Tuesday, 9 July 2019
Defence Matters: Statements
I welcome the Minister of State and his officials to the House to discuss this very important issue. We have spoken many times about the great pride Irish people have in members of the Defence Forces and the great work they do on behalf of the nation both here at home and overseas, where they distinguish themselves with great honour. Regrettably, we have also spoken many times in the House about the plight of members of the Defence Forces and their families. It is safe to say that morale has never been as low as it is now. In many ways, members feel abandoned by the Government in that they keep shouting but, unfortunately, nobody seems to be listening to them.
The long-awaited report on the pay of members of the Defence Forces was published last week. I have listened to comments by both representative bodies, PDFORRA and RACO, whose members are reasonable men and women representing the views of members of the Defence Forces. If their interim thoughts are anything to go by, the theme seems to be one of disappointment rather than elation at the contents of that report. That is very disappointing because it took a year and a half or two years to compile the report and, unfortunately, the synopsis from them is that it falls a good deal short from what they had been seeking.
As the previous speaker stated, we need some kind of pay body or commission to examine the pay and terms and conditions of the Defence Forces. That is the way forward. The Garda had a similar body of work done in respect of its members' pay and conditions and it is fair to say that the majority of members of that organisation were happy with the outcome of that process. A similar body of work needs to be conducted in respect of Defence Forces members' pay and conditions. I look forward to the Minister of State's views on that proposal.
There was much speculation recently in the press about PDFORRA joining ICTU by means of some form of associate membership. I understand the Defence Forces members cannot strike. That is the way it should be, and most members of PDFORRA would be of a similar mind. What are the Minister of State's views on the speculation in the press about associate trade union membership? I look forward to his response on that.I concur with all my colleagues who have voiced their total support for the Defence Forces and the great work they do. I would like someone to grasp the nettle once and for all so that members of the Defence Forces can take pride in their work, can see a future for themselves, their wives and their children and can stay in the forces. There is no point in the taxpayer spending money to train them to a high level, only to discover that they cannot stay in the forces after their training has been completed because they are unable to put bread on the table. In many cases they cannot get a mortgage and those who are fortunate enough to be able to get a mortgage cannot repay it on the salary they get. The time for talking is over and it is now the time for action. I look forward to the Minister of State's response to the issues my colleagues and I have raised.