The Irish Times view on the Defence Forces: empty vessels

A basic salary of €28,000 is not enough to attract recruits in an expanding economy

Last week it emerged that two Naval Service vessels were unable to put to sea because of crew shortages while reservists were being used to fill gaps in another vessel. Photograph: Gaetano Lo Porto/AP

Last week it emerged that two Naval Service vessels were unable to put to sea because of crew shortages while reservists were being used to fill gaps in another vessel. Photograph: Gaetano Lo Porto/AP

 

There is mounting evidence that something is seriously wrong with pay and conditions in the Defence Forces, all three branches of which are finding it difficult to recruit personnel. This week it emerged that two Naval Service vessels were unable to put to sea because of crew shortages, while reservists were being used to fill gaps in another vessel.

The basic salary of €28,000 for members of the Defence Forces with the rank of private is clearly not enough to attract recruits in an expanding economy where jobs are plentiful. In the past members of the Defence Forces were provided with accommodation which compensated for the poor basic salary but for many this is no longer available.

According to retired Regimental Sgt Major Noel O’Callaghan, a leading member of a group lobbying for improved pay and conditions, 1,760 Defence Forces members are on family income supplement. The situation is so serious that the chief of staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett, has sought to make a verbal submission to the Public Sector Pay Commission about military pay.

Speaking before addressing the annual conference of PDforra, the Defence Forces’ rank-and-file representative body, he made no bones about the fact that the military was facing serious “challenges”. He said the loyalty that serving members of the Defence Forces showed to the State had to be reciprocated and pay was the number one issue for serving soldiers, sailors and Air Corps personnel.

He pointed out that there were 630 Defence Forces personnel currently serving in 13 missions in 13 countries, and the Naval Service had rescued 18,000 people in the Mediterranean. He noted that remuneration was the worst in the public sector.

While the Government is facing pressure from all sides for extra spending, most notably the health sector, the Defence Forces deserve special consideration and their problems need to be tackled as a matter of urgency.

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