Kehoe under fire from retired officer
Minister Paul Kehoe has come under fire from a retired senior army figure in an article in the national media highlighting low morale within the defence forces.
In the article Retired Commandant Cathal Berry, who led the Army Ranger Wing, said Minister Kehoe was 'out of his depth' in his role as Minister of State at the Department of Defence.
Speaking on Joe Duffy's Liveline programme Commandant Berry said he had no problem with Minister Kehoe on a personal level and described him as 'a lovely man'.
However, when asked about his description of Minister Kehoe as 'an empty suit [who is] completely out of his depth' he said: 'Misguided loyalty and blind obedience gets this country into a huge amount of trouble. There is a higher value called morale courage [and] if the emperor has no clothes it's my duty to say it.'
Retired Brigadier General Ger Aherne also spoke on the Liveline programme with Joe Duffy in the wake of Retired Comdt Berry's article - that depicted an army in which there is serious concern over pay and conditions and in which morale is at an all-time low - and said he agreed with every syllable written in it.
'The defence forces is disintegrating, unfortunately,' he said.
'It's disintegrating because of political neglect and the strangulation of the oversight of the Department of Defence,' he added.
Retired Brigadier General Aherne said there are international benchmarks in terms of rotation of staff and leakages of personnel.
He pointed out that if turnover in the UK is at 5 per cent it's declared 'a crisis' and added: 'We have been turning over 10 per cent every year for the last seven or eight years and in the Naval service we are turning over 20 per cent.'
He went on to comment that ships can't go to sea, aircraft can't fly in the air corps and army units are 'not operationally viable'.
Retired Regimental Sergeant Major Noel O'Callaghan also spoke on the issue and highlighted how the army along with the gardai protect Irish democracy.
'It's about respect and loyalty,' he said.
'Last year we lost 53 [soldiers] for every month of the year, not counting officers, and 425 in the first four months of this year,' he added.
'The Department of Defence have a stranglehold on the defence forces that is sucking the life out of it.'
Fran Reilly, who lives in Co Wexford and is involved with the retired Irish Defence Forces Veterans Association, also commented on the matter and said: 'We see demoralised men, people who can't bring their families for a day out [and] we see people who go to money lenders.'
'We want to see Irish soldiers respected,' he added.
When contacted by this newspaper Minister Kehoe said he wouldn't be making any comment on the matter until the Independent Pay Commission Report is published.
The report is being compiled by an independent board into pay and conditions within the defence forces.