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Over 10 million euro spent to help Defence Forces during Covid-19 pandemic

Minister Paul Kehoe detailed the expenditure.

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Members of the Irish Defence forces at a Covid-19 testing facility at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin (NIall Carson/PA)

Members of the Irish Defence forces at a Covid-19 testing facility at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin (NIall Carson/PA)

Members of the Irish Defence forces at a Covid-19 testing facility at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin (NIall Carson/PA)

Over 10 million euro has been spent to help the Defence Forces in its fight against the Covid-19 outbreak.

Minister with responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe said the expenditure included additional medical, engineering and transport costs spent throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

The Defence Forces has been helping across various areas including testing, contact tracing as well as collecting personal protective equipment.

Mr Kehoe told the Dail: “This expenditure includes the 5.2 million euros towards the acquisition of a new aircraft, some 4.2 million in respect of additional medical, engineering, building, PPE, audio visual, transport costs across the army and naval service and the Air Corps.

“Over one million in respect of additional allowance payments and some 400,000 in civil defence.

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

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

“In addition ICT investment has facilitated remote working opportunities across the defence organisation, and has ensured ongoing business during this turbulent period.”

Mr Kehoe also said there has been a delay in the recruitment of Defence Force members because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said there has been an increased interest in joining the Defense Forces as a career.

The current strength of the Defence Forces is 8,485 which Mr Kehoe admitted was “lower than planned”.

He said that general service recruitment applications of 2,994 are “above anticipated figures” for this point of the year.

“The number of application for Air Corps apprentices has also increased significantly over the last year,” Mr Kehoe added.

However, Fianna Fail TD Jack Chambers expressed concern of the rates of turnover in the Defence Forces.

He said: “Ultimately poor pay and conditions continue to overshadow many aspects of our Defence Forces who remain the worst paid in the public service, so it was not surprising to see the ongoing concerning rates of turnover and us not meeting our white paper target of 9,500.

“The strength is now below 8,500 – well below the minimum strength figure. Last year the Defence Forces suffered a net loss 265 with 870 departing and only 605 being inducted.

“This represents a really concerning trend.”

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File picture of members of the Defence Forces (Brian Lawless/PA)

File picture of members of the Defence Forces (Brian Lawless/PA)

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File picture of members of the Defence Forces (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Dail also heard claims that a “lack of morale” has been allowed to manifest through the Defence Forces.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said that the figures were “damning”.

“You have rightly praised the role of the Defence Forces in the public health effort and the fantastic work that they have done in areas like testing, tracing and the bravery of forces on missions in Lebanon and Congo and elsewhere,” the TD added.

“Doesn’t that praise ring a little but hallow when you consider the failure to really support our military personnel with decent pay and conditions?

“The figures are really damning because of the poor levels of pay, the cuts in allowances, the failure to restore many of the pay that were cut in the austerity period.

“The Defence Force strength stands at 1,000 less than it needs to be, we have 610 unfilled vacancies at junior NCO ranks, captain ranks stand at 77.6% of establishment.”

On Tuesday, the coronavirus death toll in Ireland rose to 1,658 after a further eight deaths were announced by the National Public Health Emergency Team.

There were also 10 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the total since the outbreak began to 25,066.

PA