Young, poorly paid Defence Forces recruits ‘totally disillusioned’

Meeting of representative body told of staff unable to afford transport in and out of work

Young recruits: “The cost of living drains the low wages they receive”

Young recruits: “The cost of living drains the low wages they receive”


Young, poorly paid members of the Defence Forces at times could not afford to commute to their places of work on a daily basis, their representative association has claimed.

The association said those on the lower rates of pay either commuted daily or weekly, depending on their duties and whether they lived in their barracks midweek.

In a bid to save money they were making their leave requests with a view to minimising the number of times they commuted to work.

Some were doing this by seeking to take one day’s leave per week rather than in a block as a holiday.

In order to improve conditions in the Defence Forces the Government is, among a series of measures, increasing the salaries of three star privates from €21,000 to €27,000.

The association’s president, Mark Scally, on Tuesday told delegates at the association’s annual conference in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, that soldiers, airmen and sailors he had spoken to aged 18-21 years were “totally disillusioned” with life in the Defence Forces.

“The cost of living drains the low wages they received. Therefore a lot of them are forced to leave [the Defence Forces],” he said.

“I am also aware of personnel taking or looking for a day’s leave a week as they cannot afford the fuel for their vehicles to get them in to and out of work.”

Serious pressure

He urged the Defence Forces and Department of Defence to take action, saying some of his members had the lowest pay across the civil and public service.

Defence Forces Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett told conference delegates he accepted some members were under serious pressure. But he insisted he was advocating for them.

“During my visits [to meet personnel] and at town hall meetings at home and abroad in recent months I have heard many difficult personal experiences which resonated deeply with me,” he said.

A recent climate survey taken across the Defence Forces had confirmed what he had heard.

But in his dealings with Minister for State for Defence Paul Kehoe and his department, he was working to bring more certainty to the careers of those who served under his command.