Defending the Defence Forces

 

Sir, – The fundamental problem with our Defence Forces is that they do not have anyone to defend them at the Cabinet table.

The Department of Defence has always acted as a client of the Department of Finance, that notoriously curmudgeonly branch of government, rather than on behalf of their own clients, the three elements of our Defence Forces.

Thus, since the beginnings of this State, our Army has been under-strength since the notorious, little-known savage demobilisation of 1924; our Naval Service has always been asked to do too much with too little in the way of crew and modern ships; and our Air Corps flew aircraft well beyond their fit-for-purpose retirement date by any serious air force.

More than that, our Defence Forces have always suffered from sub-grading of their ranks, with all ranks, but in particular, senior and mid-grade officers, especially in the air and naval services, being graded at pay levels that were well below what should have been their civil service equivalents.

By this cynical means did the Department of Finance keep down running costs in the Defence Forces, without a murmur of protest from the Department of Defence at budget and public-service pay negotiation times.

Likewise, new aircraft and new ships have been too few, too late; making do, cutting old cloth and using hand-me-down equipment has long been the norm.

The courageous women and men of our Defence Forces deserve far more than the State they protect has been prepared, so far, to give them. – Yours, etc,

DÓNAL DENHAM,

Dalkey,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Col Dorcha Lee (Letters, July 6th) is correct when he writes that the proposed pay rises for Defence Forces personnel are too small to encourage those who have already left to return or to persuade those intending to leave to remain in the Defence Forces.

However, he errs on two significant points. First, he states that Irish soldiers “are oath-bound to carrying out all assigned tasks”. This is incorrect. All Irish soldiers take an oath to “obey all lawful orders”, while soldiers in most other armies take an oath to simply obey all orders.

This is a very significant difference which is one of the reasons for the excellent reputation of Irish soldiers serving overseas and at home. An Irish soldier must never carry out an unlawful order.

The second mistake Col Lee makes is to state that the second option for the Defence Forces is conscription. The last time conscription was proposed for Irish soldiers, albeit during British imperial days during the first World War, it was one of the precipitous causes of the War of Independence.

Conscription as an alternative option for proper and just treatment of our loyal soldiers is an unacceptable suggestion.

However, it could be taken up by those who wish to drag Ireland into Nato and an EU army, against the wishes of the vast majority of the Irish people. – Yours, etc,

EDWARD HORGAN,

Castletroy,

Limerick.

Sir, – In relation to the proposal from the retired Army officer Dorcha Lee to either give the Defence Forces higher rates of pay or introduce conscription, there is actually another option. We could just abolish the Army.

Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948 after a civil war and currently has 14,000 police officers for a population of 4.5 million. It is the safest Latin American country to be in.

We don’t need an Army, we are never going to war with anyone, and would be crushed by all comers and any takers were we to do so.

So let’s get rid of it. – Yours, etc,

GEARÓID

Ó LOINGSIGH,

Bogotá,

Colombia.