Defence Forces members should not have to pay for citizenship, PDForra says

Personnel risking ‘life and limb’ for State choosing between supporting families and becoming citizens

PDForra’s annual conference heard on Thursday that  poorly paid Defence Fprces personnel faced shelling out up to €1,000 each when they applied to be become Irish citizens. Photograph: Alan Betson

PDForra’s annual conference heard on Thursday that poorly paid Defence Fprces personnel faced shelling out up to €1,000 each when they applied to be become Irish citizens. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Foreign nationals who have joined the Defence Forces should be given Irish citizenship free of charge after residing in the State for the requisite five years, the Permanent Defence Forces Other Ranks Representative Association (PDForra) has said.

A total of 264 people from countries such as Russia, Moldova, Germany, Britain, France and the US are among the 3,181 people who have enlisted since 2016. Most of those from abroad who have joined the Army, Navy and Air Corps were EU citizens.

PDForra’s annual conference, which is taking place in Killarney, heard on Thursday that these poorly paid personnel faced shelling out up to €1,000 each when they applied to be become citizens.

“I do not believe that Irish people would consider it fair to allow EU citizens who are resident here join the Defence Forces, serve our nation overseas, risk life and limb with their comrades and then deny them through economic means the ability to become citizens of our State,” said PDForra general secretary Gerard Guinan, who added that the association had been highlighting the issue since 2018.

“The general public know that members of the Defence Forces are relatively poorly paid, but I’m not sure that too many understand that it can cost thousands to attain citizenship after a prolonged period. This is a cost that many enlisted personnel just can’t afford against competing interests of looking after their families.”

PDForra said enlisted personnel should be given citizenship after five years honourable service to the State and that a mechanism for this should be agreed between the Departments of Defence and Justice.

Forced out

The conference also heard that a contract clause could result in 700 personnel being forced out of the Army at the end of next year. Delegates were told this would decimate the Defence Forces, which were already experiencing a shortfall in baseline numbers that needs to be resolved.

The clause affected a group who joined after 1994 who, under their contracts, would be forced to leave after 21 years if they had not reached the level of sergeant. A number of stays have already been placed on the obligation, but the matter needed to be resolved finally, PDForra said.

The conference also heard calls for the restoration of allowances such as drivers’ allowances, which used to induce personnel to take up driving duties.

Noting that a reversal of additional hours imposed on other public servants as part of the Haddington Road Agreement had been mooted, Mr Guinan said members of the Defence Forces had allowances reduced at the same time in 2013.

These changes resulted in a financial hit for members of the Defence Forces, he said, “which is making employment within the Defence Forces less attractive to potential recruits”.