Campaign to help ex-Defence Forces staff in trouble
A FUNDRAISING drive for former members of the Defence Forces experiencing difficulties was launched by Chief of Staff Lieut Gen Seán McCann yesterday.
A fuchsia badge, costing €2, will be on sale this month, with the proceeds going to the Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and Women (One) which provides accommodation and assistance for former members at centres in Dublin city; Athlone, Co Westmeath; and Letterkenny, Co Donegal.
Launching the appeal at the Dublin centre on North King Street, Lieut Gen McCann said the charitable organisation was close to his heart.
“The fuchsia is a flower that grows in many parts of the world but it always reminds us of the highways and byways of home, particularly when we are on overseas service,” he said.
Chief executive of One Ollie O’Connor said the provision of the centres came about after a number of former soldiers were found dead on Dublin streets in the late 1980s.
The group needs €600,000 a year to run the centres, which offer full board, he said.
Since 1994, when the Dublin centre opened, 550 former members of the Defence Forces have been given accommodation and others have been helped in various ways.
Forty former members are currently being catered for.
“Many of these people have given outstanding service to the State and to the United Nations and, for one reason or another, have not been able to make ends meet since leaving the service,” said Mr O’Connor.
He said that some were homeless, some had a disability and many were elderly.
“We also promote a spirit of comradeship between serving and retired members, as well as providing information on pensions, social welfare and other entitlements.”
Mr O’Connor said most of the people who spent time at One centres moved on to independent living after receiving support and comradeship.
The organisation is now refurbishing a building in Limerick city, with the support of the city council. It will be a drop-in centre.
Lieut Gen McCann said those who had served their country, those who had given their lives, as well as those currently serving, should be remembered.
“But in a special way, it calls upon us to remember our ex-servicemen and women – our comrades – in particular those who are experiencing difficulties,” he said.
He said that since its establishment in 1950, One had developed into a tremendous support network.
“During my own service in the Defence Forces, I have watched with pride, admiration and, indeed, humility, the very many tangible achievements of this organisation,” he said.
Lieut Gen McCann said that when visiting the various centres, he was reminded that the soldiers who stood loyally by the State, in its many times of need, should receive the necessary support they deserved in their personal time of need.
“This support, provided by One, spans the entire spectrum, from comfortable accommodation and welfare facilities to drop-in centres where past comrades can meet up and discuss old times, in the company of friends, over a cup of good Army tea,” Lieut Gen McCann said.
He said he was conscious that the support from One came at a significant cost, which could only be met through the success of fund-raising efforts such as the fuchsia appeal.