No, but they will be trained in their use. Initially, the number recruited will be small. I should like to tell the House that 233 existing appointments for non-commissioned personnel and 39 for officers have been earmarked as suitable for women. An additional six new officers and one NCO appointment will be required for administration. The only addition to the existing establishment within the force is the creation of six new posts for officers and one new NCO post. The 279 appointments will be allocated throughout the commands along the following lines: in the Eastern Command, which includes Army Headquarters and the Air Corps, 116; in the Curragh Command, 84; in the Southern Command, 39 and in the Western Command, 40. The six new officer appointments consist of a director, a training officer and four command welfare officers. While the existing officer appointments which have been earmarked as suitable for women are mainly in the supply and administration areas, in non-operational units, the director of the Women's Service Corps, who will be based at Army Headquarters, will hold the rank of commandant. The lady training officer in the Women's Service Corps will hold the rank of captain.
The occupations in which the non-commissioned personnel will be employed initially are: drivers, military police, clerks, printers, radio operators, line-projectionists, grooms in the equitation school, photographers, air traffic controllers, telegraphists and many other occupations at present occupied by male service personnel. In fact, there are more than 100 different types of employment within the Defence Forces and 80 per cent of them are suitable for members of the Women's Service Corps. Of the 279 women it is intended to recruit into the force 45 will be officers, 103 NCOs and 131 privates.
In regard to numbers and recruiting I should like to state that I do not expect that there will be any great difficulty in filling the establishment number for the Women's Service Corps in view of the huge response there has been to the announcement about the creation of the corps. We could fill three times the establishment number of 279 from the number of inquiries we have received. I hope that will allay Deputy Mitchell's fears in regard to the possibility of not succeeding in attracting women to join the force. Already there has been a great interest expressed in it.
Deputies raised the question of pay. All I can say is that we are trying to integrate women into the force. The pay will be exactly the same as is available to the male members of the Permanent Defence Force according to rank and the length of service. There will be no discrimination in regard to basic pay. Because women will not be involved in security type duties they would not therefore qualify for the special security allowances payable in those circumstances. Outside of that, the basic pay will be exactly the same.
In regard to the question of uniform referred to by Deputy Creed, it is intended that it will be as attractive as possible. Some care has been taken in seeking to have a uniform designed that will be attractive to the ladies and an adequate range of pieces of clothing and equipment will be included in the official issue and will, of course, include slacks as well as a skirt and a combination of other items going to present a nice, neatly dressed lady member of the Irish Army.
The educational requirements were raised here also. Here again, because of our desire to have no distinction or discrimination and to seek to achieve as closely as we can an integrated system between the women and men in the force, the educational requirements will be exactly the same. With the initial intake of officers there may be a need—because of the requirement of getting in officers of a certain calibre quickly to take up the more senior rank appointments—to have special requirements at the initial stage. But once the corps is in full operation there will be no difference in the educational requirements for women cadets from those obtaining at present for male cadets, that is, the university entrance standard, five subjects, of which one must be maths or applied maths on the one hand and English or Irish on the other.
I was asked if we had made financial provision for the introduction of the Women's Service Corps. Already quite an amount of work has been undertaken in regard to the provision of accommodation. Certain works have been undertaken at the Curragh and it is proposed to construct new accommodation there for the Women's Service Corps. I hope work on that will commence next year. In the meantime changes have been taking place. In each command where posts have been identified which it is intended will be filled by members of the Women's Service Corps the officers in charge have been asked to initiate programmes for the preparation of buildings to receive the women members and to make whatever changes are required. I was asked if the women members will be located throughout the country: they will. I do not know whether the House wants me to go down through all the barracks at which they will be located. The House can take it that each command will have women in the numbers I have already given.
Deputy Creed raised a query on section 5. He asked if other Ministers in other Departments had the power that the Minister for Defence has in regard to making certain deductions from the pay of members of the force in the event of their deserting or abandoning their families. The answer to that is that this applies in the Defence Forces because people who enlist in the Defence Forces come under a military legal code to which persons in other State Departments or in other State employment would not be subjected. There is a commitment to give service for a fixed period on enlistment, the shortest period being three years. Because of the exigencies of the type of service being given it has been a feature of military life that some of those who enlist may not desire to complete the period and may wish to avoid legal responsibilities into which they had entered and in deserting the Army in many cases they also deserted their families. Therefore it was a humanitarian measure to enable the Minister to make a decision, on compassionate grounds, that in fact pay would be paid to families of such people in certain cases. Of course, in more recent times—in 1976—the Family Law (Maintenance of the Spouses and Children) Act makes provision in similar circumstances for deductions to be made on a court order. The occasion has not arisen very often when the provisions of section 99 of the 1954 Act have been actually operated by the Minister. Naturally, we now give precedence to the 1976 Act, and section 98 of the 1954 Act enables the Minister to make deductions arising out of a court order under the 1976 Act. Therefore, the answer to Deputy Creed's question is no, other Ministers do not have the power the Minister for Defence has in these circumstances.
Deputy B. Desmond stated that most modern, conventional armies do have a women's corps or have women serving as soldiers in their armies. The House might be interested to know of some of our colleagues in the EEC who have already introduced women into their armies. In Belgium 2.96 per cent of their defence forces are women members; the Netherlands has .9 per cent; Denmark 1.25 per cent; in France it is 2.38 per cent if the conscripts are taken into account; and in Britain it is 5.2 per cent, which is in fact 15,000. Our proposals would mean that about 2.5 per cent of the force would consist of women. It is interesting to note that two remaining EEC countries, Italy and Luxembourg, have not yet introduced women into their armies.
Deputy Desmond asked me when the initial enlistment would take place. I have already indicated that as soon as the Bill becomes law steps will be taken to appoint two officers, the director and training officer, and from then on all steps will be taken to proceed with the initial enlistment of recruits, which will be approximately 50, comprising the first Women's Service Corps training class. After the appointment of the two initial senior officers it will be the intention to appoint four female cadets and they will form the initial officers corps.
Some provision, not a lot, has been made in this year's Estimates. Some of it has already been expended in regard to accommodation and work has proceeded in other areas in preparation for the passage of the Bill.
Deputy Desmond referred to the old married quarters, to the poor state of the married quarters in certain places and indeed even of the billets. I would agree with him that there are—and I have often said this publicly—married quarters in or attached to barracks which are far from being suitable. As the House is already aware, I have initiated a programme to replace all the existing unsuitable married quarters. That programme is under way but it will take some time before all of those unsuitable married quarters are either demolished or completely renovated. It is a programme which is being tackled vigorously and after a few years I hope nobody will be able to point the finger at unsuitable accommodation. Quite a lot has been done already. The same applies to billet accommodation.
Deputy Power raised an interesting question with regard to whether women would be now entitled to join the FCA. The Bill before the House does enable the enlistment of women into the reserve force, An Fórsa Cosanta Átiúil. It is not my intention at this time to enlist women into the FCA. The only intention on the passing of the Bill is to enlist women into the permanent force. This is a new step. It will cause a lot of problems in itself which we will be happy to tackle, and the House will agree that it would be unreasonable to proceed with bringing women into the reserve force before we bring them into the permanent force. That is the course of action I propose to take. At some future time it will be possible to make a policy decision to enlist women into the FCA if that is decided at the time. This legislation enables that to be done.
A number of Deputies asked whether, when the lady cadets commence training, they will qualify for participation in the university training programme. At the risk of repeating myself, the women will be dealt with exactly the same as men. Obviously, in regard to cadet training it is the intention when the scheme is in operation fully that those women who are granted cadetships in the Army would have the same facilities with regard to third-level education as is available at present for the male cadets.
Deputy Kelly raised the question about the recruitment of married women. Maybe he was not here at the start of the debate——