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Defence Minister ‘indifferent to plight of military personnel’ – Ó Snodaigh

2 May, 2017 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin Defence spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has described as “overly generous” the score of 4 out of 10 given to Minister Paul Kehoe in the Ministerial Report Card compiled today by Irish Times journalist Harry McGee.

The Dublin South Central TD said:

“Minister Paul Kehoe’s performance in his role as Defence Minister has been characterised by alarming indifference and a failure to act in the best interests of the men and women who serve in the military.

“In particular, his refusal to address the severe financial hardship of enlisted personnel, who are struggling with debt because of cuts to pay and wages has resulted in low morale and high dropout rates across the three Services. 

“To compound matters further, the refusal of his Department to allow the Defence Forces access to the state industrial relations machinery continues to deny a level playing field for military associations such as PDFORRA when negotiating pay and conditions.

“The Minister’s failure to address the crippling drop in numbers and expertise in the Air Corps has compromised the ability of the service to carry out many of the basic task that are expected of it by the State.

“His claims that the health and wellbeing of members of the Defence Forces are a priority for him, contrasts with his refusal to ban the anti-malaria drug Lariam, despite the fears that it has caused severe mental and physical side effects on serving and retired soldiers.

“Equally serious are the protective disclosures that have been made by retired Air Corps personnel in recent months, whose revelations about a lack of even the most basic health and safety procedures at Casement Aerodrome are alarming. Their claims that exposure to highly toxic chemicals has resulted in serious health complications, and in some cases fatalities, to personnel performing their duties from as far back as the 1990s have largely fallen on deaf ears. Indeed, despite the seriousness of what is being alleged, the Department’s response has been to deny there was a problem and obstruct any meaningful inquiry or assist those affected.

“Minister Kehoe’s failure to address these matters reflects the lack of priority the government attaches to the men and women who serve in the Defence Forces and this is a significant factor in the poor morale and high dropout rates that have impacted on each of the three Services.” 

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