Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has said she was hopeful there would be some flexibility around a mandatory rule forcing the retirement of hundreds of soldiers after 21 years of service.
“I raised this matter in the Dáil today (Wednesday, November 13th) with Defence Minister Simon Coveney and impressed upon him the consequences of not relaxing this rule which applies to all privates and corporals who joined the army since 1994.
“This rule is due to take effect next year and I have had numerous representations regarding this issue from serving members attached to Custume Barracks in Athlone.
“Naturally, this matter is causing serious concern for soldiers and their families who have mortgage and family commitments and who have the necessary skills and fitness levels to continue to serve beyond the 21 year limit.
“Minister Coveney explained that the measure was introduced to make sure the force was physically fit for the rigours of overseas deployment but many of those who are being forced out would typically have been 19 or 20 when they joined the army. We are talking here about soldiers who are still fit and active and who are worried about what the future holds for them.
“PDFORRA is looking for a further review of this 21 year limit on these contracts and in the Dail today, the Minister informed me that significant progress had been made in its discussions with civil and military management; however, he said it was not possible for the parties to reach full agreement. As a result, the issue is now being referred to third party adjudication for a ruling. The Minister said it was expected this adjudication hearing would take place in the next few weeks following the exchange of submissions between the parties.
“Minister Coveney said in the Dáil today that those affected started off on a five-year contract and a great deal of flexibility had been shown in accommodating and extending their careers within the Defence Forces. I welcome the Minister’s understanding that the families concerned are facing very real difficulties and his expectation some flexibility would also be shown in this instance.”
Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has thanked Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and Minister for special responsibility for Disability Kathleen Lynch for their support following an agreement from the HSE to provide the necessary resources to help offset the financial crisis at St Christopher’s Services.
“This is very welcome news but the commitment is part of a simultaneous three month review of services to be carried out by the HSE at both St Christopher’s in Longford and St Hilda’s in Athlone.
“I understand that both reviews will look at ways to develop sustainable services in the two organisations while also considering the current availability of resources.
“I am pleased that the HSE has committed to stabilising the current financial position in St Christopher’s in order to protect the current level of service provision and that both reviews have come about because of the public outcry over the threat to vital services in Longford and Westmeath.
“However, while this is good news for the foreseeable future, the campaign to protect these services will continue and these reviews must seek outcomes to guarantee the protection of services in both organisations against any future cuts.
“Today’s decision has come about through an intensive campaign carried out in both counties, involving not least the families, the service providers and the wider community.
“A lot of work has also been invested by local Oireachtas members to impress upon both Ministers Varadkar and Lynch the importance of addressing the funding crisis affecting intellectual disability services in the region. The two Ministers have received numerous communications to ensure that the concerns of service-users, their families and the service providers have been successfully listened to.
“Since the crisis emerged in both countries, I have made almost daily representations to Minister Varadkar and Lynch on these issues, making it clear that it is simply unacceptable that economics should get in the way of providing proper care for our most vulnerable in society.
“Apart from significant fund-raising initiatives, St Hilda’s and St Christopher’s provide exceptional value for money but more importantly exceptional services under very difficult circumstances and in the face of growing demand.”
Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that a drop of 8.4% in unemployment figures for Westmeath is a clear indication that the economic recovery is underway.
“This week we learned that the national live register rate has dropped to 11%, the lowest since 2009.
“This is extremely good news for the country as a whole but I am particularly pleased to see that the number of people out of work in the county has fallen by 8.4% since this time last year.
“This Government has been given the task of getting this country back on its feet and in the last number of weeks, we have had 170 new jobs announced in Westmeath and Longford.
“There is no doubt that there are still too many people out of work but it is encouraging to see that things are moving in the right direction.
“Live Register figures have been dropping for many months now, the Government’s plan is working but we know that there is still a long way to go.
“The progress that has been made is due to the hard work and sacrifice of Irish people, of people here in our local community.”