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No former member of Defence Forces rejoins in Covid-19 call over contract issues

The offered terms and conditions have been described as ‘pretty appalling’.

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Former Army Ranger commander Cathal Berry has said that not a single former member of the Defence Forces has been rehired to join the fight against Covid-19 (PA)

Former Army Ranger commander Cathal Berry has said that not a single former member of the Defence Forces has been rehired to join the fight against Covid-19 (PA)

Former Army Ranger commander Cathal Berry has said that not a single former member of the Defence Forces has been rehired to join the fight against Covid-19 (PA)

Former Army Ranger commander Cathal Berry has said that not a single former member of the Defence Forces has been rehired to join the fight against Covid-19.

Mr Berry, of the Regional Independent Group, said the scheme has failed to attract any members.

He told the Dail the terms and conditions for re-enlisting were “pretty appalling”, adding that returning members would be fined 300 euro if they did not fulfil a three-year contract.

Mr Berry said: “We all voted for legislation here on March 26 and a sizeable chunk of that legislation to do with the Defence Forces and re-listing and re-hiring former members of the Defence Forces.

“Seven weeks later I think it’s reasonable to assume that maybe 40 or 50 or 60 soldiers have been rehired but the reality is not a single has been rehired to date.

“We are not even close.

“No interviews have taken place, no medical have taken place, no garda vetting has taken place.

“That’s an issue that we need to focus on.

“There’s a number of reasons why no one has been re-hired but the main reason is that terms and conditions are pretty appalling.

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during his visit to the Defence Forces Joint Task Force (JTF) in McKee Barracks, Dublin (Photocall Ireland/PA)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during his visit to the Defence Forces Joint Task Force (JTF) in McKee Barracks, Dublin (Photocall Ireland/PA)

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during his visit to the Defence Forces Joint Task Force (JTF) in McKee Barracks, Dublin (Photocall Ireland/PA)

“If you are a former solider and are fully trained and you wish to return to the Defence Forces to fight Covid, you will be offered a three-year contract and, incredibly, if you don’t stay the three years you will be fined by the Department of Defence 300 euro.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dail that around 500 former troops expressed an interest in rejoining the Defence Forces.

“Those 500 certainly won’t turn into 500 re-enlistments, but if we could re-enlist 100 or 150 people, particularly those with particular skills, that would be really welcome,” Mr Varadkar added.

“We have had some pilots come back and we signed off on that the other day, but we’d like to see people coming back across the Defence Forces and all three services as well.

“I’m very disappointed to hear that a barrier in that might be this issue of terms and conditions which always seems to plague progress in the Defence Forces.”

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar said he would have “no objection” to using commercial aircraft to get Defence Forces troops home to Ireland.

Mr Berry called for the government to send flights to Beirut to bring Defence Forces troops home.

Mr Varadkar said it is a “real weakness” that Ireland relies on commercial aircraft to bring the State’s troops back describing it as “sub-optimal”.

“I have said to the Chief of Staff that given there are so many planes on the ground at the moment, and perhaps planes are inexpensive at the moment, this might be an opportunity for us to invest in that and and purchase aircraft that would allow us to get our own troops back and forth,” Mr Varadkar added.

PA