Defence Forces migrant rescues: ‘No issue’ over daily payment

Minister says those who took part in Mediterranean missions to receive €15 daily rate

Migrants on board the Naval Service patrol ship LÉ Niamh.  Photograph: Irish Defence Forces

Migrants on board the Naval Service patrol ship LÉ Niamh. Photograph: Irish Defence Forces

 

Members of the Defence Forces will be given a tax-free daily payment which it is claimed is due to those who helped save the lives of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea, a Minister has insisted.

The Government has been involved in a dispute with PDforra, the representative organisation for the Defence Forces over the money, but Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe said the money will be provided.

PDforra said it agreed a €15 daily rate for those who served on the Mediterranean with the Department of Defence, but the Department of Public Expenditure said the amount had not yet been finalised.

Mr Kehoe insisted the money would be paid and said he was meeting Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe to discuss the issue this week.

“That will be paid,” Mr Kehoe said Monday night. “It is going through a process. There is no issue about it.”

10,000 migrants rescued

Those who served on the naval operation have asked for the €15 per day payment, similar but of a lower value to a payment that is usually given to those on peacekeeping duties. The payment is made to peacekeepers because they operate in an armed environment.

The Mediterranean operation, which saw well in excess of 10,000 migrants rescued by members of the Defence Forces, was technically seen as a humanitarian mission.

PDforrra, however, says those working on the Mediterranean were in close proximity to the dangerous Libyan coastline and often had to prepare weapons on board their ships.

Lisa Chambers, the Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on defence, claimed the payment delay is particularly unacceptable since the Government had praised those who served on the Mediterranean operations and awarded them medals.

“The €15 should be paid, there shouldn’t be an argument,” Ms Chambers, a Mayo TD, said. “It shows an undervaluing of the work our soldiers do in the Mediterranean. It isn’t the amount; it is the principle of it.”

Humanitarian missions

The new Defence Forces International Operational Service Medal was awarded to members of the Irish Army and Navy, as well as the Army nursing and the chaplaincy services, for work on humanitarian missions.

It was aimed directly at personnel who have been involved with Operation Pontus, code name for humanitarian operations between Libya and Sicily rescuing migrants fleeing North Africa.

Generally, members of the Defence Forces deployed on missions are awarded medals by the United Nations, the European Union or Nato, but this has not applied to humanitarian work.

Ger Guinan, PDforra’s deputy general secretary, said his members are “extremely disappointed”.

“The fact that the Department of Public Expenditure appears to be second guessing an agreement reached between the Department of Defence and PDforra is extremely ominous, given the Government’s denial of PDforra access to the Labour Relations Commission and affiliation with ICTU.”