Irish troops unable to return to Lebanon should not lose out financially
3 June 2020
Parliamentary Party Chair and Spokesperson on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands; Agriculture and the Marine
In the Dáil today during statements on Defence, Labour TD for Cork East Seán Sherlock raised with the Minister the need to ensure that Irish troops who had been on leave from Lebanon at the time travel restrictions were brought in should not lose out financially because they were unable to redeploy.
Deputy Sherlock said:
"A number of serving personnel who had taken scheduled leave to return to Ireland for a short period before the Covid-19 travel restrictions have not been able to return and as a result are at a financial loss, through no fault of their own.
"In the Dáil today on pay and conditions, the Minister of State spoke to the issue of engagement with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding those who have either returned from overseas deployment in Lebanon or are going out. He told us that there is full engagement with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and that he hopes to come back to Members on the various issues that have been raised as soon as possible. I hope this issue can be resolved because we know all too well the financial pressure facing our Defence Force personnel.
"The latest UN deployment to Lebanon took place in mid-November 2019 and would have ended in May 2020. As I understand it, approximately 50 personnel would have then come home for leave. They have an entitlement to a two-week leave arrangement, which they would have taken up. They understandably did not return to Lebanon because of the pandemic we are in the midst of, but the net effect of those 50-odd personnel having returned home is a loss of income.
"Our soldiers, who wanted to serve have been unable to return to their job, and because of that they have effectively lost one third of their allowance, though provision would have been made in the annual budget for that allowance anyway.
"I asked the Minister of State for Defence to give an assurance to those who returned home on leave during the last tour of duty that they will have the element of their pay they lost restored. While he was unable to give that commitment in the Dáil today, the issue cannot be allowed go unresolved.
"Through no fault of their own, this situation has resulted in a serious loss of income for those affected. We know the consequence of that loss of income for a Defence Forces family, especially in terms of keeping a household and managing bills. If there is a process of engagement with the relevant authorities, I ask for a clear and sympathetic view for that cohort of Defence Forces personnel who were affected by a set of circumstances that was entirely out of their control."