09 February 2022
• Issues with pay, allowances, retention and recruitment must be addressed to deliver on Defence objectives.
• Housing accommodation and healthcare key concerns for personnel as part of the overall package of supports.
Labour Party spokesperson on Defence, Senator Mark Wall, has welcomed the long awaited report from the Commission on the Defence Forces but warned that delivery will be the judge of it’s success, and he also said that HR related issues around retention and training must be resolved if we are to meet those objectives.
Commenting on the report, Senator Wall stated:
“Recently in the Seanad in advance of the report the Minister described this as a watershed moment for our Defence Forces. There can be no turning back but the success of this long awaited report will be in its delivery and impact on those that serve. It will take some time to consider all the findings, but clearly change is needed, especially cultural change to address ongoing and longstanding concerns of serving and retired personnel.
“We welcome the emphasis on personnel in the report and in particular the recommendation that the representative associations should be allowed affiliate with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, an outcome that the Labour Party have been calling for over many years. For serving members getting rid of “free labour”, rigorously enforcing the working time directive with appropriate compensation for those who work longer hours and secondly the emphasis placed on the needs of women, carers, and young men who want flexible and remote working opportunities must be delivered on.
“While core pay was outside the remit of the Commission, the recommendation to introduce an ongoing review of existing specialist pay rates and allowances with the power to make recommendations and adjustments is critical to the future of our Defence Forces, as are the recommendations on healthcare, housing and medical services.
“We would have liked to see more of an emphasis on accommodation for those who enlist and serve, this is an issue for retention of those that serve given the crisis in housing at this time. Retention is the most important factor in securing our Defence Forces into the future.
“The report outlines three tiers of ‘Level of Ambition’ options which in effect are just two as the first option is a do nothing scenario which in our opinion is not an option at all. While much further consideration of the report is needed, LOA2 enhanced capability appears as the most viable immediate path forward.
“As we read through the report the Commission are recommending an increase of €500 million in Defence spending in the short term which would allow for additional personnel, and for the purchase and running of primary and coastal radar. It would allow for acceleration of the much needed upgrade of our naval fleet and the important work they must carry out for us in fisheries protection and border protection.
“Such a commitment would allow for an increase in the number of helicopters and finally see the purchase of an ‘all of government use’ fixed wing plane that could be used by a number of different departments and lessen our reliance on neighbouring and friendly assistance with humanitarian flights, foreign aid assistance and emergency supplies.
“We hope this report will begin to value our serving personnel , an aim it has set out to do, we need to enhance our surveillance in order to protect our borders by monitoring and detecting threats.
“This report has given the State multiple reasons for investing in our Defence Forces, those of us who had dealt with serving personnel know that investment must be forthcoming, We must have those who are serving at the centre of this conversation and their representative associations must be part of the rollout of this report.
“Finally, in relation to former members the establishment of an “Office of Veteran Affairs” to assist and support retired personnel is a landmark decision and finally recognises the responsibility we have for our people long after they leave service.”