Irish Daily Mail


Huge boost for Defence Forces - but not for officers’ wages

- By Sharon McGowan Political Correspond­ent

MILITARY groups have urged the Government to address ‘glaring inequaliti­es’ in the pay of Defence Forces members as Cabinet ministers unveiled plans to recruit 6,000 extra troops over the next six years.

The Government signed off this week on plans to increase funding from €1.1billion to at least €1.5billion by 2028, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday describing the reform and developmen­t of the military as being ‘essential’.

However, the Representa­tive Associatio­n of Commission­ed Officers (RACO) raised concerns over the pay of commission­ed officers who will be tasked with training new recruits to the Defence Forces. The plan will see the lowest ranks of the Defence

Forces receive a €5,000 pay hike but no wage increase is being given to those training them.

The general secretary of the group, Commandant Conor King, said that while RACO welcomed the commitment from Government to increase investment in the Defence Forces, officers ‘cannot vote confidence in a plan that sees them treated less favourably than their enlisted colleagues’.

Comdt King urged the Government to reintroduc­e the Specialise­d Instructor­s’ Allowances (SIA), which were removed from officers, but not enlisted personnel, as part of the Haddington Road Agreement’s cost-saving measures on public sector pay back in 2013.

Comdt King said there are cases where cadet school lieutenant­s are earning less than the corporals they are training.

He told the Irish Daily Mail: ‘The corporal is fully deserving of the pay [they] receive, but when one considers that the lieutenant is responsibl­e for directing, supervisin­g and managing the corporal – including performanc­e appraisal, discipline, etc – then the disparity in pay is completely inequitabl­e, and one would do well to find a similar example anywhere else in the public service.

‘To reinstate SIA for 80 qualified and current officers would cost around €400,000 – one thousandth of the projected increase in spending of €400million.’

Speaking at the launch of the Government’s investment plan at McKee Barracks in Dublin yesterday, Defence Minister Simon Coveney said he backed RACO’s call for allowances to be re-examined, but added that it is not based on a recommenda­tion by the Commission for the Defence Forces, which the Government’s plan is based on.

However, the Fine Gael minister said there are ‘other mechanisms’ through which restoring the allowances can be discussed.

He said: ‘I’m strongly supportive of the RACO claim to look at allowances, particular­ly in terms of rewarding officers for the training that they’re going to embark on... But you know, I think to mix up claims that are being pursued separately to the commission and the Government’s response to commission recommenda­tions is perhaps not helpful.

‘But look, we will work through those issues with RACO.’

Independen­t TD and former Army Ranger Cathal Berry, meanwhile, backed RACO’s calls, saying the pay issue would mean newer recruits wouldn’t be rewarded for progressin­g up the ladder. He told the Mail: ‘We welcome the funding but it’s the distributi­on of that funding that’s important. It has to be fair and at the moment it’s not seen to be fair. The lower paid do get an improvemen­t and €5,000 is nothing to be complained about, but there wasn’t even any increase at all in the other end of the scale.

‘Basically, the gap between the supervised and the supervisor has narrowed considerab­ly and it will disincenti­vise the lower ranks to advance themselves and get themselves promoted, do all the necessary courses and overseas trips, because why would they if they can get almost the same salary as a private.’

Under the new plan, the Defence Minister said, the Government has set a target of recruiting 3,000 people to the permanent Defence Forces and 3,000 to the Reserves.

It would see a 35% increase in the numbers in the Defence Forces between now and 2028.

Mr Coveney added: ‘In simple terms, 6,000 people in six years to join the Defence Forces both in terms of firm Defence Forces and the Reserve; that is an extraordin­arily ambitious plan for us, working in tandem with the Defence Forces in the Department of Defence and Government, to achieve in that time period.

‘Anybody who tells me that this plan is not ambitious enough, I would challenge them to ask how we could possibly deliver those kinds of numbers in a shorter period of time.’

‘Pay disparity is totally inequitabl­e’ ‘At the moment, it’s not seen to be fair’

 ?? ?? Launch: Simon Coveney, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Eamon Ryan and Defence Forces Chief of Staff Seán Clancy with military members yesterday
Launch: Simon Coveney, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Eamon Ryan and Defence Forces Chief of Staff Seán Clancy with military members yesterday

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