By David Hennessy
Former Kilkenny hurler and multiple All-Ireland-winner Eoin Larkin says it is time to look at the demands that are put on inter-county GAA stars who perform at a professional level while it remains an amateur sport. He says it is time players were given some sort of reward, perhaps a tax break and would like to see the GAA and GPA do something on this issue.
He also says it is time to look at the rate of pay for Irish army personnel. Eoin had to leave the army after over a decade, saying the army ‘pittance’ was no longer enough to raise his young family on. A large percentage of army personnel have to claim Working Family Payment (formerly known as Family Income Supplement).
Eoin told The Irish World it is time to look at the demands being put on amateur sports people who still have to work a day job: “It’s crazy, the amount of sacrifice and the amount of effort that inter-county players are putting in now. I think it does need to be looked at because after a match when you wake up on a Monday morning, you still have to get up and go into work.”
Eoin played for Kilkenny for over a decade, joining the panel in 2005 and retiring from inter-county hurling in 2016. He won eight All-Irelands, ten Leinster championships, six National Leagues and two All Stars in his time wearing black and amber.
“I find it hard to see how we’re going to sustain people wanting to sacrifice their whole life and sacrifice their social lives, sacrifice their health and wellbeing. It’s a tough thing to do in this day and age. I’d like to see the GPA and GAA coming together now and giving the players some sort of reward for what they put in. I think something needs to be done regards a tax break or something like that because the amount of effort and the amount of enjoyment that those players give thousands and thousands of people around the country is phenomenal.
“Only one team can win. You have your Kilkennys, Tipperarys, Corks, Galways but there’s lots of other counties around there that maybe haven’t won an All-Ireland for a number of years and they put in the same effort and the same sacrifice and they still have to get up on a Monday morning and that’s tough. That is very tough to take but they keep coming back and they keep doing it and they keep giving people enjoyment. I think it needs to be looked at across the board. It’s very tough to sustain it. The players give so much enjoyment around the country over the summer months.”
Eoin also believes army personnel need to have their pay evaluated. Eoin served in the Irish defence force for many years and was sent to Kosovo and Syria on peace keeping duty. However, he had to find other employment because his young family were struggling on army pay: “I suppose it’s hard to raise a family on. I’m not sure the percentage but there’s a good percentage of army personnel now claiming Working Family Payment as well. If you’re in the army, I think you should be able to raise your family and have a good life for yourself and your family on that wage.
“It shouldn’t be that army personnel have to get Working Family Payment to raise their family and that does need to be looked at. The personnel coming in now as recruits, they’re on worse money again: That’s the biggest problem. The numbers in the army have dropped significantly and that’s the reason. People don’t want to stay in it because you can’t sustain it without a decent wage. People won’t stay there if they can’t get a decent wage knowing they can get a decent wage anywhere else.
“Look, there’s no job perfect and the army is certainly not perfect but it is a good career. I got lots of opportunities in the army. It is a brilliant career and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in it.”
In response to this, a spokesperson from the office of Paul Kehoe T.D., Minister with Responsibility for Defence, told The Irish World: “Similar to other public servants, the pay of members of the Permanent Defence Force was reduced during the financial crisis. The reductions in pay were on a graduated scale with higher percentages being deducted from those on higher earnings. The recovery in the economy has provided for the unwinding of financial emergency measures taken.
“Members of the Permanent Defence Force have received and are continuing to receive pay increases due under national public service pay agreements. The focus of these increases have been on the lower paid. The most recent increase was a 1.75% increase on annualised salaries from 1 September 2019. Further increases in payscales are due in 2020. In addition, improved pay scales for new entrants to the Permanent Defence Force have been implemented.
“Pay rates for newly qualified members of the Defence Forces are competitive when compared to other areas within the Public Service and the Private Sector. For instance a newly qualified three star private can expect to earn of €28,255 gross per annum (including military service allowance).
A newly qualified school-leaver entry Officer can expect to earn €36,627 gross per annum (inclusive of Military Service Allowance) after initial training and a graduate entry Officer can expect to earn €41,666 gross per annum (inclusive of Military Service Allowance) after initial training. These are just starting pay rates. There are additional opportunities to increase pay through annual increments and promotional opportunities.
“Eligibility for Working Family Payment (WFP) -formerly called Family Income Supplement – is determined by average weekly family income and family size. The more children in the family, the higher the income threshold.
“Salaries in the Defence Forces and the broader public service are based on job requirements, not a person’s family circumstances. While the Minister appreciates that some individuals have difficult financial situations, it would be inequitable and unfair to base salaries of individual public sector employees on family size.
“The most recent figures available from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection shows 70 members (or less than 1% of the current strength of the Defence Forces) are actually in receipt of such payments. This is consistent with the average across the public sector.”
Eoin Larkin also spoke about how Brian Cody was there for him during his depression.