OPINION: Time to stand shoulder to shoulder with our soldiers

Thursday, 4th July, 2019 5:38pm

OPINION: Time to stand shoulder to shoulder with our soldiers

Members of the Defences Forces during a passing out ceremony in Athlone a number of years ago.

The Defence Forces has been a part and parcel of this town for centuries.
Custume Barracks, previously Victoria Barracks, is the oldest still operational army barracks in Europe.
The town has a proud and distinguished military history with a number of soldiers paying the ultimate price on peacekeeping missions since the foundation of the State. Going back further to British rule, Athlone contributed a significant number of personnel to the war effort during World War 1.
The army is inextricably interlinked with community life in the town. It has provided vital employment for generations of young men and women, who, in turn, have made significant contributions to the town, both in their role as Defence Force members and as part of the local community.
Over recent years though our soldiers have been mistreated, discarded, neglected and ignored.
The loss of the 4th Western Brigade was a pivotal moment and despite promises to the contrary, it's apparent to all that the significance of the barracks has been undermined.
The pledge to retain numbers at a particular level has been a smokescreen as many soldiers based in Athlone are from other barracks and others associated with Athlone are forced to travel to other barracks as their place of work.
On the general national issue of army pay and conditions, there have been unseemly political squabbles as different parties jostle for political position and advantage.
Retired army personnel and partners of serving members have been forced to raise their heads above the parapets and highlight the issues.
The reality is that the issue of Defence Forces pay and conditions should not have been allowed to come to this.
The long-awaited Goverment-established pay commission published today is unlikely to represent anything more than a sticking plaster over a gaping wound.
For years, army life was an attraction for young people. Not any more.
The low pay, rock-bottom morale and general disinterest in the Defeces Forces from the political establishment has seen to that.
Athlone cannot afford to allow the Defence Forces to wither and shrivel away.
It's long past time that we stood shoulder to shoulder with our soldiers.

Post a Comment

blog comments powered by Disqus