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President says he didn't overstep constitutional role with remarks on Defence Forces pay

President Michael D Higgins has said he has not overstepped his constitutional role with comments on Defence Forces pay.

The President said members of the Defence Forces should have sufficient income to support themselves.

The remarks caused anger privately in Government Buildings as the Department has come under persistent pressure to address the issue.

Some government ministers described the comments as “deeply unhelpful”.

When asked about it earlier this month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he had not been in contact with the Áras on the matter.

Asked if he thought the President had gone too far, he simply replied: "no".

President Higgins believes his remarks did not overstep the boundary when it comes to the role of the President.

"I knew very clearly what I was saying," said the President.

"I think the thing is to stick to the text. I said that it wasn't, I think, too much to expect that those who serve in the Forces might anticipate decent living conditions and so on.

"And I very much feel that."

A conference of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO) today heard that officers are sleeping in barracks in rooms where there are rat and mice droppings and when they can't avail of limited living-in accommodation they're forced to travel long distances to postings or pay exorbitant rents.

One female officer told the RACO conference about the rodent droppings in a room she was provided in a barracks.

A male officer said sometimes up to three colleagues had to share a room and they had to get drinking water from a trough.

The conference heard that accommodation, where it existed, was in many cases totally substandard.

President Higgins is due to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York tomorrow.