Reducing Defence Forces 'poses threat to our nation'
PDFORRA ANNUAL CONFERENCE:THE OUTGOING president of the Defence Forces’ representative association PDFORRA, Willam Webb, has told its annual conference that if “weakening” of the forces is noted by dissident groups this will pose “a very real and serious threat to our nation”.
However, the association’s plea to reconsider reducing the number of Army brigades from three to two was rejected at the conference by the Government.
Addressing the organisation’s delegates in Kilkenny, Minister of State at the Department of Defence Paul Kehoe said he “noted” Mr Webb’s call to reconsider, but added: “Let nobody here today be under any misapprehension, there can be no turning back.”
Mr Kehoe said the Government understood that the current reorganisation is “a major change” in the structure of the Defence Forces and “will impact on the lives and future careers of serving and future members.”
However, he denied afterwards that morale is low within the forces because of the reorganisation process. “I believe that morale is high . . . We’ll have 600 new members coming into the Defence Forces.”
During his speech Mr Webb appealed to the Coalition to “stop this madness” of reducing brigades, not to close any more barracks and restore the forces back to full strength. He said it was “extremely disheartening” that neither Minister for Defence Alan Shatter nor Chief of Staff Lieut Gen Seán McCann was in a position to reassure members and say what the future holds for them.
“As president of PDFORRA, I am left with no option but to conclude that there are certain elements of Government and Civil Service who are constantly trying to bring about the total destruction of the Defence Forces by stealth, through either the closure of barracks or the changing of the brigade structure from a three- to a two-brigade structure,” he said.
He asked that the required funding be provided to ensure the high standard of commitment and dedication to national security being delivered by members.
“The Defence Forces have been cut and reduced to such an extent that sadly it’s no longer fit for purpose,” he said.
“If the weakening of the Defence Forces is noticed by the dissident groups, the very same groups that were caught monitoring Harcourt Street Garda station . . . then this will pose a very real and serious threat to our nation, so I appeal to the Minister and the Government to stop this madness.”
There was also criticism of the Government’s decision to downgrade the post of Defence Forces Ombudsman from full-time to part-time, “to that of a mere nixer”, said Mr Webb.
“As the department don’t take the office of ombudsman seriously, then it can be said that they equally do not take the welfare of their employees seriously. This sends out the wrong message – it is okay to bully and harass again.”
The Chief of Staff indicated to reporters that he had “no concerns” in that regard.