Defence (Amendment) Bill, 1979: Second and Subsequent Stages.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

A considerable amount of publicity has preceded the introduction of this Bill which represents the fulfilment of the Government's undertaking to establish a Women's Service Corps, Cór na mBan. Deputies will, accordingly, be aware of my general intentions for the organisation of the corps which I now propose to explain in greater detail. The Bill, as will be seen, is designed to amend the existing Defence Acts so as to provide in an express way for the enlistment of women into the Defence Forces, the appointment of women as officers of the Defence Forces, and certain other connected matters.

Provision already exists in the Defence Act, 1954, for the appointment of women as members of the Army Nursing Service which is an integral part of the Permanent Defence Force. The members of this service, who in their special role have given outstanding service over the years, are not, however, liable for ordinary military duties and are not subject to the military disciplinary code. The Bill now before the House proposes the admission of women into the Defence Forces on precisely the same legal basis as men. In practical terms, therefore, what the proposals envisage is the creation for the first time in the history of the Defence Forces of a body of women soldiers who will be integrated with their male counterparts in forming to-day's modern Army.

I have had the most exhaustive studies carried out and I personally have given a great deal of thought to the question of how women might best be introduced into the military environment which up to now has been exclusively a male preserve. Various alternatives have been considered, but I am convinced it is only in the fullest practicable sense of participation in defence activities that the aspirations and abilities of women who elect for a military career will find adequate expression. Accordingly, apart from the fact that they will be non-combatant, it is my intention that women will be employed on a very comprehensive range of duties and that there will be no question of their being allocated menial or subservient tasks or relegated to obscure or uninteresting appointments.

I am most concerned that women should regard the Army as a worth-while and rewarding career. Enlistment will be open to both married and single applicants, and the conditions for enlistment and discharge will be the same as those which apply to men, but with one important exception. Women who wish to do so will be allowed to terminate their military service on marriage, or pregnancy, or for related domestic reasons. Paid maternity leave will be granted on the same basis as applies elsewhere in the public service. The levels of pay and allowances will be the same as for male personnel. There will be an attractive uniform and the intention is that a good standard of accommodation will be provided, either by adapting existing buildings where practicable, or by erecting new buildings as part of the programme of providing improved accommodation for Defence Forces personnel in general.

As to the actual intake of women into the Defence Forces, the initial step will be the appointment of a small number of specially selected officers who, following a period of familiarisation and training, will be required to supervise the training of the first general intake of female recruits. The officer appointments, including if available some women with previous military experience, will be undertaken as soon as practicable following the passage of the Bill, and general recruitment will be introduced at an appropriate time thereafter. No effort will be spared to ensure that in the shortest time possible the overall contribution of women to the Defence Forces both as regards numbers and appointments will be expanded to a significant degree throughout the country.

Tá lán muinin agam as éifeacht na mban atá chun teacht isteach ins na Fórsai Cosanta. Is féidir a fheiceáil ó stair na tire seo go bhfuil traidisiún againn anseo de mhnáibh a bhain clú agus cáil amach de thoradh a gcuid gníomhartha agus a raibh chomh súntasach le h-aon fhear dá glúin. Smaoinítear láithreach ar Maedbh agus Gráinne Mhaol. Ag tagairt d'aimsir níos deireannaí is féidir linn bheith mórtasach as mná cróga Chumainn na mBan agus tá cáil faoi leith tuillte ag gníomhartha an Chuntaois Markevicz dár ndóigh. Gan aon amhras tá na tréithe a chruthaigh na mná siúd chomh bríomhar inniu agus a raibh riamh agus táim lán sásta go dtabharfaidh saol gníomhach, beomhar an Airm gach seans do mhná na linne seo na tréithe úd a shaothrú chun tairbhe dóibh féin agus don daonra uilig. Tá súil agam go bhfuil na tairiscintí sa Bhille soiléir anois agus molaim don Dáil é dá réir sin.

As spokesman on Defence for the Fine Gael Party it is a great pleasure for me to welcome this Bill. As this is the first opportunity I have had to speak for my party on matters relating to the Department of Defence, I should like to pay a special tribute to our Defence Forces, our Army at home and abroad. The contribution they make to the commúnity and to world peace is of great credit to the nation, to the Army, and to our Defence Forces generally. At a time when we are introducing a new dimension into the Army, a Women's Corps, it should be said that there are many in the community who do not appreciate or are not aware of the contribution our Army have made to world peace and to the community as a whole, in the Congo in the early sixties, subsequently in Cyprus and the Middle East, and now in the Lebanon where they have had very onerous and arduous tasks to perform sometimes at great danger to themselves. They have performed their duties as a peace-keeping force throughout the world without fear.

I welcome this Bill. I am glad to have the opportunity to welcome it and I wish it every success. We did not get much information from the Minister in his introductory statement. One important aspect of this Bill is the fact that it is doing something new. It is adding a new dimension to the Army by recruiting a Women's Corps. There cannot be any lackadaisical approach to it. The Minister and his officials must take the initiative and do a public relations job to make the corps attractive to our young girls. I am glad the Minister said there will be full equality of the sexes. In the Women's Corps they will not be discriminated against just because they are women. I hope the pay and conditions will be comparable to employment in the community as a whole. That is a very important factor.

We are recruiting a Women's Corps against the background of a falling-off in recruitment to our Defence Forces. This falling-off in recruitment could be a disadvantage and I sincerely hope the Minister and his advisers will be able to overcome it. I mentioned the public relations aspect. It is important that this corps should be given the status or the glamour it deserves. The sporting and recreational facilities and the opportunities which will be available should be highlighted. A wide variety of games and activities is available throughout the Army. The sports facilities have been greatly improved and our Army teams can now compete on an international basis. If all these facilities, including the Army Equitation School whose total prize money in 1978 was £26,000, were given more publicity, they would make the Army a more attractive proposition for young girls. There is a job of public relations to be done in connection with the Army and I believe that this job will be tackled.

Anything that releases our troops to perform their basic role is to be welcomed. The majority of our soldiers spend their time doing house-keeping and clerical duties. There is no doubt that women are more competent than men in the performance of most clerical and house-keeping duties. They would even be as competent as men in the performance of driving duties, telephone duties, pay and intelligence duties. These are all duties for which women have a natural aptitude. I think the Minister would agree that it is a waste of manpower to involve men in such jobs. In some armies women have been trained in combat, but I am glad that the Minister has said that training in combat duties is not intended for the Women's Corps. During World War II all the jobs that I have mentioned were performed by women in the British and American armed services. In Britain women also worked as air-raid wardens, fire-fighters and first-aid workers. Their efforts in those areas were beyond praise. We should not approach the recruitment of the Women's Corps in a lackadaisical manner. One of the things responsible for the bad publicity is that our soldiers have been expected to do jobs which they were never intended to do. If it is decided to enlist women they should be organised and trained in the same way as men. Their ranks and rates of pay should equal those of the men they relieve.

There will be great interest in the design of the uniform for the Women's Corps. It should be possible to design a dual purpose uniform with slacks for different duties. There is no doubt that the uniform would be an attraction to girls who were thinking of joining the corps.

I should like to know the educational requirements for the Women's Corps. I understand that the Minister intends to recruit female officers who will be specially trained to train other personnel. A great deal of thought should be given to the duties which the members of the Women's Corps will be expected to perform. Has provision been made for finance for separate quarters for the women? Will they be expected to take up duty in the different barracks throughout the country? In regard to the training of the recruits, a great deal of emphasis should be placed on fitness as most women are now very fitness-conscious. It should also be made clear to female recruits that it is possible for them to reach the top of their profession and that they will not be overlooked in any way.

Even though I have read statements by the Minister about the attractions of the Army, I suggest that it is not sufficiently attractive to interest our young men and women. For example, the rates of pay do not compare favourably with the pay of dockers, building labourers and prison warders. How do the rates of pay for prison warders' overtime compare with the rates of pay of Army personnel who work long hours of overtime? Soldiers are expected to perform their own duties and they are also expected to act as stop-gaps when civil workers strike. It is wrong to expect soldiers to replace civil workers who are on strike, as happened in Dublin this year. Soldiers are the custodians of our freedom and their duties are exacting. Their duties include the patrolling of 300 miles of Border, the guarding of prisoners and Government buildings and patrolling UN danger spots.

Some of the jobs which I have referred to, such as guarding prisoners, could be done by some of our unemployed if they were trained to do them. Of all the people involved in security work today, I believe that our soldiers are the least thanked and the worst paid. In many cases I would go so far as to say that they are also the worst fed. All these matters will have to be examined and rectified if we want to make the Army an attractive proposition for our women folk.

In conclusion, I wish this Bill a speedy enactment. I sincerely hope that the Minister will give it the attention it deserves because it is important not to tackle this sort of new venture in a halfhearted way. Nothing succeeds like success, so we should try to be successful from the start. I wish the Bill every success and I hope that in the not-too-distant future the Minister will be in a position to announce to this House that his Bill was a success.

There is one other matter I want to ask the Minister about. I would be pleased if the Minister would elaborate on section 5, which provides for the corresponding application in the case of women holding non-commissioned rank in the Defence Forces of section 99 of the Defence Act, 1954, under which the Minister may order deductions to be made from the pay of a man holding non-commissioned rank in respect of the maintenance of his wife or children where it appears to the Minister that the man has deserted them or left them in destitute circumstances. That may be very necessary but I would like the Minister to elaborate on it. Is this the only area in State employment where the Minister has the right to take such action? Does it apply to the Garda Síochána? Does it apply to other State employees? If this is the only area to which it applies, then it is a reflection on the Army. I would be glad if the Minister would deal with that.

On behalf of the Labour Party I welcome the Second Stage of this Bill. I am pleased that it removes the final discrimination against women in the organisation of our security forces. It is some years now since ban-ghardaí were introduced and any objective assessment in relation to their role within the Garda Síochána would show that any misgivings or any outmoded concepts of the role of women in the work force and in the security forces have proved to be unfounded. Accordingly, the decision of the Government to provide a direct opportunity for women to take up active careers in the Army is entirely welcome.

Some sections of public opinion may regard the decision of the Government as being somewhat novel. It is important to stress that it is in no way unique. It is in no way unusual because in most of the modern conventional defence forces in Europe and in many other parts of the world women play a highly active role and have done so for a long number of years. I do not have any direct information on it but I think we are the last country in Europe to abolish discrimination in this area and accordingly I strongly welcome this decision. The only regret I have is that it has taken so long for that decision to be enacted.

There are all the usual questions one can ask in relation to a Bill of this nature and in relation to the intentions of the Government. One might ask when the initial enlistment is likely to commence. One might ask how many specially selected officers will be initially recruited and when this is likely to commence. Is there a provision in the current Estimates or can it be absorbed into the ordinary Estimate of the Department? I presume that it does not require segregation in the Estimate at this stage even for next year.

There are also the conditions for enlistment. It is provided that the conditions for enlistment and discharge will be the same as those which apply to men. I presume in relation to the leaving certificate or different academic qualifications obtained by women as against those obtained by men in the normal course of events that there is a balancing factor here particularly where officers are recruited in on second level educational requirements. Perhaps the Minister will elaborate on that. Is there any consideration being given to that at this stage?

A question which will inevitably arise is whether such recruits will have the opportunity for United Nations service. I presume they will. I earnestly hope that they would have total opportunity of being so involved. Non-combatant duties are, I suppose, a conventional Army term but one must bear in mind that for every so-called combatant in the Army the back-up is two to three at least. This means in effect that direct access to all roles within the Army will be open to women. Indeed, the concept of combatant and non-combatant within an Army is usually dropped within a broad range of back-up and front line duties in any active Army force.

I would also suggest that new accommodation be made available. If the new recruits saw some of the older accommodation within the Army, the quarters still in existence for some married officers and particularly men in the ordinary ranks, it would not just turn them against the Army but would turn them against the Government. I hope, therefore, that existing buildings will not merely be adapted but that new buildings will be provided for such recruits.

I have no doubt whatever that many Irish women will decide to enlist in the Army and that they will make a distinctive, positive and very definite impact in the contingent bringing up to full establishment the Defence Forces of the country.

That is all one can say except to stress that this is a normal development and not particularly novel. It is a development which is long overdue, one which every politician here will welcome and about which every woman in the country will say a hearty "about time".

Arising out of what Deputy Desmond has said, I would like to ask the Minister a question.

I have called Deputy Power.

I am sorry. I did not see him.

I am very pleased that the Minister is going ahead with the Defence (Amendment) Bill, 1979. It is, in fact, the fulfilment of a promise made in the election manifesto in 1977 when another knight acted as Minister for Defence. The establishment of the Women's Service Corps represents the biggest change in the composition of our Defence Forces. It is nice to refer to another promise fulfilled. Is é seo beart de réir ár mbriathar. The decision is welcomed by many women I know in Kildare and also by some of the male members of the Defence Forces. Many of these ladies have expressed very keen interest in the proposal. I am aware, too, of the part played by members of the military nursing service in our Defence Forces and I am glad the Minister complimented them on this excellent service. It was solely confined to professional nursing duties and now, 25 years later, we can celebrate the enlistment of women who will have full participation, apart from combat duties, and to whom promotional opportunities in the ranks will be open. Although members may be sent to different units for specific duties, they will also be attached to the Women's Service Corps.

As other speakers have indicated, I feel that there will be some teething problems in the initial stages but that, once established, the corps will prove its worth and run itself, providing members to staff it successfully and fill any promotional gaps which may arise. We have seen how successfully the banghardaí have been assimilated in the Garda force and the vital role they play. That is proof that within the Garda they are no longer looked upon as likely material for a cheap joke. They have stood the test of time, as I am confident the ladies of the Defence Forces will do.

I am informed that the Minister hopes to enlist about 270 women at the initial stage and that the majority will be trained in the Curragh, Ceannt, Clarke and McDonagh Barracks and the Military College have been suggested as likely locations and hopefully McGee Barracks in Kildare and Devoy Barracks in Naas will also be used. An influx of ladies into the Curragh would be particularly welcome and would add a touch of colour to a camp that is particularly drab and male orientated. Bachelor quarters are often improved when a man decides to relinquish his bachelor status and bring in a women and I hope the same will happen in the Curragh Camp. Some of the buildings there are very shabby and spartan and I hope the Minister intends to give them a face-lift very soon. I have suggested that we could well afford to sell some valuable properties in Dublin and make the Curragh Camp a national headquarters and a showpiece. This might be an opportunity of doing that.

The entry of women to the Military College is the ideal way to provide promotional opportunities in the ranks and I trust that the ladies will study the same course as the men and will have the same access to university and third level education. It is vital that the Women's Corps will fill existing established places in the main and that there is no question of women being asked to do menial tasks. They will carry out the same duties as men, except for combat duties. This has been stressed by the Minister.

Deputy Creed expressed the view that some men were carrying out duties in the catering and office areas which were beneath them and I understood him to imply that these jobs could well be given to women. I hope that is not his point of view. Certainly it is not my point of view or that of the Minister. I hope he is not suggesting that work should be given to women which men do not want to do.

That could not be further from the truth.

That is what I gleaned from the Deputy's contribution. He also objected to soldiers taking on duties during strikes and said they should not do this. Strikers in areas vital to the economy can hold the country to ransom, sometimes at the bidding of unions not based in this country, and in effect they declare war on this country.

I allowed Deputy Creed to comment on this but the matter is outside the scope of this Bill and cannot be debated.

I thought I might be allowed to comment. Such strikers declare war and it is the duty of the Army to defend the national interest. Soldiers do not object to this and are prepared to do so when directed by the Government.

Deputy Creed also mentioned that some of our soldiers are poorly fed. I have gone unannounced to the new cookhouse and dining hall in the Curragh Camp and seen the ordinary menu provided and it is comparable to the menu here in the Dáil Restaurant. To some that may not be an excellent recommendation. On the day of my visit there was a choice of four main courses at the main meal.

Great opportunities will be available for women in the area of physical education. I know some candidates who are anxious to enlist and who have physical education very much in mind. The Army give a wonderful training in this sphere and facilities for sport have been greatly improved of late. It is very significant that two Kildare men who are members of the Army are on the threshold of qualifying for the Olympics in Moscow for the hammer and mile events respectively. They have been helped by the encouragement of the Army and the interest the Minister has shown in their accomplishment is much appreciated. I am sure the Army will give equal encouragement to the ladies in the gymnasium. I greatly admire the Army gymnastic team which up to now has been completely male. They have given pleasure to many and are available for functions during the summer months in many areas of the country. The nearest approach I ever saw to a gymnastic work of art was by a teenager performing on the parallel bars two or three years ago. I hope the Women's Service Corps will make full use of the opportunities available to them in this sphere.

I would ask the Minister whether lady members will be accepted in the FCA. They are already in Civil Defence and it might give the FCA a shot in the arm if ladies were allowed to enlist. It is more than a coincidence that the present Minister, coming as he does from Connacht, should have referred during his speech to two madly militant western ladies, Queen Maeve and Grace O'Malley. I doubt if this pair would be prepared to join our Army today in a non-combatant role. I know many militant women today—I would hesitate to refer to them as feminists—who could well do with a spell of discipline in the Army. When many people are unemployed or avowedly unable to obtain employment, a spell of compulsory military training for boys and girls for a year or so might work wonders. Déanaim comhghairdeas leis an Aire as ucht an Bille seo a thabhairt isteach agus seans a thabhairt dos na mná páirt fónta a ghlacadh i gcosaint na tíre. Níl aon dabht agam ach go ndéanfaidh siad deaobair agus nach fada go mbeidh Cór na mBan ar an gcór is fearr sa tír.

Members of the Opposition said that we might not be approaching this problem in a realistic fashion and with the proper preparation. I do not support that idea. Douglas McArthur is credited with saying at the Republican National Convention in 1952: "It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it". I am confident that the Minister has embarked on the setting up of the Women's Service Corps with the obvious will and intention to make a success of it.

I wish to address a few questions to the Minister. It may be that I am wasting the time of the Minister and the House because I freely admit and agree that these points occurred to me only when I was listening to Deputy Desmond a few moments ago. Had they occurred to me earlier I would have looked up the relevant statutes and satisfied myself about the matters.

Will the Minister say whether it is intended that this Bill envisages the recruitment of women already married, if any discretion is proposed to remain with the Army authorities whether to accept or reject a married woman on the basis of, for example, her family responsibilities and, if so, what will be the lines of the criteria on which this discretion will be exercised?

I should like the Minister to tell the House if it is the intention of the Army to provide housing if it should prove necessary not only for the married woman soldier but for her husband and children? In the case of the couples who may not have been able to obtain housing in the ordinary way, there might be a route to being housed not by the local authority but by the Department of Defence through the woman enlisting in the Women's Corps—although I cannot imagine that there would be a rush to do this. No doubt all of these matters have been thrashed out by the Department but I should be glad for my own information, and perhaps other Deputies may also be interested, to hear the Minister's comments on these matters.

I welcome this Defence (Amendment) Bill with great enthusiasm. I am very happy to see that we are leading the way to end discrimination against women in this area. For far too long women in Ireland have been discriminated against in job opportunity, employment and equality.

This Bill shows that at last we are being serious about the enactment of the Employment Equality Act, 1977. Young women will be more than enthusiastic about this Bill. Earlier in the year numerous women put inquiries to me about this matter and I know that they are waiting for this Bill to be passed so that they may avail of the opportunity of enlisting. I am absolutely sure that the Minister will not discriminate against women who enlist in the Army. Deputy Kelly raised the question of married women joining the Army and I hope the Minister includes them also. However, I should not like to see a married woman join the Army just to get living accommodation. That would be very wrong and I would not recommend it.

When women who join the Army decide to marry and have families, I hope that they will be facilitated by the provision of nurseries for their children. This was not mentioned by the Minister when he spoke about the living accommodation that might possibly be built or renovated. I hope the Minister will make provision for such facilities so that eventually women may leave their children in day nurseries. This would be very important.

Deputy Creed horrified me. I hope he was not serious when he spoke of the women in the Army doing the cooking and the cleaning. In no way would that be equality for women. In any event, men are quite good at cooking; some of them are much better than women at cooking and they should be allowed to do the job. If women specifically say that they would like careers as cooks they should be accommodated but they should not be pushed into the job. That is not what this Bill is about. It is about equality of opportunity, work, pay and equality of human beings, of men and women. This is essential for the good of the country.

For far too long women have been discriminated against. Human dignity, the welfare of the family and society must involve the participation of women in all aspects of work and employment. The full and complete development of a country, the welfare of the world and the cause of peace requires maximum participation of women as well as of men in all areas. There is no better place to achieve that than in the Defence Forces. Nowadays women are as strong as men. They do physical education at school and they are able to compete in sports on an equal footing with men. They are becoming more and more competent in every area where up to now men had the edge in areas that were regarded as a man's world. This is beginning to change but there is still much discrimination. This Bill will go a long way towards giving the women of Ireland a feeling that they are regarded as equal to men. The recruitment of women into the Ban-Gharda and in other sectors has worked well.

As a previous speaker mentioned, I too hope that women in the Army will be allowed to pursue third-level education. This is very important but I do not think the Minister said anything about it in his opening remarks. He said the women will have the same opportunities as the men and that they will be regarded as equal from the point of view of pay and in every other way. I hope this will extend to education.

I read recently that when women did an AnCO course in painting and decorating—what could have been regarded as a man's job in the past—they came first and second. This shows that even in what was allegedly regarded as a man's world women very often come out best. I hope that the women in the Defence Forces will show that they are as good as the men. They should be given an opportunity to go overseas. This is a great enticement to people to join the Defence Forces. Many men join the Army just to see a bit of the world. I hope the women will be given the opportunity to do the same.

I should like to compliment the Minister on the wonderful advertisements on television for the recruitment of men into the Army. They are glamorous, encouraging and enticing and they give the feeling that Army life is wonderful. I must admit they fascinate me. If I were not a Member of this House I would almost join the Army myself and perhaps if I lose my seat at any time I will do that if I am eligible. I hope that when the Minister is inserting advertisements to encourage women they will be as colourful and as good as the advertisements used to encourage men. No doubt the Minister will find that when women join the Army they will be quite capable of doing the job and I am sure they will all be very successful in their undertakings in the Army.

I will not delay the House too long. Any Bill to remove discrimination between the sexes is welcome. The Minister for Defence among all his colleagues has the best record in this regard. He is one of the few members of the present Government who has consistently supported the cause of equality between the sexes. This Bill manifests the Minister's personal commitment to the removal of discrimination as far as is possible. As far as I understand it, this Bill is being imposed on the military who oppose the introduction of women to the Army, so the Minister deserves all the more praise for seeing to it that his political will to remove discrimination where possible prevails over the convenience of the military. However, we should not minimise the inconveniences that will arise if a large number of women come into the Army. More facilities will have to be provided for an Army which is already short of the necessary facilities. These shortages can no longer be used as an excuse to delay the removal of discrimination against women in every sphere of life.

The move towards removing discrimination should not be misunderstood as a move to remove the differentials between the sexes. Deputy Lemass was quite wrong in saying that women are as strong as men. They cannot compete equally with men in certain sports. The physical differences between men and women must be taken into account. I do not advocate that there should be specific categories of jobs for women in the Army but it is clear that there are roles in the Army which we could not reasonably expect to be filled by women. We must recognise the differences while doing away with inequalities and this should be borne in mind when we are debating other Bills in relation to equality. Discrimination should not be confused with differentiation.

The introduction of women into the Army will greatly improve it and I hope that there is a response from the women so as to fulfil the aims of the Minister. There is a very important place for women in the Army just as there is in other aspects of national life. Sharing a constituency and a place on the Dublin Corporation with Deputy Lemass, as I do, I know that women bring a certain quality, a certain practicality into the business in which they are interested, which men do not. Women have a more practical approach generally and I hope that the Army will benefit from this practicality and other undoubted qualities which are distinctly feminine.

I should like the Minister when replying to tell us what problems he foresees in the recruitment of women in the short term. I hope that in six or eight months' time the Minister will not answer questions in this House by saying "We intended to recruit women but we cannot do so because we have not the facilities". What target is the Minister setting in relation to the numbers to be recruited and the time for recruitment? I wish the House and the people to be clear on what this Bill is doing. It would be terribly wrong to raise the expectations of women, particularly students now contemplating a career, by telling them that there is a career in the Army if there is not. I wish the Minister to assure us that there is a worth-while career for women in the Army and that they will be able to get to the top in this Army as they do in other armies.

Will the Minister tell us what aspects of Army work will be prohibited for women and what posts they cannot expect to be appointed to? What sort of work will they be excused from and why? There was a case recently in England which has become known as the "hair-do" case where women were exempted from certain work in a nuclear power station purely because their hairdo's would have been upset if they did this dirty shift. These women were being paid more or less the same as men for otherwise similar work. In the interests of equality I would like the Minister to tell me that there will be no exemptions from certain work for either men or women just because the work is dirty or traditionally male or female work. Naturally, there will be legitimate areas where it would be unreasonable and unfair to expect women to operate. That should not be construed as discrimination but as a proper differentiation in relation to the different abilities of the sexes.

I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Minister on his political will and on the direction of this Bill.

Like the rest of the Deputies, I will be brief. Having being unable to listen to the Minister I hope I shall not ask questions he has already answered. I am really interested in only one aspect of this and that is the way in which it will be possible to introduce women into an Army whose function really is to spend their lives learning how to kill other men cleverly. I think we must disagree with Deputy Lemass; I do not think we will get that kind of equality—I do not know if she wants it—that is, the right to be become combatant within the Army. I would not want it for them; I do not even want it for men. I hope it will not be taken as some kind of chauvinism to say that. I am glad to hear that the women will not be combatant.

I have little experience of these matters myself except in the Local Security Force many years ago and I should like to know how one makes certain that women will not be involved on the combatant side. If one has a small corps, a women's service corps, it clearly means they are not getting equality because they will only get the opportunity for promotion within that small corps. On the other hand, if they are to be seconded to different sectors of the Army it will be on the administrative side, in telecommunications, clerical and recreational duties, truck driving and ambulance driving and all types of jobs which are the components of the fighting unit. What is their position in that sort of dilemma? Suppose they are in the Lebanon with a combatant patrol driving trucks, jeeps or ambulances? Will they be unarmed? Will they have the same status as nurses and doctors in the Army? Is the Minister happy that they should find themselves in this type of situation where they will be shot at? Attempts will be made to kill them presumably if they are working in a supportive role in a fighting unit. In the process of the fighting unit discharging its function of killing other people as cleverly as it can and the Women's Corps members are acting in telecommunications, passing orders and so on, one cannot expect they will not be shot at and perhaps be wounded and killed. They are not able to fire back; apparently we do not want them as combatants. How does one deal with that situation?

Or, are they not going to the front line? If that is so, I do not think we will achieve what Deputy Lemass suggests, total equality within the service. They will be restricted to headquarters staff duties, office work and catering and all kinds of participation in the component sections of the Army service. If they are to be restricted to a corps which will do duties which will relieve men to become combatants, what is the line between combatant responsibility and non-combatant responsibility? Do they go into action at all? If they do, are they armed and as regards prisoner of war status—it could easily happen—what is their position in relation to the Geneva convention. Have they exactly the same status as any other combatant in the Defence Forces?

I am not a great lover of any kind of army. Fortunately, ours happens to be a defensive and not an imperialist force, a force we maintain for our own defence; and in its assistance to the United Nations it has done very fine work of which we are all proud. If we must engage in discussion of the extension of women's role into Army service I should like to be sure that we have given thought to what the final implication could be for women who join the Army. Leaving aside the colourful advertisements, which are always attractive and are obviously light years removed from what goes in wartime, I should like to be sure that the girls who join the forces will not feel that they are on the way to Moscow for the Olympics and that they might in fact find themselves in the desert being shelled by combatants in the Lebanon or in the Congo or in any of the dreadful fighting where our troops were involved and where they distinguished themselves. It would be misleading to women to recruit them into an Army whose job essentially is defending its country and which has to fight and kill or, even if it means the other position of joining a United Nations peace keeping force, it could be treated by people who do not accept that role for it as simply a number of human beings who have to be shot, wounded and killed as quickly as possible. What is the women's position in such a situation?

Before the Minister comes in, may I clarify an erroneous impression that has been created?

Very briefly. The Deputy has already spoken.

In case Deputy Lemass should remain horrified, I did not say that the Women's Corps should be recruited to do kitchen work or cooking. I mentioned a number of duties for which I felt they were more competent than or equally competent with men such as intelligence duties.

I thank all the Deputies who have spoken. All of them have supported the Bill and I am grateful for that and I am also grateful to each of the political parties for their support in relation to this proposal. Some questions have been raised in the debate and I shall attempt to give some information in reply to them. At the outset, I should like to emphasise—and I ask Deputies to bear it in mind at all times when dealing with this change in the structure of the Defence Forces—that it is not the intention that women would be recruited to undertake female orientated tasks. I must continue to stress that point. In the discussion it did appear in regard to some Deputies—I think Deputy Creed will see this when he reads the record—that the impression he created was that he thinks some of the tasks that are at present being performed by men are a waste of the men's time and that it would be better if these tasks were performed by women. He listed a series of such tasks—housekeeping, waiting, orderly work, office work, cooking and canteen work and so on. I ask him to break out of the mould in which he seems to be gripped, that women can only perform such types of tasks. It is my firm intention to integrate women into the Irish Army as far as practicable. Their training will be akin to the training courses already laid down for men enlisting as recruits and cadets. As far as practicable, I intend to follow courses that have been tried and have already succeeded in bringing our soldiers to a degree of perfection in their profession.

I was greatly disturbed by a lot of the comments of Deputy Creed because the impression he gave was that pay, food and accommodation were bad in the Defence Forces. That is not true and it does not help a recruiting campaign to have a spokesman for a political party conveying the wrong impression about conditions. I am not saying that everything is perfect within the Defence Forces or that there is not room for improvement but we must be fair and just in our comments. The rates of pay in the Army have been improved substantially in the past two years and they compare favourably with remuneration in outside employment.

What about overtime?

Work is going on to improve quarters in the various Army barracks. I hope Deputy Creed will avail of an invitation which was extended to his predecessor, Deputy White, when he was spokesman on Defence for his party, to visit some of the barracks to see the conditions that exist in them. To say that the food is bad is a terrible indictment of the Defence Forces, particularly when it is not true. The daily menu put up for the men in any barracks is first class. A wide choice of wellcooked food is available and the best possible conditions exist in the canteens. Deputy Creed's image of the Army is one which he recollects from the dim and distant past and is not a true reflection of the conditions available for our men in today's Army.

One could spend quite a long time setting out the role of women in the Army, the posts they will fill and the conditions that will apply to the jobs they will undertake and the methods of training but I did not want to delay the House giving such details. I should like to inform Deputy Creed that great care has been taken to provide for all known eventualities before women are accepted into the Defence Forces. Preparations have been made for their accommodation, uniform, and the tasks they will be asked to undertake. There is no question of this having been approached in a lackadaisical manner. I should like to give the House an idea of the number it is proposed to recruit and the type of employment they will be engaged in. Members of the Women's Service Corps will normally be employed in existing appointments of a suitable nature in various units or formations. In other words a lot of positions that will be filled by women already exist in the Defence Forces. In some cases those positions are already occupied by men and it is the intention that some of those will be occupied by women members later.

Initially, employment locations will include Army Headquarters, command headquarters and similar places throughout the country. In a number of barracks in each command area posts will be allocated for members of the Women's Service Corps. As I stated earlier, women will not have a combatant role and will not be employed on duties of a security operational nature under arms, that should answer the query posed by Deputy Browne with regard to the role of women and the possibility of them being involved in dangerous situations. Deputy Mitchell asked me to outline the tasks that women would not be involved in. Globally it can be stated that duties of a security operational nature which are at present performed by men under arms will not be performed by women. However, the women will be given training in the use of small arms such as pistols, rifles or submachine guns. To avoid disruption and possible resentment in the case of male members of the PDF it is desirable that the employment of women be phased in on a gradual basis. Deputy Mitchell was anxious to know if he would be in order in asking in six months' time if the 270 women it is proposed to take on had been recruited. Recruitment will take time and it will be a question of phasing them in. Initially, it is proposed to appoint two officers who, after a short period of training, will be responsible for the training of female cadets and recruits.

Will the women carry small arms?

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——

I was not. I apologise.

——when I mentioned that it was envisaged that married women would be able to enlist in the Defence Forces. As regard cadets, the same rule would apply to women as already applies in the case of cadets, that those awarded cadetships cannot be married, but there is no bar to married women being enlisted in the permanent force as ordinary recruits. Then he raised the question whether, because of their membership of the Defence Forces, and because they have a husband and children they would qualify for housing. All I can say in answer to that is that they would qualify in the same way as any other member of the Defence Forces. Only a very limited number of married quarters are available, at any rate at present, and the system of allocating married quarters need not necessarily be changed to any great extent because of the introduction of women. It would be a matter in each case for the commanding officer to decide from the applicants and from whatever married quarters became vacant to whom he should allocate them. There would be no bar on him giving them to a married soldier who would be bringing in her own family.

On the question of overseas duty, again there would not be any regulations debarring women from participating in UN peace-keeping missions. It has not been the practice for the UN to have female soldiers serving with UN missions except in a back-up role, but I would not see any great obstacle to it. It raises the question, that Deputy Browne referred to in regard to our troops coming under fire in certain circumstances, what would be the position of a woman if she was a driver and was in an area where she happened to come under fire. She would be in exactly the same position as her colleagues; she would have to take the best precautions that she could. She would not be in a combat role so obviously she would not be armed, but if she was travelling in a dangerous area obviously she would not be travelling on her own. I am sure that her commanding officer would ensure that proper military tactics were applied in assigning tasks in an area where there was difficulty or a danger of the troops coming under attack from whatever source.

Deputy Mitchell said that the Bill was being opposed by the Army. That is not fair to a body of men who have given very loyal service to this State since its foundation and who have responded readily to the calls that have been made upon them by successive Governments. In whatever situations, we have been served loyally by the men serving in the Defence Forces, by the Officer Corps and by the many hundreds of thousands of men who have been soldiers in the Irish Army. To imply in a Dáil debate that this wonderful body of men in some way are kicking over the traces against a major change at this time and that they are battling against it, is to create a very strong impression and to state an untruth. I must put on record here the very great degree of co-operation which has been forthcoming to me as Minister in bringing forward this new proposal. Naturally it is a change. It is a radical change as far as many of the members of the Forces who have served loyally for most of their lifetime in the Army are concerned. They are being asked to work in an environment which naturally will be changed substantially. They have accepted the proposal very readily and have done everything possible to facilitate the introduction of women into the Army. The truth is that there is a great expectation of the day when the first lady to don an Irish Army uniform will parade in an Army barrack area. There will be a great welcome from her male colleagues. It is completely wrong to state other than that. This is not the first time that Deputy Mitchell has tried to create the impression that this move is being done against the will of the Army, whatever that is. I have always found that the Army has supported fully the Government of the day and the policies of the Government of the day in regard to matters that came into the sphere of responsibility of the Army, and this is one such matter where they have been very helpful.

Deputy Mitchell asked what problems I saw in the short term in regard to recruiting. In view of the response I feel that there will not be any great problem. If there is, it is unforeseen at this stage and I cannot give any clear answer to the Deputy's question other than that the interest that has been shown has been quite astonishing. I expect that the establishment figure that has been laid down will be filled easily.

I have dealt with most of the types of question that have come up without going into too much detail, which one is tempted to do in a situation like this. I hope that I have given the House some indication of my sincerity in regard to this matter and my determination to have it done in as efficient a manner as possible and particularly to ensure that equality is a factor in all decisions that will be made when women are side by side with men in the Defence Forces. I have had an opportunity of seeing women members of other armies and have had a briefing on the type of training programmes that have been undertaken for women in cadet colleges which traditionally had been male. The instructors and training officers there told me of the very high standard achieved by the women in these courses. In many cases they had far surpassed their male colleagues. Therefore, I am in no way daunted or in doubt about the ability of the women to perform to the very highest degree of excellence in a military role.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the next Stage?

Would the Minister leave it for the moment? I would like to examine it in detail before Committee Stage. Surely a week or two is not going to make much difference.

I am asking Deputy Creed if at all possible to agree to let us have the Bill now. It is a very short Bill. It does not change the Defence legislation substantially in any way. It merely makes a provision for females in legislation which was designed solely for males. The changes in the legislation are purely mechanical.

All right.

Agreed to take remaining Stages today.

Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment and passed.