Realities Of Army Life
Sir, - Your columnist Kevin Myers expressed concern about the activities of PDFORRA in his Irishman's Diary of October 14th. His attack on our president, Corporal Patrick Grogan, was both derisive and condescending in tone.
I am aware of Mr Myers's interest in military history, and indeed his passionate interest in the ways of the past was clearly reflected in his article. His view that soldiers should swing up their arms and get on with it was very much the theme. I should remind Mr Myers that the practice of totally unquestioning soldiers swinging up their arms has cost them dearly in places like the Somme, and more recently in relation to the unfortunate Iraqi troops in the Gulf. PDFORRA is fully loyal in every respect to the role of military management, but will continue to raise issues regarding the welfare and conditions of service of its membership.
PDFORRA was formed in the late 1980s after Defence Force chaplains made an issue of the fact that soldiers up to rank of sergeant were entitled to and were drawing social welfare benefits in order to survive. We heard little from Mr Myers at this time; other journalists were more helpful.
There are a number of realities which Mr Myers and others, including the present Minister, must accept:
PDFORRA emerged because of the abysmal treatment of soldiers over the years.
A fully trained soldier is now paid £28 a week, while a prison officer is paid £413 - before generous overtime payments.
Our Defence Force does not own a single armed vehicle which is up to the required standard for present day UN missions, not to mention our imminent commitment to European security.
A senior officer has recently said he believed that every officer under 50 is endeavouring to get employment outside the Defence Forces.
The hearing damage issue has been poorly managed. Our European partners in the UK tackled a similar problem without legal expense or a public relations exercise.
Our Defence Forces are being reviewed to death. They need a Minister who will consult, encourage, show leadership and listen a little less to single-agenda officials.
We also need generals who will stand up and be counted. - Yours, etc., John Lucey,
General Secretary, PDFORRA, Capel Street, Dublin 1.