Protesting Air Corps corporal's wife says moneylenders help them make ends meet
An Air Corps corporal's wife has revealed resorting to moneylenders to mark almost every big day of the year for her children.
Emma Magee, from Coolock in Dublin, was one of scores of protesters who took to the gates of Defence Forces' barracks around the country to raise awareness over cuts in pay and allowances which leave many struggling to make ends meet.
The couple live with the 34-year-old's parents and have a six-year-old and 11-year-old twins, one of whom is on the autism spectrum.
Ms Magee, who quit her own job to help her son's development, said the family are 150 euro a week worse off than they were in 2007 and 2008, because of cuts to allowances and restrictions on overtime and bonus duties.
"We just seem to be on an endless loop of debt," she said from the protest at McKee Barracks in Dublin.
"As you get one debt paid then you have to borrow more money to pay for the next thing.
"We are living off my husband's wages. We don't make it through the week any more. We don't have a social life."
Ms Magee's husband, who served overseas in Eritrea and Lebanon, previously got a 70 euro allowance for 24-hour shifts in his barracks and for "gate duty" where he would be on security, but that was cut to 20 euro.
They originally took the decision to move into the grandparents' home in the hope of saving for a mortgage.
"But then the cuts came. Now there's no extra money to save," Ms Magee said.
The Magees go to the bank to apply for loans and despite maintaining repayments on existing borrowings they are regularly refused.
They also borrow from the local credit union but have been forced to go to money lenders, including last Christmas.
"We couldn't say to the kids on Christmas morning, sorry kids, Santa didn't come," she said.
"It's Christmas and then Easter and then back to school. But we are very lucky that my husband has a job. I'm not the worst off. We know that. There's people out there in a hell of a worse situation."
Ms Magee protested as part of the Wives and Partners of the Defence Forces (WPDF) group.
They claim that it is the only public service sector that does not have access to the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court.
Gerry Rooney, general secretary of the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDForra), said the organisation has raised many major issues over pay and conditions with Government, including pay for sailors for the entire duty at sea and European working time rules.
"I think generally we would have the same aims and objectives," he said.
"We'd hope some good will come out of it."
Paul Kehoe, Minister for Defence, said he was c ommitted to ensuring Defence Forces' personnel are fully recompensed, fairly and transparently.
"I will continue to work with their representative associations in order to achieve the best possible outcome," he said.