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Soldiers' wives: 'Nobody serving their country should rely on social welfare to make ends meet'

The partners of Defence Forces members are holding a 24-hour vigil outside Leinster House.

They are demanding better pay and conditions for personnel in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps.

The group 'Wives and Partners of the Defence Forces' is organising the protest, as enlisted members are barred from speaking out.

WPDF says pay levels are so low that many families rely on social welfare supplements to get by.

Sheila, whose fiancé is in the Naval Service, says she struggles to make ends meet.

She said: "There are weeks where, I am not ashamed to say it, I have sat and I have cried in the kitchen because it's like 'what do I do?' and 'are we doing the right thing here?'

"It just seems wrong, it really seems wrong, nobody who is serving their country should be relying on social welfare payment to make ends meet."

Shelly Cotter from WPDF says enlisted personnel deserve better given the sacrifices they make.

She said: "They're doing it in the middle of Ireland, and even though they'er earning those medals, and my God they are earning those medals, medals don't feed families.

"But we are very proud, but the problem then is on the flip-side the povery in the Defence Forces is an extremely proud hidden secret."

It comes after more than 30 recruits in the Naval Service who have been in training for five weeks received just €200 in pay from the Department of Defence until they were finally paid in full on November 22, writes Sean O’Riordan.

Several recruits in the Army, who enlisted on October 16, also didn’t get their full pay until the same day. Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) held a whip round to help some of them out.

PDFORRA, which represents 6,500 enlisted men in the Defence Forces, said it had made numerous representations to the Department of Defence on these issues and intervened to prevent the cash-strapped recruits being charged €2 every time they had to use washing machines in barracks.

The 56-strong crew of LÉ Niamh, who departed Haulbowline on October 6, weren’t paid their allowances until November 8.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. Last June, Naval Service officers also organised a whip-round to help recruits who hadn’t been paid for a number of weeks.