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Government must respect Defence Forces and Veterans – Buckley

28 June, 2017 - by Pat Buckley TD

Sinn Féin TD Pat Buckley has tonight slammed the record of the Government in their treatment of current and former members of Defence Forces. He made his comments as part of the debate on his party's motion to end the administering of Lariam to the Defence Forces after serious side effects of psychotic and suicidal thoughts were identified which have been strongly linked to a number of deaths.

Deputy Buckley said;

"Lariam, or Mefloquine was given to members of the defence forces as an anti-malaria drug when serving in sub-Saharan Africa. The drug was supposed to protect against serious illness but has ended causing serious illness.

“Things like psychotic breakdowns or suicidal ideation and impulses have been experience by those who took it in good faith believing that their superiors had their best interests at heart. These side effects have led to tragic circumstances and deep suffering.

"More than 4,500 soldiers were given this drug by the Defence Forces without any comprehensive screening.

"We are very quick in this house to laud the work of these women and men when it comes to their heroics in peace keeping missions around the world and that is right but we must do right by them as they have done right by our nation.

"Right now many Defence Force personnel are living week to week, hand to mouth because of the disgustingly paltry rates of pay for ordinary soldiers. New member earns just €200 a week, increasing to €350 a week in their second year. The wages do not increase much more after that for ordinary soldiers.

"It is impossible in the long term for a person to feed, clothe, and house a family on such low wages. That is why families have increasingly sought further assistance from the State and this can be seen in the number in receipt of Family Income Supplement. In just three years, the numbers have more than doubled from 49 in 2013 to 124 in 2016.

"I want to commend the families of defence force members who have been campaigning hard on third issue but often it feels that the government has no interest in listening. Shelley Cotter of WPDF and all its members deserve a very honourable mention in this house.

"Hopefully soon we will see members of the defence forces being allowed the proper rights as workers to argue for better pay and conditions but until then the government should step up."

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