Recognising our Defence Forces

As a parent of a current serving Defence Force member I am extremely proud that he is part of such a professional organisation of dedicated and loyal members serving throughout Ireland with honour and pride.

I totally understand that Defence Force members did not join up to become rich but they certainly did not join up and become professional soldiers to have to subsidise their salaries with FIS payments or family members financially helping them just to get by. For example, during last year’s Papal visit some personnel who worked for 72 hours received total extra payment of €68. Members said travelling to a location to work can often cost more than the allowance paid for that work.

Members are exiting the Defence Forces at all ranks, at a rate of between 40 and 50 per month.

Pay, Conditions, Allowances and Pensions need to be urgently addressed and completely overhauled ASAP without any further delays or there will be no rank and file Defence Force members left full stop.

Many Defence Force members families have to help them to travel to their barracks to report for duty by way of lifts or putting fuel in their cars, as with their salary being so poor any monthly car repayments, tax, insurance etc. leave them practically penniless until their next pay day, and the debt cycle starts all over again with arrears this time and always monthly short falls trying to just survive, and all the time being a professional soldier for their country first and foremost.

I will add that previous government ministers have a lot to answer for in the destruction of our Defence Forces and it’s dedicated members and their amazing supporting families, and all just as guilty of utter neglect and ineptitude, But the current Government and especially the absent Defence Force Minister / Taoiseach and his totally unfit for purpose Minister of State with special responsibility for Defence Paul Kehoe TD have been decimating the Defence Forces on a daily basis since they took office.

I have always been a very loyal advocate for our Defence Forces and their amazing supporting families. We need change now, time for talking is long gone action is required now or we will have no professional Defence Forces left to respect and admire for their service to their country.

Starting wage for new Garda €31,000
Starting wage for Soldier €27,000. (gross figure)

Not a whole lot but still €4,000.

Now here is the real problem .

After 8 years as a Garda =  €48,000
After 8 years as a Soldier = €36,000

€12,000 + rent allowance of €4,500 = €16,500 before overtime a Garda after eight years makes more than a soldier .

A soldier would have to rise to the Rank of CS within 8 years to achieve that pay, impossibility due to the current rank structure.

Gardaí and Soldiers will once again serve along the border .

Time for Pay Equality or the Gardaí can look after the Border themselves as there will be no Soldiers to assist them

Sometimes when you see it in black and white you see the inequality in Pay for the DF Members.

What’s needed to make a real difference to our forgotten about Defence Forces Members:

  1. The Defence Forces General Staff to be responsible, along with the Department of Defence, for the provision jointly of Defence Policy Advice to Government. Military Advice to Government will continue to be the sole preserve of the Defence Forces General Staff.
  2. All Defence Forces Allowance restored to pre-FEMPI levels. Substantial increase in Military Service Allowance. The setting up of a standing and statutory Independent Defence Forces Pay Review Commission.
  3. The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces to be the Accounting Officer for Vote 36 of the Annual Exchequer Budget Vote.
  4. The Army element of the Defence Forces to be composed of three territorial brigades with their respective headquarters in Dublin, Cork and Athlone. The strength of the Permanent Defence Forces will be a minimum of 10,500 all ranks. A Reserve Defence Force with a wide geographical spread will be re-established.

EXPLANATORY NOTES

  1. The formulation of Policy Advice for Government on Defence issues is currently the sole preserve of the Department of Defence. Policy Advice and Military Advice are separate and distinct. Policy Advice is central to State Security, Ireland’s Foreign Policy and impacts directly and indirectly on a broad spectrum of issues such as Critical National Infrastructure, Cybersecurity, Industrial and Technology Espionage, and Foreign Direct Investment. The Defence Forces Chief of Staff is not permitted to officially engage with other government departments without the presence or permission of the Department of Defence. This is nonsense and a ‘Chinese Wall’ that is artificial, dysfunctional and impedes strategic State policy formulation. For instance, health professionals are embedded in the Department of Health, accountants and economists are embedded in the Departments of Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform. NO defence professionals are embedded in the Department of Defence. This is a serious oversight that is no longer viable. Policy Advice to Government must be underwritten by official input by military professionals and joint responsibility for that advice shared by Department of Defence and the Defence Forces.

Military Advice to Government must remain the sole preserve of the Defence Forces as the only professionals in the State capable of formulating and delivering that advice.

  1. Service-related allowances for Defence Forces personnel were substantially reduced in FEMPI. Low rates of pay of Service Pay added to these disastrous reductions in bottom line income for all ranks. The Public Service Pay Commission is unlikely to results in pay rises that would tempt personnel to remain in service or to be recruited into service. Restoring all service-related allowances to pre-FEMPI levels is essential to stem the haemorrhage of critically qualified personnel.

Military life by its nature carries many physical risks to life and limb, requires long periods of separation from family, and carries with it the voluntary surrender of rights normally enjoyed by citizens. In compensation for these military personnel are payed a Military Service Allowance in monetary compensation. A substantial rise in the rates of this Allowance is immediately required to help stem the flow of personnel out of the Defence Forces.

Military Representative Associations are not allowed affiliate to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Military personnel do not have rights of withdrawing its labour or have access to trade union dispute resolution mechanisms enjoyed by workers in trade unions. As a consequence, it is disadvantaged in pay negotiations by not being a member of Congress or being a party to pay negotiations. A standing statutory Independent Defence Forces Pay Review Commission providing advice to the Taoiseach, Minister for Defence and the Government is required with immediacy to restore pay and allowances that will aid the recruitment and most importantly the retention of serving personnel, especially high trained and qualified specialists.

This Commission would ensure that the nature of military service and the rights of citizenship voluntarily ceded by military personnel on enlistment do not disadvantage service personnel in pay and allowance remuneration for the unique nature of military service. Such standing statutory pay bodies for military personnel are commonplace in developed democracies.

  1. The Defence Vote encompasses Votes 35 and 36 of the Annual Exchequer Budget, the former Vote for Military Pensions, the latter the vote catering for both the Defence Forces and Department of Defence yearly expenditure. The Secretary General of the Department of Defence is the Accounting Officer for both Votes. Garda Commissioner Harris is Accounting Officer for the Garda budget so the Chief of Staff not being Accounting Officer for Vote 36 is inconsistent with Government policy extant for uniformed forces of the State.

The Department of Defence, and its Secretary General as Accounting Officer, have continuously failed to provide employment conditions to enable the Defence Forces to reach its current Establishment Figure. Continuing to reinforce failure by allowing the Department of Defence to continue overseeing Vote 36 will ensure the same failed outcomes.

  1. The 2012 Reorganisation of the Defence Forces has been conclusively proven to be an operational and Human Resources disaster. Army operational units are located disproportionately in the East, South East and South of the country when the units need to be predominantly oriented north of a line from Dublin to Galway. This uneven national geographical dispersal of units has led to wide scale retirements of seasoned military professionals as Defence Forces personnel do not wish to be commuters in perpetuity. Military personnel are unnecessarily criss-crossing the country to plug operational gaps incurring unnecessary budgetary stress and unsustainable wear and tear on vehicles and equipment.

The current allowed strength of 9,500 for the Defence Forces is continuously not reached. Current strength is less than 8,900 as a result of constant haemorrhaging of personnel. Recruitment cannot keep pace with discharges, a key factor in this is the consistent refusal of the Department of Defence to implement a credible Retention Policy to retain highly trained and seasoned professionals, specialist specialists across the three services. Current Defence Forces operational tasking’s at home and overseas cannot be serviced by a 9,500-strength ceiling, not alone the actual recurring strength of less than 8,900, a 6.5% deficit. The European Union Working Time Directive is now law in Ireland but not currently implemented for the Defence Forces. The representative body for Other Ranks (PDFORA) has brought a legal challenge to the courts to have the Working Time Directive implemented in the Defence Forces.

Over the decades Reserve Defence Forces units spread throughout the country provided a consistent conveyor belt of members who joined the Permanent Defence Forces as General Service Recruits or Cadets. Their prior membership of the Reserve Defence Forces gave them an appetite for regular military service leading to their joining the Permanent Defence Forces. Recent challenges to recruitment for the Permanent Forces has many component reasons, but one of the most potent in the disappearance of Reserve units from the countryside, particularly from rural Ireland.