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Senator Gerard P. Craughwell

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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

I rise today on the issue the Fianna Fáil Party has just brought forward, namely, the matter regarding the Defence Forces. The Minister of State at the Department of Defence is on record as saying he has pride in our Defence Forces. I would like to know whether he is proud to preside over a force where an average of 60 personnel of all ranks leave every month. Does he believe the accelerated recruitment can compensate for the loss of experienced personnel?
Perhaps the Leader can tell the Seanad where is the return on the State's investment in training military personnel when they walk out of barracks as quickly as they are trained to take better paid civilian jobs. I have said before in the House how an RTE journalist said Aldi was the place for commissioned officers to find a career when the Defence Forces was finished with them. Pay and conditions have been outrageous. Soldiers cannot afford to live on what they get, yet the Department of Defence returned €27 million last year. Soldiers are on family income supplement and some poor unfortunates must sleep on their ships because they cannot afford civilian accommodation.
We speak about retaining pilots. We are told by the Government that at the end of this year eight pilots will come on stream. They will come on stream to fly single-engine aircraft and are of no value with regard to the Casa or helicopter service. They will not be trained for these types of aircraft for another five years.
We speak about mental health well-being in every aspect of Irish life. Nobody seems to give a continental damn that private soldiers, not five miles from here out in Rathmines, live in what they now refer to as "Hotel Rwanda". I have seen the inside of these barracks and I have seen what they are like. With regard to human resource management, if this was the corporate world and the number of people were walking out as are leaving the forces right now, the senior managers in that organisation would be fired. We have a situation where young officers are posted at a moment's notice to anywhere in the country, without any regard for their family circumstances. We have bomb disposal officers on duty for up to 18 or 20 days a month. Is this any way to treat families? Is this any way to treat individuals? We have 11 bomb disposal officers where we have an establishment for 35. The 28th battalion in Donegal has one commandant acting as the commanding officer and one other commandant, and I believe it has two lieutenants.