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Govt sets aside funding to house sailors forced to sleep on board ships during time off

The Government has earmarked up to €9m to fund an accommodation block for naval personnel stationed at Haulbowline.

The news comes in response to news that up to 50 sailors are sleeping on board ships during their time off because they can't afford soaring rents and there is not enough proper accommodation at the naval base in Cork.

PDFORRA, the association which represents enlisted personnel in the Defence Forces, said it is very concerned about the effects this is having on them.

Defence Minister Paul Kehoe has instructed officials in his department to proceed with an €8m-9m plan to invest in an accommodation block in Haulbowline. That, he hopes should definitely go some way to ensuring there is adequate accommodation in the Naval base.

A spokesman for Mr Kehoe told the Irish Examiner: “The Minister is eager for this plan to progress as soon as possible and understands the Department is awaiting further information from Military Management.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and Sinn Féin all said yesterday that pay for members of the Defence Forces should be increased as “they are a special case”.

Speaking on RTE's The Week In Politics, Fianna Fáil's Stephen Donnelly, Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan and Eoin O'Broin of Sinn Féin all said the situation of defence forces members pay needs to be addressed quickly.

There is a broad political consensus that the pay rates need to be increased given the high level of people leaving the army, navy and air corps.

Mr Donnelly cited an example of an officer who was offered double the rate of pay to work half the hours in a factory compared to his earnings in the Defence Forces.

Mr O Broin said there is a real crisis in terms of retaining members as for every one recruit coming in, there are two or three leaving the services.

Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness accepted more needs to be done but expressed confidence in Mr Kehoe, who she described as the "best man for the job".

The Government is awaiting a review from the Public Pay Commission but is highly sensitive about any recommendation to increase salaries for members of the armed forces and the impact it would have on the wider public pay deal.

In the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said a 2% pay increase for the public sector could cost up to €400m at a time when there are significant demands on the public purse.