Kildare members of the Wives and Partners of the Defence Forces (WPDF) to march for soldiers' rights

Parade for Respect and Loyalty

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File photo via Irish Defence Forces

Kildare members of the Wives & Partners of the Defence Forces (WPDF) will be attending and supporting the Parade for Respect and Loyalty organised by RSM (retired) Noel O’Callaghan in Dublin on September 19.

"Since establishing our group in November 2016, we continue to be alarmed by the avalanche of gut wrenching real life stories experienced by Defence Force families. We envisage that budget 2019 will continue to do nothing for families like us who are struggling financially despite our partners working full time (with irregular and unpredictable hours) in the Defence Forces," said a WPDF spokesperson.

"The comprehensive workplace climate study conducted by academics Dr Juliet Mac Mahon and Dr Sarah Mac Curtain from the University of Limerick validated everything WPDF have been highlighting since late 2016. In this report, members of the Defence Forces described an organisation that is now in crisis, coping with poor pay, declining training standards and ever more people seeking to leave. While these findings are not surprising to us, we are concerned that despite this report, there have been no attempts to improve the pay of our loved ones."

The group said Defence Forces families live in poverty.

"we suffer from food, income, fuel and child poverty. Many of us can only dream of owning our own home and some this month are facing uncertainty about their homes while others are facing homelessness. Some have questioned why our partners continue to serve and why we bring children in to our families when we are already struggling. We find this mentality repulsive, both as a matter of moral value and public policy," they said.

"It seems for some people the mentality is that the poor only exist because they have done something wrong, are irresponsible and/or lazy, however, the reason we are poor is not due to laziness or because we have not worked hard enough, have children or indeed because we have been irresponsible. Defence Force families are working hard, in fact we are working harder than ever but are earning less and less so cannot make ends meet. In our current economy, we see many Defence Force personnel working more than one job and are still unable to make ends meet. Why? Certainly not because they haven’t worked hard enough, certainly not because they haven’t taken responsibility and certainly not because they are not up early in the morning.

The WPDF said the reasons for the financial struggles are systemic and are caused by what appears to be "a very adversarial Department of Defence and with our Taoiseach (who also happens to be our Minister for Defence)".

"The Department of the Defence with Leo Varadkar at the helm appear to promote what can only be described as a culture of despair, hardship and struggle for Defence Forces families," they added.

The group wants full pay restoration and duty pay. It said Duty pay continues to be worth just under €20 after tax for 24 hour duty. It also wants access to labour courts for all members of the Defence Forces, and the post 1994 contracts reviewed so that healthy, fit and experienced personnel can stay in the Defence Forces if they so wish. At present many have to leave after 21 years.

It also wants the government to stop prescribing the anti- malarial drug Lariam.

"Please come and parade with us for Respect and Loyalty for the Defence Forces on the 19th September, 2018 beginning at 11:45 at Merrion Square in Dublin," concluded the group.