Soldiers face extra 72 hours’ papal visit duty for €68 additional pay

Poor pay and allowances sapping morale, say supporters

Last year, the Wives and Partners of the Defence Forces organisation marched to the Dáil regarding low pay. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Last year, the Wives and Partners of the Defence Forces organisation marched to the Dáil regarding low pay. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Members of the Defence Forces are being drafted in to assist with the papal visit, drawing critical comment from campaigners seeking pay restoration for soldiers.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday of next week, soldiers will perform a variety of extra duties including bolstering Garda security, helping with crowd control, ticket collecting and also performing some ceremonial tasks.

It is believed that troops will be drafted in from Finner Camp in Donegal, and barracks in Dundalk and Athlone. For most of them, the three days’ work additional to their normal duties will result in an extra €68.43 in their pay packet.

“Our lads are at breaking point,” according to former Regimental Sergeant Major Noel O’Callaghan, who retired last Christmas after 43 years’ service and now campaigns for pay restoration. “No one else, and no other organisation in Ireland would be told to do this.”

Rank and file members of the Defence Forces are the lowest paid in the public sector, a fact that many military analysts link to Defence Force difficulties retaining recruits.

Next month, Defence Force family members and supporters will hold a pay protest at Leinster House.

An unnamed serving soldier whose view on papal visit work was being circulated yesterday by email said: “We will depart our barracks in the very early hours of Friday and won’t be back until Monday and of course without any extra pay. We are aware that this is not an annual event but there are other events that we attend and always without any extra pay, leaving our families behind even at times when they need us.

“Moral is so low at present and it seems to be only getting worse.”

Security Duty Allowance

A spokeswoman for the Department of Defence said military personnel on duty over the papal visit weekend would receive the standard Security Duty Allowance (SDA).

“The current rates of SDA are €23.81 for each day on duty. The rate is increased to €47.59 for a 24-hour duty. Where the 24-hour duty is on a Sunday, then personnel are also entitled to time off in lieu. SDA is paid in respect of a wide range of security duties, which personnel are rostered to perform. Security Duty allowance is paid to all enlisted personnel and to officers up to and including the rank of Commandant.”

The Fianna Fáil defence spokesman, Jack Chambers, rowed in behind those seeking pay restoration and better allowances for Defence Force personnel.

“As if the weakened morale regarding poor pay and conditions within the Defence Forces could take any further blow; it now emerges that members of the forces are expected to call for duty for 72 hours which is a clear breach of the working time directive,” he said in a statement.

“The level of disregard and the unacceptable attitude towards these members is only compounded by this latest kick by Government to ignore the working time directive ahead of the Pope’s visit.

“Just this week we heard of members of the forces are struggling to keep food on the table. Is it any wonder that families living in the Curragh are finding it hard to make ends meet when their duty is not recognised in terms of pay.

“I can tell you that if members of An Garda Síochána or emergency services staff including nurses and doctors were being asked to present to work long hours in exchange for poor pay over the weekend of the Pope’s visit, there would be public outcry.”