Sinn Féin spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Defence John Brady TD has accused the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney of attempting to divert attention away from government failure to address retention and recruitment issues in the Defence Forces.
The Wicklow TD said:
“On The Week in Politics this weekend, Minister Coveney accused opposition parties of being disingenuous for calling for pay increases for members of the Defence Forces.
“The simple fact is that there is a serious and ongoing problem around retention and recruitment in the Defence Forces. The reason for this is simple – it is down to pay and conditions.
“Members of the Defence Forces love their job, they want to serve their country, and they are prepared to make sacrifices to do so. But they have to be able to live.
“That must be the first step – the introduction of a liveable wage for new members. Minister Coveney argues that a separate pay review body will address this issue. But this will not be sufficient to address the problems of the Defence Forces.
“The reality is that this method has been tried in Britain and is viewed as being a failure for workers.
“There are separate pay review bodies for nurses, for the military etc. There is no negotiation there, but merely a laying-out of the decisions taken by the review body, which is a situation that has merely exacerbated the issue of retention and recruitment.
“In Ireland, the public sector is represented by ICTU. The Defence Forces are not allowed to affiliate with ICTU despite the fact that the European Social Rights Committee deemed it a right.
“Without a representative body arguing their corner, the Defence Forces are left with the bare bones of what is agreed.
“They do not have a body at the table such as ICTU arguing their corner as an individual entity, as is the case with every other element of the public sector.
“Sinn Féin support the right, as it exists for other military organisations in the EU, for representative bodies of the Defence Forces to affiliate with ICTU.
“It is, in fact, quite common practice among our European neighbours to allow associations between Defence Forces and trade unions.
“The Minister has previously intimated that he is open-minded about this idea, although we still await a significant response from the Minister leading from this statement.
“I would appeal to him to listen to the rank and file, to avoid a continuation of this obtuse approach of government, and to address the issue rather than serve up a response modelled on political cover.
“There needs to be a genuine attempt to seek to address the fundamental issues of retention and recruitment.”