Demoralisation and mismanagement of the Defence Forces
Sir, – I refer to your editorial entitled “A stinging critique” (May 30th).
As one who has nothing but respect and admiration for our Defence Forces, I was shocked by the revelations contained in the current controversy.
One of the privileges I have had in my long ministry was to visit our troops serving as peacekeepers in Lebanon on four occasions. I witnessed at first hand not only their outstanding efficiency but also their dedication and courage serving in such highly volatile and dangerous circumstances.
I had occasion to meet a number of other forces representing their countries and was filled with pride to hear again and again the high praise heaped upon our officers and men. They are fine ambassadors and by their service they have brought great credit to our nation.
I feel both sad and angry as a citizen of my country to see our Defence Forces allegedly treated in this way. Shame, shame, shame on those responsible. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Thank you for highlighting the long-standing and disgraceful treatment of the Defence Forces by the State through the Department of Defence, as outlined in your article featuring the views of Comtd. Cathal Berry (May 28th).
I am a retired Army officer, having served for over 18 years. While posted to the chief of staff’s office, I witnessed at first hand the treatment of the senior leadership of the Defence Forces by the civilians of the Department of Defence, and like many soldiers became disillusioned to the extent that I decided to leave the career I loved. This was in 2001, shortly after the publication of the White Paper on defence, which led to the closure of nine barracks and the loss of 1,000 Army personnel. The “dismantling and demoralisation” of the Defence Forces by the Department of Defence is nothing new: the department has treated the general staff with contempt for years.
They behave like this because they know they will not be challenged or confronted by the military authorities, who continue to have an unyielding loyalty to the State.
This blind loyalty has led the Defence Forces to their present position, where they are below the critical mass required to have an effective operational force (land, sea or air), and where its senior leadership have been effectively neutered by the policies of the Department of Defence.
The organisation is now struggling to meet its overseas commitment, of which the Government claims to be so proud. The Defence Forces have always been apolitical, and as a result have no societal influence, which has been a significant contributory factor to them being the lowest-paid sector of the public service.
Comdt Cathal Berry has done the State some service by retiring in order to speak out honestly and accurately. Let’s hope his voice is heard and acted upon.
Sir, – Our soldiers, sailors and aircrew join the Defence Forces because it is a vocation. They want to serve – but that does not excuse the State treating them so shabbily. We have top-class professional armed forces so why do we continually underfund them in terms of equipment and pay?
It just so happens that the Taoiseach is the Minister for Defence. A mere token gesture will not suffice, major ongoing commitment is necessary. Well, Taoiseach, what are you going to do for our Defence Forces? – Yours, etc,