THERE needs to be investment in the personnel of the Defence Forces, not just the equipment and buildings.
That is according to the president of PDForra, Mark Keane.
He was responding to the Budget allocation of more than €1.1 billion to the Defence sector for next year.
The allocation includes the advancement of an upgrade to accommodation in locations including Collins Barracks in Cork and the Naval Base, Haulbowline. The two projects went to tender in 2019.
There are already more than 100 accommodation spaces in the naval base but they are regularly full. It is planned to add 85 spaces to the naval base, while it is planned to develop accommodation at Collins Barracks for 40 personnel.
Mr Keane said there are up to 700 people in the Defence Forces who joined in 1994 on a 21-year contract and will have to leave next year because they did not reach the rank of sergeant before completing 21 years. They were due to be discharged in 2015 but a stay was put on it. However, they are now due to be discharged at the end of 2022.
He said: “We want security of tenure for them — there should be investment in the person and give them security.”
Following the budget, Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney said: “This allocation will be used to meet the ongoing pay and allowance costs of the Defence Forces, civilian employees and Departmental civil servants, and ensures that the Vote is fully funded for the Permanent Defence Force target strength of 9,500. The allocation includes funding for Civil Defence and for the pensions and gratuities of ex-members of the Defence Forces and certain dependents.”
Mr Coveney also paid tribute to the work carried out by the Permanent Defence Force, Civil Defence, Reserve Defence Force and his Department during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said: “As always, members of the Defence Forces and Civil Defence have excelled in a time of national crisis.
"The collective response has been sustained, flexible and timely and has been of enormous benefit to the HSE and other arms of the State battling this pandemic over the last 18 months or so.”
He added: “The people of Ireland can truly be proud of the marvellous work the Defence Organisation has undertaken on their behalf throughout a difficult year and will continue to do in 2022, as required.”