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.”