Defence Forces will struggle to fill overseas missions due to quarantine, officers warn

Members forced to quarantine in isolation from their families in military camps for two weeks prior to their deployments overseas
Defence Forces will struggle to fill overseas missions due to quarantine, officers warn

RACO has described the non-payment of allowances for the time the military are quarantining as “shameful.” File Picture.

The Defence Forces will struggle to get volunteers for overseas missions because they're not being compensated for spending an additional two weeks away from their families due to Covid-19 quarantine requirements.

This prediction has been made by RACO, the association which represents the country's military officers, which has described the non-payment of allowances for the time they are quarantining as “shameful.” 

In May, RACO wrote to the Department of Defence seeking clarification on the allowances to be paid to its members forced to quarantine in isolation from their families in military camps for two weeks prior to their deployments overseas.

RACO general secretary Commandant Conor King said they were informed at the time by the department that the matter would be dealt with ‘expeditiously’.

“Later, we were informed that the matter was under active consideration, and now we are informed that it is at the highest level with the minister (Simon Coveney),” Comdt King said.

In mid-June, Mr Coveney told the Irish Examiner he would look sympathetically on the claim to have an allowance paid to the troops while they were in quarantine. This was around the time the 116th Battalion deployed to Lebanon.

“The failure of the official side (Department of Defence, DPER and senior military leadership) to provide for their personnel has had a severe impact on morale and wellbeing of our members and their families,” Comdt King said.

“The difficulty of being forced to separate from one’s family while remaining in the same country as them, and not being compensated for this imposition is severely sapping morale, and is providing our loyal personnel with the impression that they are not valued,” he added.

Comdt King said RACO now fears the defence forces are going to struggle with filling the next rotations for overseas now that troops are aware of the lack of reward for their sacrifice in having to quarantine for 14 days pre-deployment with no compensation, followed by 14 days quarantine when they arrive overseas, and the prospect of no leave during the mission.

“In the year Ireland won a seat on the UN Security Council largely thanks to the efforts of our brave peacekeepers, their treatment is shameful,” Comdt King said.

Meanwhile, Ireland South MEP Billy Kelleher has added his voice to the debate on the issue of a depleted naval service protecting Irish waters from illegal fishing post-Brexit.

It's been predicted by Irish fishing organisations that EU-registered trawlers currently fishing in British waters will decide to switch to waters off our coast from January as they're unlikely to be allowed further access by the British.

By then the Naval Service may have four ships tied up due to its manpower crisis.

Mr Kelleher has called on the government to reach out to other EU member states to secure support in policing Irish waters.

“Quite rightly, Irish fisheries organisations have called into question the potential of the naval service to adequately patrol Irish waters once Brexit comes into play. Irish waters are a rich spawning ground for many species of fish. They must be rigorously protected if we're to secure future stocks and future employment for Irish fishermen,” Mr Kelleher said.

He said the government must commit to restoring the naval service to its full operational capacity.

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