Belfast Telegraph

Claims of deep levels of anger and frustration in Defence Forces

Micheal Martin said the level of criticism is ‘unprecedented’.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin made the comments during leaders’ questions in the Dail (PA)
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin made the comments during leaders’ questions in the Dail (PA)

The level of anger and frustration within the Defence Forces is “extraordinary”, it has been claimed.

Micheal Martin made the comments after the former head of the Army Ranger Wing heavily criticised government policies, poor pay and retention issues within the Defence Forces.

Retired Commandant Cathal Berry claimed the Defence Forces are being “dismantled and demoralised”, adding that the betrayal is “palpable”.

The leader of the main opposition party, Fianna Fail, told the Dail on Wednesday that this level of criticism is “unprecedented”.

“The depth of anger, frustration and despair and sense of betrayal within our military families and communities is at an extraordinary level,” Mr Martin said.

“Families who generationally have contributed so much to our democracy, our peace-keeping overseas, and have such pride in the history of our Defence Forces cannot comprehend what is actually happening to them.

“The lack of morale, the retention crisis in the Army and Navy has reduced its capacity and strength to an all-time low.”

He claimed that Navy ships have been unable to sail because of a lack of crew, and that up to 50 sailors have been forced to sleep on board naval ships because they cannot afford “soaring” rents.

We are serious about responding to the retention difficulties that we have in our Defence Forces Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted that Mr Berry’s comments were a stinging criticism.

“Sometimes government needs to hear criticism and sometimes the government needs to take it on board,” he added.

Speaking during leaders’ questions he claimed that hundreds of new people are being recruited into the Defence Forces every year but said there is a “real problem” with retention.

“More people are leaving than coming in and that’s something that I have acknowledged in the past,” he said.

“This year, we are investing an extra 50 million euro in our defence forces.

“It’s going into new vessels, new aircraft, new equipment, better and improved barracks and also improved pay and pensions for the defence forces and retired members.”

Figures show there are just over 8,900 members of the Defence Forces.

Mr Varadkar said that a report by the Independent Pay Commission has looked at issues around pay and conditions.

The report is expected to be published in the coming weeks.

“We are serious about responding to the retention difficulties that we have in our Defence Forces,” he added.

Mr Martin said the issue ran “far deeper” than the public service commission adding that people are leaving the Army “in their droves”.

“We need strong, proud, healthy and dynamic Defence Forces where morale is high and personnel are attracted to stay,” he added.

“It is at a very dangerous level. I have spoken to officers and they are at pains to point out how dangerous this is.”

Mr Varadkar said they are tied to the public sector pay agreement and that any pay increases would apply to the Defence Forces.

“They are part of the public sector deal and that means full restoration of the pay for almost everyone in the Defence Forces by October of next year,” he added.

“We accept there are particular issues that are particular to the Defence Forces.”

PA

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