- Defences Forces irreparably damaged if working time, pay & rotas not urgently addressed - 09 Oct 22

NUMBERS in the Defence Forces are at an all-time low.

Earlier this year, Defence ­Minister Simon Coveney announced plans to increase Ireland’s spending on defence up to €1.5billion a year by 2028 — a 50 per cent increase.

This major investment will pay for the recruitment of 3,000 new soldiers and staff along with the purchase of new modern defence equipment including a state-of-the-art radar system.

The commitment to increase the States’s defence budget comes after the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces found that Ireland can not ­adequately defend our seas, skies and land.

Writing today, MARK KEANE the president of Defence Forces rep PDFORRA, says the Government must deliver on the promises made to improve pay and conditions.

THIS week we held our annual delegate conference in Ballbofey, County Donegal.

This affords PDFORRA an opportunity to highlight the range of problems impacting on our members, whether they are serving at home or on  various missions overseas.

PDFORRA President Mark Keane

We raise these pressing and concerning issues in various ways throughout the year.

However, a public conference affords us an opportunity to bring our problems to a much wider audience, including the Minister of the day.

For some time we have been pressing for an increase in the daily ration allowance provided by the State to feed a living-in member of the Defence Forces.

Remarkably this stands at €4.20 per day. A prisoner, for example, is provided with a daily food allowance of €15 per day.

We highlighted this matter this week and thankfully we had a positive response from Minister Coveney in attendance, who announced a 50 per cent increase.

This is just one example of what can be achieved at a public conference.

A matter of immense concern to PDFORRA is the uncertainty facing many of our Sergeants and Petty Officers who joined post-1994 under a special contract — and now find themselves in a position where their service can be terminated.

These are active, highly trained and motivated personnel who want to ­continue to serve the Defence Forces and the State.

We should be paying them a bonus to continue in service.

We have been endlessly ­raising this pressing matter, which impacts on many families — and thankfully there now seems to be a resolution and some certainty on the way, based on a commitment made by the Minister this week.

We and the families involved will be watching this space with much interest.


The issue of most concern to PDFORRA in these very challenging security times is the strength of the Defence Forces, now standing at 8,200 and not 9,500 as stipulated.

Our members are now struggling to perform all of the duties, both at home and overseas with a shortfall of 1,400 personnel, at a time when real security issues are there for all to recognise.

Not alone is this shortfall an issue in security terms, it is also putting immense pressure on those who are now in service.

There has been no reduction in the tasks allocated to the Defence Forces — if ­anything these tasks have increased, as we respond to current pressing issues, such as the recent pandemic.

PDFORRA does not involve itself in operational issues, however, we must stress our deep concerns about the low levels of manpower at this time — and the authorities must find a solution, irrespective of the cost involved.

We have heard promises from all levels in authority on this critical issue over the years, and yet we continue on a downward spiral.

As we stressed at our conference and over the years, the overall approach to paying members of the Defence Forces must change, if we are to attract and retain people in service.

Pay, working time, long ­service increments, allowances and rostering must be addressed as a matter of urgency. This is not just the view of PDFORRA but also of the Commission.


The Government must undertake a full review of the pay rates for our members, give full recognition for the additional hours worked, the hazards associated with much of the work done and indeed the limitations on members in regard to strike action widely available to most workers.

The Defence Forces has been, and hopefully will ­continue to be, an effective and loyal organisation, which responds time and again to the requirements of government and the people. Those who serve love to serve.

The men and women we represent are proud of their service, very often representing generations of family commitment to the State.

But those in authority must recognise that these very capable workers must also have a lifestyle comparable to their peers in wider society.

They must pay mortgages, borrow from the banks, educate children and there must be a return for the loyalty and commitment.

And if this nettle is not grasped in immediate future, the Defence Forces will be irreparably damaged. This is not the time for allowing this possibility to emerge.