The minister with responsibility for defence, Paul Kehoe, says he is happy with the amount of money being put into the Defence Forces, despite Ireland having the smallest percentage investment of its gross domestic product (GDP) in its military of any country in Europe.
Mr Kehoe said spending on defence has risen from €898m in 2015 to €905m this year, but according to statistics this is just 0.5% of GDP, compared to the 0.9% spent in 2005.
Even Luxembourg, which is smaller than Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s home county of Mayo, spends 0.6% of its GDP on defence.
Mr Kehoe said that he will ensure the Defence Forces have the capability to deal with border security and the threat of international terrorism, still described as moderate, post Brexit.
He added that an additional €437m will be spent on capital projects for the Defence Forces between now and 2021.
He said the Government’s priority at the next budget “will be to reward working families,” who had significant cuts to their standards of living in recent years.
Both PDForra, the organisation which represents the Defence Forces’ enlisted men, and RACO, which represents officers, have demanded that their members’ pay be brought back to pre-austerity levels.
Mr Kehoe made his comments yesterday as he, along with Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Mark Mellett, attended a major army shooting competition at Kilworth Camp, Co Cork.
The sharpest shots from 1 Brigade’s units fought it out in four competitions covering pistols, rifles machine guns, and the ‘falling plates’. The latter is where teams of six soldiers run 25m, drop to the ground and fire at targets 200m away.
The pistol competition was won for the 10th time in a row by Captain Eamonn Kenneally, 50. He has won the All Army title four times and will be hoping to make it five when that competition is held in Kilworth next month.
The most exciting competition of the day was the falling plates which went down to the wire in the final.
The 1st Cavalry Squadron team did well in the best of three when they took out all the targets in a very impressive 17.06 secs. It looked as though they had won it when, on the second round, their opponents, 1st Infantry Brigade from Galway, made a false start.
While many of the cavalry unit’s supported clamoured for the Galway contingent to be disqualified, the judge decided to run it again and the infantrymen won the final two rounds in 17.50 secs and 17.40 secs.
Their commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mary Carroll, said she was absolutely thrilled at their win: “There are a lot of young soldiers in the team and I’m really proud of them. I’ll give them a bit of downtime but not too much as they are the current All Army champions and I want them to retain the title.”
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