Longford/Westmeath TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has said that a final decision is to be made in the coming weeks on addressing issues around a mandatory rule forcing the retirement of hundreds of soldiers after 21 years of service.
“I have raised this matter numerous times in the Dáil 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. The rule is due to take effect this year and I have had many representations on this issue from serving members attached to Custume Barracks in Athlone.
“Speaking in the Dáil last week, Minister Coveney said that agreement had been reached between all the relevant parties and the process would now be finalised in the next few weeks. Significant progress on the issue had been made in recent discussions between PDFORRA and civil and military management on the issue.
However, the issue was referred for third party adjudication as it was not possible to reach full agreement. Minister Coveney confirmed in the Dáil that the adjudication hearing took place on January 30th last and the report was issued to all relevant parties on February 12th.
“Minister Coveney said the findings of the adjudicator’s report will form the basis of the agreement. While Minister Coveney was not at liberty to reveal details at this stage, I understand that he and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, will now carefully consider the findings. Minister Coveney said he expects that the process will be finalised in the next few weeks at which stage the details of the agreement will become known.
“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. I hope this report and the final agreement, once publicly known, will be a positive one for all concerned.”