’s biennial conference in Aughrim, Co Wicklow, yesterday, RACO president Captain Ian Harrington said the elimination of the Western Brigade had serious ramifications for officers who served in it.
“It leaves a very large swathe of the west of Ireland with no long-term potential for serving officers. Geographically, if you and your family live west of the river Shannon and north of a line from Galway to Longford, you will spend almost 50% of your career commuting long distances to work,” he said.
“Additionally no serving officers in the early stage of their careers can consider settling down in these areas. This will not be good for the Defences Forces.”
He told Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Conor O’Boyle the timing of the announcement that the army was to be cut from three to two brigades had “a devastating effect” on morale.
Capt Harrington said there “was no consultation” and it was clear cost savings were the main factor behind the decision.
Meanwhile, the RACO president said his organisation was prepared to take whatever action necessary — including legal action — if as expected the Department of Defence attempts to cut the pay of Special Service Officers (SSOs).
SSOs, who represent about 25% of the Defence Forces officer corps, have been paid around €4,000 a year (pre-tax) more than normal officers because they possess vital technical skills, such as bomb disposal experts and mechanical engineers.