Families of Defence Forces struggling to put food on the table

The Labour Party leader has called for a bespoke pay review for the Defence Forces

Families of Defence Forces struggling to put food on the table

Members of the Defence Forces assist with flood response in Mountmellick, County Laois, 23-11-2017. Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews

The wives and partners of members of the Defence Forces are holding a 24-hour protest outside the Dáil.

The spouses are holding a vigil to highlight the level of poverty faced by the families of Irish soldiers.

The 'Wives and Partners of the Defence Forces' (WPDF) group has warned that over 1,000 members have left the Defence Forces since January last year.

The group said that one-in-five members of the Defence Forces are on some form of social welfare.

Sheila - whose fiancé is in the naval service - said she is really struggling to make ends meet:

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

"I mean, it just seems wrong.

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

WPDF spokesperson Sarah Walshe said many families are struggling to put food on the table:

"That is one the bills that tends to take the biggest hit, is the food shopping," she said.

"Because it is the one that is not going to come knocking on your door going, 'we are looking for this money.

"So people are paying their bills and they are going without.

"It is just sad when you get the phone calls going, 'I have no nappies, my husband is away on duty' or he is away in the Glen training, 'can you just give me a packet of nappies to get me through the week.'

"It is heartbreaking."

Full pay review

Speaking inside Leinster House, the Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin called for a full pay review for members of the Defence Forces.

"I genuinely believe that you would have a consensus in this house that bespoke pay review for our Defence Forces is warranted and urgently needed," he said.

"I certainly can't understand why we are willing to recognise the garda associations for pay negotiations but not willing to do the same for the representative associations of the Defence Forces."

Pay and conditions

The WPDF is demanding better pay and conditions for those who work in service to their country.

Group member Shelly Cotter said enlisted personnel deserve better - given the sacrifices they make:

"They are doing it in the name of Ireland," she said. "And even though they are earning those medals - and my god they are earning those medals - medals don't feed families."

"But we are very proud.

"The problem then is on the flip-side is, the poverty in the Defence forces is an extremely proud hidden secret."