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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 16 Jun 1983

Vol. 343 No. 8

Estimates, 1983. - Vote 43: Defence.

I move:

That a sum not exceeding £200,638,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1983, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Defence, including certain services administered by that Office; for the pay and expenses of the Defence Forces; and for payment of certain grants-in-aid.

The Defence Estimate for the year ending 31 December 1983 is for a net sum of £200,638,000 of which £160,481,000, or 80 per cent, provides for pay and allowances. An additional sum of £1,898,000 will be provided from the Vote for remuneration to cover the cost of the arrears of the final phase of the Agreement on Pay in the Public Service. The Estimate is based on an average strength of 1,519 officers, 104 cadets and 12,800 other ranks, a total of 14,423 in the Permanent Defence Forces.

The net out-turn for 1982 came to £208,651,000, which includes £7,084,000 charged to the Vote for remuneration. The gross provision in the Estimate, at £222,438,000, represents an increase of 2 per cent on the 1982 out-turn and includes £61,957,000 for non-pay items. Allowing for increased appropriations-in-aid, offset to some extent by increased provision for pay and allowances, the net provision of £200,638,000 for 1983 is 4 per cent less than the 1982 out-turn figure of £208,651,000.

The gross Estimate of £222.438 million includes in round terms an Army provision of £172 million, a Naval Service provision of £25 million and an Air Corps provision of £15 million. The provision for Civil Defence is £1.365 million.

Deputies will be aware of the demands made on officers and men of the Defence Forces. While the primary role of the Defence Forces is to defend the State against external aggression their main preoccupation during the past 12 months has continued to be with internal security matters. The Garda Síochána have primary responsibility for such matters and the involvement of the Defence Forces in this field derives from their role of rendering aid to the civil power. The deployment of Army personnel and resources in this capacity in Border areas continues to be necessary and the current security situation makes it necessary for the Army to participate in a wide variety of difficult and dangerous activities. Some details of these activities in 1982 are as follows:

—Over 21,000 military parties were supplied in Border areas for checkpoint duties and over 17,000 joint Garda/Army checkpoints were set up;

—more than 11,000 patrols were sent out into the road network along the Border;

—escorts for explosives and blasting operations were provided on over 1,200 occasions;

—about 150 requests for bomb disposal teams were handled.

In addition certain vital non-military installations are protected either by permanent military guards or by military patrols. The Army also provide guards and escorts for civilian prisoners and movement of cash and help in searches for arms, ammunition and explosives. These duties place a heavy burden on the Defence Forces and also on the Garda Síochána. I would like to pay tribute to all members of the Defence Forces, and to the Garda Síochána, for the excellent manner in which they have carried out their allotted tasks.

As Deputies will be aware, military custody of civilian prisoners has come to an end. The few civilian prisoners remaining in the Military Detention Barracks in the Curragh were transferred to civil prisons last month. This will, I am sure, be welcomed by Deputies on all sides of the House.

Aside from the normal security duties, assistance to the community at large is provided in a variety of ways. For example, during 1982 76 search and rescue missions were undertaken by Air Corps aircraft and a total of 180 air ambulance missions were flown conveying seriously ill patients to hospital. Procedures are established whereby local authorities and health boards may call on the Defence Forces in situations involving major accidents, blizzards, fire, flooding, spillage of dangerous substances, and so on. Work on a review and up-dating of these procedures is currently proceeding.

Assistance has also been given on occasions to maintain essential supplies and services during industrial disputes involving public transport, refuse collection, fire fighting, petrol and oil deliveries, water and sewerage. All of these activities make very heavy and continuous demands on the manpower and resources of the Defence Forces. On the occasion of the annual debate on the Defence Estimate it is I suggest only right that we should acknowledge and pay tribute to the splendid manner in which the Defence Forces discharge the many duties they are called upon to undertake. They do so unobtrusively and effectively and whenever required to cope with a particular situation they respond quickly and competently. It is clear that the Defence Forces are held in high esteem and deservedly so on their performance.

The pay and conditions of service generally of members of the Defence Forces continue to be maintained at a high standard. The Government are concerned to ensure that the remuneration of the Defence Force keeps step with that of other sectors of the Public Service. The pay of a recruit is now £100.98 a week, rising after about 14 weeks' basic training to £117.47. On advancement to Private 3 Star gross pay rises to £121.22 while, after three years' service, the gross pay of a Private is over £132. The second instalment of arrears due under the third phase of the Agreement on Pay in the Public Sector has been paid to other ranks personnel. This instalment will be paid to officers in their "end of June" pay cheques.

In addition special allowances are payable to officers and men who perform duties of a security nature. The current rates of allowance for service in the Border area are £15.40 per week for officers and £13.30 per week for men. Personnel involved in security duties such as duties in aid of the civil power and guard duties on vital installations are paid an allowance at the rate of £6.50 for any such duties undertaken on weekdays and at the rate of £13 for duties undertaken on a Sunday or Army holiday. The overseas allowances payable to personnel on service with the United Nations were quite generous when first granted but have been eroded by inflation. I would like to see them and indeed all allowances revised but the present financial climate is distinctly unhelpful. This matter will, however, be kept under review.

The current strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 14,000 officers and men is considered the minimum adequate for the tasks in hand. Early last year, after the strength of the Permanent Defence Force had reached its highest level since the demobilisation in 1946, general recruitment was suspended. This step was due mainly to the necessity to maintain strict financial controls because of the need to curb public expenditure. The question of resuming limited recruitment to replace normal wastage has been kept under review in the interval and I am pleased to say that it is proposed in the near future to recruit 330 personnel to make up this wastage within the numerical limit of 12,800. In addition 100 apprentices and 46 cadets will be enlisted later in the year. It is intended that the recruits will be allocated to units in the Eastern and Curragh Commands where the operational strength of certain units has fallen seriously.

There are about 2,000 civilians employed with the Defence Forces. They are generally employed by my Department to do work for the Forces for a lot of which it would either be inappropriate or uneconomic to employ soldiers who are trained for specific military duties.

This year as part of the Government's programme for achieving reductions in the level of public expenditure, it has been necessary to reduce annual training by seven days for members of the Reserve of Officers (First Line), the Reserve of Men (First Line), An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil and An Slua Muirí. Notwithstanding the reduced period of annual training I have decided that the gratuity payable to qualified members of the Reserve Defence Force who complete the maximum permissible period in 1983 will be at the full rates and not at the reduced rates which would normally apply in respect of attendance for training for the shorter period.

As announced by my Department some time ago, it has been necessary to suspend recruitment to An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil and An Slua Muirí. The strength of both these elements, however, remains at a high level. At the end of last December the strength of the FCA was 20,800 and of An Slua Muirí was 425. These measures in relation to the Reserve Forces were forced upon the Government because of the urgent requirement to reduce public expenditure this year. The fact that it was necessary to do those things should not cloud in any way the value of the Reserve Defence Force as a whole or its potential — as the largest component of the Defence Forces — in regard to the defence of the country. It would be my wish that normal training and recruitment should be resumed immediately resources permit and the position in that regard is being kept under constant review.

Deputies will be aware that the Permanent Defence Force is making a significant contribution in the cause of international peace by way of participation in a number of United Nations peace-keeping missions. This participation commenced 25 years ago in June 1958 when Ireland first sent officers to act as observers in Lebanon. Since that time thousands of Irish personnel have seen service in the cause of peace in many parts of the world. We have at present an Irish contingent of about 750 all ranks serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. This force is commanded by an Irish Officer, Lieutenant-General William Callaghan. We have also an Irish contingent of eight personnel serving in staff appointments with the United Nations Force in Cyprus and 21 Irish officers serving as observers with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation in the Middle East.

During the course of a recent visit to Lebanon, I was able to gain a substantial appreciation of the significant contribution that the Irish contingent is making in the cause of peace in that country. I am very impressed by the selfless and conscientious efforts of our troops on these missions. They have a heavy incidence of duty and have to work in terrain that is difficult and in circumstances which can at times be hazardous. We must all be mindful that a number of Irish personnel have paid the supreme sacrifice in the cause of peace in the Middle East. Others have suffered injury, indignity and hardship. Their consolation is the high esteem in which they are held by the local population who see them as friends and benevolent protectors and who are worried that an altered mandate might see a withdrawal. I have recently received a letter from the community leaders in the Irish Battalion area asking that the Government use their influence to ensure a continuance of United Nations presence.

I am proud to say that the contribution of these troops to United Nations peace-keeping efforts is well recognised internationally and was highly praised by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Perez de Cuellar, in the course of his recent visit to Ireland. Our officers and men are a credit to the Defence Forces and to Ireland.

It is incumbent on us to support in every possible way the efforts of the Secretary-General towards finding the basis for a settlement in the Middle East which would lead to a lasting peace. We must continue to hope that it will not be long before these efforts find some fruitful response.

The overall effectiveness and efficiency of the Permanent Defence Force can only be maintained by a high level of training and education for all Army personnel. All personnel undergo constant training within their own corps or service and jointly with units of other corps or services. In addition, so that the level of knowledge and expertise may be kept in line with modern developments in other armies, and to provide for the efficient maintenance and operation of the many sophisticated equipments in use in the Defence Forces, it is the practice to assign a number of personnel to courses of training in foreign military establishments. It is anticipated that such courses will be undertaken in Britain, Holland and France during 1983.

A scheme exists whereby personnel are registered with AnCO as apprentices in various trades such as fitter, motor mechanic, sheet metal worker, bricklayer, plasterer and painter/decorator. These personnel attend either fulltime off-the-job training courses, day-release courses, or block release courses.

During 1982 a total of 91 officers attended full-time courses at third level educational institutions. The practice of assigning officers to such courses will be continued in 1983.

Competitions for the award of cadetships in the Army, Air Corps and Executive Branch of the Naval Service were conducted in 1982 and some 60 cadetships were awarded. These cadets commenced training in November 1982.

Arrangements have been made to train Executive Branch cadets of the Naval Service in Ireland in future. Their training will be undertaken initially at the Cadet School in the Curragh but mainly at the naval base and on board Naval Service vessels. A number of instructors are provided by Cork Regional Technical College on a part-time basis. Ten officers have been commissioned to date under a cadet scheme which was introduced in 1978 for the purpose of providing the Naval Service with qualified marine engineer officers. Four of these officers completed a course of training abroad late last year. It is expected that they will be qualified marine engineer officers by 1986. The remaining six officers will undergo a course of training abroad later this year and they will complete their training on return to this country. In addition, under the scheme five engineering cadets are currently undergoing training in Cork Regional Technical College and these will be commissioned this year.

Further competitions for the award of cadetships in the Army, the Air Corps and Naval Service will be held this year.

The competitions for 28 Army, eight Air Corps and four Naval Service Executive Branch cadetships will be advertised shortly. The number of Army cadetships to be awarded in 1983 is lower than the norm for recent years. Because of this and the necessity, in times of scarce resources, to concentrate on building-up the operational strength of the Defence Forces, the competition will, regretfully, have to be confined to male applicants.

A separate competition will be held this year for the award of six cadetships in the Equitation School and will take place at the same time as the other competitions. The purpose of the competition, which is a new one, is to effect an improvement in the number of satisfactory riders available to the Equitation School. It is a special scheme and its principal features are:

(i) the competition includes a riding test and applicants are expected to have some experience of, and have competed in, equestrian events;

(ii) the educational requirements are not as high as normally required for Army cadetships;

(iii) those successful will undergo a one-year course at the Cadet School; following which

(iv) they will be commissioned as Second-Lieutenants for a three year period;

(v) if suitable and willing, they may be appointed to commissioned rank without limitation as to time on completion of the three years as officers;

(vi) they will be paid a special gratuity on completion of their three years commissioned service.

This competition will be open to male and female applicants.

Twenty-four non-commisioned officers were commissioned in October 1982 after completing a potential officers' course.

The non-pay provisions for this year are just under £62 million gross. These provisions have been set at the levels necessary to maintain Defence Force capabilities and to meet commitments already entered into.

Contracts for five twin-engined helicopters were signed last December with the French aircraft manufacturer, Aerospatiale. The model ordered is a Dauphin 2, which will accommodate up to ten persons, including the crew. The aircraft has a fast cruise speed of over 150 knots and an endurance of about 4½ hours. The helicopters will have a rescue hoist and radar equipment capable of detecting small craft in rough seas. The helicopters will also have an electronic flight instrument system and will be able to fly at night and in conditions of reduced visibility.

Two of the helicopters are due for delivery at the end of 1984. These two helicopters will be used in conjunction with the new patrol vessel for the Naval Service. That vessel, which is at present under construction at Verolme Cork Dockyard will be fitted with a deck and hangar suitable for the operation of a helicopter. The EEC will be contributing to the cost of the vessel and the helicopters.

The other three helicopters are being acquired to replace three Alouette helicopters also manufactured by Aerospatiale which are now 20 years old and which have given sterling service over the years. One is due for delivery in 1985 and the other two in 1986. The replacement helicopters are intended mainly for search and rescue, air ambulance and transport missions. No payments in respect of the contracts for these helicopters fall due in 1983.

Provision is also made for a stage payment for a new radar system for Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel. This system was ordered last year as part of a programme to modernise the aerodrome facilities at Baldonnel and is due to come into operation in 1984. It will assist landing in conditions of reduced visibility.

The provision in the Estimate for buildings which includes new works, repairs, renewals and maintenance is £5,621,000 against an out-turn last year of £5,400,000. Included in the provision is a sum of £3.5 million for new building works to improve accommodation and facilities for the Defence Forces.

Improved accommodation for the single soldier continues to receive attention. New billets with central heating have been built in recent years at the Curragh Camp, Finner Camp, Dundalk Barracks, Gormanston Camp, Renmore Barracks, Galway; Fermoy and the Naval Base, Haulbowline. At Casement Aerodrome a modern well equipped technical stores has recently been completed and work is at an advanced stage on a major extension to the apprentices' hostel. Both of these buildings will be heated from a new central boiler using natural gas. Tenders have recently been invited for major new works including a brigade headquarters and officers' mess at Gormanston Camp. Further works at Casement Aerodrome and at Gormanston Camp to meet the needs of the Air Corps are planned.

The continuing development of the Naval Service will also require additional buildings and facilities. Since the necessary space is not available on Haulbowline, it is planned to provide these buildings and facilities on Spike Island and certain works there have already commenced. Site investigations in the area between Spike Island and Haulbowline have been carried out to provide certain information required for the design of a bridge between the two locations. However, the actual work of building will have to wait the availability of the necessary resources.

Significant works completed in the last year included new cookhouses and dining halls at Kickham Barracks, Clonmel, and at Finner Camp, a new building for motor transport classes at the Apprentice School, Devoy Barracks, Naas, a new vehicle servicing area at Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin, and a new FCA headquarters at Portlaoise. The modernisation of the swimming pool at the Curragh Camp has also been finished and the new Army sports pavilion at the Phoenix Park will shortly be ready for use. In Collins Barracks, Dublin, billets are being converted to cubicles and central heating is being installed. Billets are also being converted to cubicles at McKee Barracks, Dublin, and are to be so converted at Custume Barracks, Athlone. Improved sanitary and ablution facilities for single soldiers are being provided at Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin; Casement Aerodrome; Kickham Barracks, Clonmel; and McDonagh Barracks, Curragh Camp. Amongst the other works in hand are the modernisation of men's canteens at McKee Barracks, Dublin; Custume Barracks, Athlone; and McGee Barracks, Kildare, and improvements to the men's cookhouse at Collins Barracks, Dublin.

It is customary in this context to refer to the position regarding married quarters for the Defence Forces. Over the years some 346 new married quarters have been provided at various locations but a considerable number of the old type married quarters—more than 550—still remain. It is very easy to subscribe to the proposition that these old quarters should be replaced and that this should be done with all speed. I would, however, question whether soldiers should be housed by the Department of Defence as a special group rather than be treated as citizens in the normal way and be provided with houses in the same fashion as other members of the community.

Over the years the line adopted by my Department has been that the provision of housing is primarily a matter for the local authorities and that married soldiers have an equal claim on such housing with other members of the community in the same income category. The Department's policy has been stated as being that of supplementing the efforts of local authorities where soldiers' housing needs are greatest. The system, however, under which married quarters are allocated at present leads inevitably to the problem of overholding of such quarters — a situation which arises when, on termination of military service, for example, the occupant of married quarters continues, with his family, in irregular occupation of quarters. At present some 110 married quarters are overheld — many of them for several years past. The problem is most acute at the Curragh where 60 quarters are overheld. The number in Dublin is about 30 while in Southern Command the figure is 17. There are four quarters overheld in Western Command.

Overholding is an inevitable consequence of the system under which the occupants of the quarters are expected to surrender possession within a matter of weeks of the termination of service. Through the co-operation of the local authorities much has been done over the years to alleviate the problem by the provision of local authority housing for over-holders. The overholding problem is still a substantial one, but one which I consider must be looked at in the whole context of whether the present system of providing houses specifically for soldiers should continue. I would welcome the views of the House on the matter.

The Equitation School had an extremely successful year in 1982. Army riders and horses competed in 18 international shows and won 12 first places and nine second places, 13 third places and 13 fourth places. Total prize money came to approximately £36,000. At this stage I would like to mention the achievement of Captain Mullins in finishing fourth in the World Showjumping Championships in Dublin in June 1982. This was a highly commendable performance in a competition involving the best riders in the world. Also, Army riders competed at a considerable number of provincial horse shows and gymkhanas, achieving a total of 154 places with winnings in excess of £12,000.

One of the constituent elements in the make up of the Defence Estimate for 1983 is the provision of £1,365,000 in Subhead G for civil defence. Central to the organisation of the civil defence service is the ideal of voluntary service and in practice we rely heavily on the volunteer component of the organisation. Not only are the volunteers in civil defence on call when the occasion arises but they also give freely of their own time in training to acquire and maintain skills in fire fighting, rescue techniques, casualty treatment, welfare and, most importantly, the ability to measure and monitor radio activity from nuclear sources. Civic-minded people such as these are deserving of the highest praise and the State and the community stand indebted to them.

The bulk of the provision will be used on grant-aiding training, equipment maintenance and administration expenditure by local authorities but there will also be sufficient to finance this year's outgoings in the Department's programme to replace their entire Civil Defence stock of radiation monitoring equipment by the end of the first quarter of 1984. The contract under which this supply has been secured was placed with an Irish firm last December, and, I am glad to say, provides for the manufacture of the equipment in Ireland. I am also glad to say that it is hoped to begin the introduction of improvements in the style of the Civil Defence uniform in the last quarter of 1983.

In spite of a less substantial allocation than I would wish, I hope to accelerate progress in this important area of our national defence. At a very low cost much has been achieved but undoubtedly there is scope still to strengthen the organisation and promote recognition of the fact that an efficient Civil Defence is vital in wartime and extremely valuable in peacetime.

Before I conclude on Civil Defence I wish also to express my appreciation of the Irish Red Cross Society, the Order of Malta and the St. John's Ambulance Brigade, whose ready co-operation with Civil Defence is very welcome.

The sail training vessel Asgard II completed her full programme of cruises planned for 1982, covering a total distance of over 9,000 miles of which about 4,000 were entirely under sail. Almost 500 people, including about 250 boys and over 100 girls, participated in the cruises and there were about 200 other young people who applied to go on cruises but unfortunately could not be accommodated.

The highlight of the 1982 season was the international race of sail training vessels in which Asgard II participated in August. She first sailed from Cork to Brest and from there through the Bay of Biscay to Lisbon where the international “fleet” of sail training vessels assembled, including several large square riggers from North and South America. After a few days at Lisbon the entire fleet took part in a cruise-in-company to Vigo in Northern Spain. This provided an opportunity for the young trainees to spend some days on vessels from other countries, while young people from Poland, Germany, Holland and Britain sailed on Asgard II. The Cutty Sark Tall Ships Race from Vigo to Southampton started on 14 August 1982. Asgard participated and did well in finishing second in the smaller square rigger class.

A full programme of cruises on Asgard II is planned for 1983. Once again some of the cruises will include visits to ports abroad. Passages will be made through the Kiel Canal in Germany — when the vessel visits the Baltic — and through the Caledonian Canal in Scotland in the course of the return journey. Asgard II will also take part in an international tall ships race from Weymouth to St. Malo in August.

And now I turn to the Army Pensions Estimate for the year ending 31 December 1983, which is for a net sum of £34,502,000. This includes a total of £729,000 to cover increases in pensions and allowances from 1 July 1983 in accordance with the principle of maintaining parity in public service pensions.

The net out-turn for 1982, which includes a sum of £1,184,000 charged to the Vote for remuneration, was £30,764,500. The 1983 provision of £34,502,000 is, therefore, an increase of £3,737,500, 12 per cent, compared with the 1982 out-turn. The more significant increases in terms of overall cost occur in subhead C — allowances and gratuities to dependants; subhead E1 — Defence Forces Pensions Schemes; subhead K — Concessions for Veterans of the War of Independence, including free travel, free electricity allowance and free telephone rental, and subhead L which contains provision for funeral grants.

There is also a significant increase in the provision in subhead I — Post Office Services. Ordinarily, the expenditure under this subhead is the cost of postage of the pensions warrants, but on this occasion the Department of Posts and Telegraphs have raised a charge in respect of an additional service which it has rendered for some years past — that of cashing warrants for the Department's pensioners.

A token sum of £10 is provided in subhead J for special compensation payable by way of lump sum to or in respect of members of the Defence Forces killed or wounded while serving with the United Nations or who died or were disabled by disease contracted during that service. It is customary to make provision for a token sum only as it is not possible to estimate the demand on the subhead. Amounts paid, however, are recoverable from the United Nations.

As regards military service pensions, subhead D, and special allowances, subhead G, the numbers involved continue to decrease as death is taking its toll of those who served in the War of Independence. The number of military service pensioners on pay is now fewer than 2,000, representing a reduction of about 250 in the past year. There are now about 4,000 special allowance holders on pay and here, too, there has been a decline — about 500 in the past year. There is, however, a substantial increase in the number of widows, mainly of veterans, for whom provision is made under subhead C, so that the total number of pensioners and allowance holders remains static at just over 20,000.

I have been Minister for Defence for seven months or so and in that time have gained considerable knowledge of, and insight into, the Defence Forces and their affairs. As a result I am in a position to appreciate in a particular way the many fine qualities of the Defence Forces and, in particular, their loyalty and patriotism not merely as abstract concepts but as ideals put into practice as manifested by a willingness to behave in a disciplined way, to discharge their obligations not, as in common nowadays, to the minimum standard necessary but always with the objective of doing the best possible job. It has been a pleasure for me to visit units of the Defence Forces, for I find Army installations to be oases of order and discipline and tidiness in this agitated and untidy world.

Theoretically, the primary role of the Defence Forces is to defend the territory of the State against external aggression, but in practice its role consists of coming to the aid of the civil power in the apparently never ending fight against subversion and terrorism. The general military training which the Defence Forces undergo qualifies them to discharge both their roles.

It is the policy of the Government not to be allied militarily to any particular alliance, and in pursuing this policy they are following the expedient of successive Governments for a long number of years. I use the word "expedient" deliberately because it is quite clear from my survey of our stance in this regard, that though some commentators would see our neutrality as a matter of high principle, the majority of people and the historical evidence would suggest that it is a matter of expediency.

It suits us to be neutral militarily. Our territory is not desired or required as a base by the Western alliance and we are in the happy position that, being ideologically and geographically allied to the Western Block, we can confidently rely on it to protect our territory should any state or combination of states hostile to the Western world threaten it. Our economic, political and cultural interests lie very definitely with the Western world. This is entirely consistent with our historical stance and it is apposite to recall that during the emergency our neutrality was biased in favour of the Allies. Indeed, we are fortunate that we can have the privilege of being militarily neutral with the special status that that can give us, for example, in the United Nations and in the eyes of the Third World countries, while at the same time we can have our economic alliances as a member of the European Economic Community.

At the same time, for the twin reasons of vindicating our sovereignity and of being prepared, alone if necessary, to defend our independence, there is a need for us to maintain our Defence Forces in the most effective manner possible both as regards training and equipment and to ensure that the conditions of service and the morale of the members are kept high. In this regard I am happy to know that there is an ever increasing emphasis on the need for good personnel policy within the Defence Forces, and I am satisfied that attention to this aspect will ensure that full regard will be paid to the individual members as individuals, to their personal and professional needs, and that they in turn will find their careers in the Defence Forces to be satisfying and rewarding.

The Defence Forces do not have, and more importantly do not want, any form of organised representation, and in this situation it is particularly important that the Minister for Defence of the day would remain sensitive to the needs of the Defence Forces and when possible respond as fully and as effectively as possible to those needs. By my contacts, formal and informal, with members of the Defence Forces in all ranks I hope to keep myself informed of those needs and to be able to deliver the appropriate response. While on the opposite benches, on a similar debate some time ago, I indicated some matters that were of concern. I mention those matters to reassure personnel that they have not been forgotten.

I am sure I speak for everyone in the House when I say that the country can be proud and grateful for its Army, Naval Service and Air Corps. I commend these Estimates to the favourable consideration of the House. I look forward to the debate which will ensue and I will be happy to supply any further information that may be requested in the course of it.

(Clare): First of all I should like to take this opportunity to wish the Minister a successful career in the Department of Defence. I omitted to do so the other evening, the first occasion when we were in the House together since his appointment.

Before commenting on the existing structure of the Defence Forces I should like to make a suggestion to him with regard to the activities of the Department and the Army. In the present time of severe financial constraint it is very easy for a Department such as Defence to concentrate on the maintenance of the status quo while fighting desperately, perhaps, for a share of the kitty, so that the main level of activities in regard to national security matters would be maintained. Such a situation is not helpful to the morale of the officers, and it offers no opportunity to encourage the vitality and enterprise which should be in the Army.

I should like the Minister to examine the possibility of extending the role and the activities of the forces into areas other than those conventionally delegated to them.

The crisis of confidence and the resulting despair among the young people throughout the country at the lack of job opportunities has been a source of worry for all of us in this House who are concerned for the preservation of the traditional standards and values with which we grew up and accepted as our Irish way of life. It is said that the breakdown in law and order, the spread of vandalism, car thefts, drug abuse and the development over recent years of envy and intolerance and the general state of bloody-mindedness that are parts of the unacceptable face of Irish society, derive in part from a sense of frustration which is engendered by a sense of despair about the economic future.

Army training, which establishes a sense of discipline and order in the individual, has helped many young men to develop a sense of personal confidence and, in many cases, has given them the opportunity to learn useful skills and trades which provided thousands of men on leaving the Army with the necessary level of technical confidence to enable them to make a significant contribution to the economic development of this country and has been the foundation for the creation of a stable family life for the men concerned.

Short-term training courses at present provided by AnCO give some opportunity of work experience. On balance, the amount of money being spent on such short-term courses is not really producing the results necessary at present. The youth employment levy and the contributions from the European Regional and Social Funds are generating a very high level of revenue for the State. I think it is now time to review the way these moneys are being spent. The expansion of the vocational education system and the institutes of technology have created opportunities for suitable training for youth to equip them to offer the skills necessary in the world which has made unbelievable progress in the technological sense.

Some of the hardware and equipment used by the Irish Army is of a very sophisticated nature. It covers a wide range of electronics, sophisticated high technology engineering, microchip technology and complex communications equipment. All these are relevant to everyday activities in a modern industrial economy. Would it not be worthwhile to offer the Army expanded recruitment opportunities specifically directed towards training in the skills I have outlined?

I would welcome the Minister's interest in setting up a study which would examine the feasibility and the cost of establishing a special corps which could absorb at least some hundreds of young people each year. Such a study could examine in detail the feasibility of establishing a multi-purpose Army technical corps. Not all the recruits need be accommodated in Army establishments, which is the case in other countries. Most advanced industrial countries utilise their forces' equipment needs as a basis for civil industrial developments. The use of satellites for international phone and telex communications as well as television relays is one example of effective transfer of technology to significant and worthwhile civil industries.

We already have a good example of civil application for a technology which was evolved because of a defence need. I refer of course to the involvement of Messrs. Adtec Teoranta, County Meath, a company in which the State has a substantial shareholding. The high level technology that evolved through the manufacture of armoured personnel carriers is now being utilised, providing nearly 100 jobs in the manufacture of a range of sophisticated safety and fire-fighting vehicles for use at our airports. The range of vehicles are recognised as being probably the most advanced in the technical sense available anywhere in the world.

I hope the Minister will continue to equip the Army with personnel carriers manufactured in Ireland and that he will agree with my suggestions. I recognise that many factors might have to be taken into account. There are modern industries which are not and cannot be staffed by personnel trained through the historical craft channels. Here, in my opinion, is an opportunity to offer worthwhile careers in a disciplined orderly structure which could provide a flexible corps trained to understand and maintain a wide range of sophisticated technical equipment, a task in which they could play their part in all sorts of emergency situations which require wide-ranging technical abilities.

During this time of Government financial retrenchment we should ensure that we get maximum value from a national point of view for any expenditure in the State sector. I would argue that the money spent establishing such a corps would be well worthwhile and would be even more worthwhile from a long-term point of view than many of the schemes of an extremely short-term nature where there is simply no lasting benefit to anyone other than those employed to administer these short-term schemes.

It would be feasible to recruit more people into existing batallions. Works which could be regarded as semi-military could be undertaken by Army personnel. For different reasons these works are not being carried out at present but if they were, they could relieve our unemployment situation. This happened in other countries. Perhaps the Minister would consider it because the Army personnel numbers are way below establishment level and there is plenty of accommodation for more recruitment. I realise recruitment had to be restricted because of the financial situation over the last year or so. I would like the Minister to look at these suggestions and see if they have merit. A study could be carried out on my first suggestion because I contend it would not be very costly to put it into operation.

The Minister mentioned the improvements which have been carried out in the physical structures within the Army and many improvements have been made. We still have some barracks which are really and truly outdated. Sarsfield Barracks is in the middle of Limerick city. This is a very old barracks. Efforts were made in the past to make it more comfortable and to create a better environment but, from my observation, they were not a success. The 12th Battalion need to be provided with a new barracks. I know there are financial restraints, but I do not think it would cost very much to solve this problem. On the borders of Limerick and Clare we have Knockalisheen Camp constituting approximately 200 acres. This site is owned officially by the Minister for Defence and the Defence Forces. It would be an ideal site for a new barracks.

The cost of building the barracks would be the major consideration. If the existing site of Sarsfield Barracks were disposed of, because of its location this would put a sizeable hole in the cost of a new barracks. It would be interesting to get an estimate of the two sites. I thought of this in my short term in the Department of Defence but, unfortunately, I was not here long enough to take it any further.

I could mention other barracks. Spike Island was mentioned. Everybody would be glad if this could be proceeded with in the not too distant future. When the Minister is replying he might let me know about the situation in Cavan barracks. It was at a fairly advanced stage when I left the Department.

The Minister mentioned the Equitation School. The recruitment of six cadets into this school is most welcome. I congratulate the Minister on this. In the past many people who joined the Equitation school had no experience of horses and many people who had never sat on a horse before became excellent international riders. I could name quite a number of them, including the present OC of the Equitation School, who reached great heights.

Others who had experience of horses before joining the Army were outstanding as international riders. I will just mention Colonel Dan Corry and my fellow countyman, Mick Tubridy, who is no longer with us. It is right to recruit people with experience of horses, who grew up with horses and rode them at shows and gymkhanas, to see how successful they will be. I am delighted this is happening. We are all delighted with the successful year our Army personnel on the jumping team had jumping internationally. Like the Minister, I should like to congratulate Captain Mullins on finishing fourth in the World Championships.

Has anything transpired as a result of the discussions between the FCA and the Revenue Commissioners about taxing their gratuities retrospectively? This was a very sore point with these people who are volunteers, as we all know. The annual training period is being cut to one week. I am sure the Minister will agree that one week's training is not of great consequence, particularly for recruits who had no training in the past. They go to camp on Saturday. As I understand it the weapons are not delivered or issued to them until Monday and have to be handed in on Thursday. This is a very short period for weapon training, which is all important from a soldier's point of view. The camp breaks up on Friday. A week's training is not of great benefit. Two weeks' training would achieve much more. That is one of the major drawbacks in cutting the two weeks' training to one. It takes 14 days training at one of these camps for a volunteer with no star to acquire one star. This is another drawback.

There is no recruitment at the moment and this is a pity. Many young men relish soldiering for a period and really enjoy FCA life, and look forward to joining the FCA. There are also people who drop out so there is certain amount of wastage in the personnel of the different companies. The Minister might ask the military people instead of cutting the two weeks' training to one week to consider cutting the field days which average about two a month during the summer in the good weather.

I come now to the question of FCA officers being permitted to wear Sam Brownes like their fellow officers in the Permanent Defence Forces. Officially they have never been allowed to do so. There would be no cost involved to the Department, I understand. The officers in the FCA are quite willing to purchase the Sam Brownes themselves but they require official permission to wear them.

Our involvement in fishery protection has expanded rapidly in recent years because of the EEC fisheries agreement. Because of their responsibility for the agreement, there is no reason why the EEC should not contribute towards the cost of fishery protection. I understand their contribution to the fishery protection vessels but the everyday cost is a serious matter.

The people in the Civil Defence are great people. They are volunteers, like the members of the FCA. For some time there has been a bone of contention. I think Civil Defence is the responsibility of the Minister of State. I hope something can be done about the uniforms. Any soldier or any volunteer likes to have a uniform he can be proud of. It would be a great boost to Civil Defence if something could be done fairly quickly about providing these uniforms.

The recruitment of 330 personnel is very welcome. As the Minister said, they will be concentrated in the Curragh Command and the Eastern Command where I presume the greatest need is. I wonder if he would let us know the situation with regard to more personnel for the Air Command and the Naval Service. In regard to the Naval Service there is more equipment and a further ship coming on-stream and it is not sufficient just to be able to man these. There should be people available to step into the breach because of the type of service it is.

I agree with the Minister that the Department of Defence should not have to be in the business of providing housing. Army personnel are just as entitled to be considered for local authority houses as any other person or family in the community. Quite a lot has been done with regard to replacing existing married quarters but there are still some which badly need to be replaced. The local authorities should play a greater role than they have done with regard to housing Army personnel and their families. If some of them had played a greater role it would have helped to solve the overholding problem which has gone on for some years.

Perhaps the Minister would let us know the position with regard to people who, having completed their three years service, which is the minimum, opt to stay on. Is the percentage increasing or decreasing? I would ask him to consider the suggestion I have made on the technological side and also the expansion of the existing units many of which are below strength. Additional personnel should be recruited into these units and they should be given duties apart from the duties of peace time soldiering. Work can be found quite readily throughout the country such as road building. I am not talking about dual carriageways but there are islands off our coasts badly in need of roads and it would be a well worthwhile training exercise for Army personnel to take on such tasks. There are small bridges and other works which in an emergency situation would become part of their duties. The training involved in carrying out the works at a not very great cost to the Exchequer would be well worthwhile and the extra recruitment would help to alleviate the unemployment situation. I know that people would much prefer to be serving in a disciplined force rather than queueing for the dole week after week. I have no doubt that many of the young people who would be recruited would become better and more responsible citizens because the present economic conditions create great frustration among our youth today.

I was glad to hear our spokesman on Defence mention—

The Deputy is aware that this debate concludes at 8.30.

I was not so aware. I will be very brief. I was pleased to hear our spokesman on Defence mention the much-needed military barracks in Cavan. I, too, look forward to the Minister's comment on it. I understand that an arrangement has been made to exchange a site at Pollamore for a site at Drumellis, that the legal documentation is with the solicitors and that there should be no hold up in finalising the legal arrangements and getting the building under way. Anybody who has visited the military barracks in Cavan will have seen the need for this. It is a very old barracks, probably the worst in the country according to people who have more expertise in this matter than I have. The men who are there deserve all our gratitude for putting up with such poor conditions over such a long period. They have been trying in their own dignified and unique way to get new accommodation, not elaborate accommodation but a good sound structure for their operations in Cavan. Most of the soldiers who serve in Cavan come from the south of Ireland. They are certainly a very welcome addition to the population in that town. I am glad to say that the vast majority of them come single but are not single for very long. They marry local girls and integrate in the community. Their total absorption is an indication of the welcome they receive in the area and the good example they set as soldiers. Cavan is virtually a Border post and many of the operations mentioned by the Minister have to be carried out by the soldiers there. This they do with great expertise, unobtrusively but efficiently.

The Minister mentioned the aspect of using the Army for civilian duties at times of national need. When they were called on on one occasion when we were in Government their efficiency and the expedition with which they carried out their duties was a revelation to all, a great credit to them and the compliments that were paid to them then were well deserved.

With regard to UN service, would the Minister care to comment on whether the UN owes this country any money for the operation? At one time we were very much in their debt.

I am glad that recruitment has been resumed. I hope there will be more soldiers recruited than the 330 mentioned by the Minister. The Minister said that An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil is not being strengthened any further. Its strength is over 20,000. During the increased activity in my area the services of the FCA were called on and they were not found wanting. Perhaps we could concentrate a good deal more on the Slua Muirí. A strength of 425 is small for a country which, in the words of Behan's song, is surrounded by water, and for a country that has some ambitions to be regarded henceforth, if not historically, as a seagoing nation.

Unlike Deputy Barrett I did not have any military experience, but at one time I had doubts about the wisdom of sending our soldiers abroad when they were disarmed and shot in the head when serving in the Middle East. However, the whole modus operandi has now changed and Lieutenant-General William Callaghan has a reputation of being a very positive and able military leader. The circumstances which obtained when our soldiers were killed no longer exist.

Many journalists who did tours in the Middle East reported that certain citizens there went out of their way to be insulting and offensive to our soldiers. Because of that I understand what the Minister means when he spoke about indignity in his speech. I hope that Senor Perez de Cuellar will, if necessary, "ante up" if the United Nations owe us money and his visit here should encourage him to do so. The whole purpose of the exercise in the Middle East is to maintain a fragile peace in a very dangerous area and we all agree that our soldiers have developed expertise over the years for handling very difficult situations. Because they use peaceful methods to solve disputes one would not like to see them being cockshots for anybody.

I am pleased to see that our personnel are getting opportunities of training in foreign military establishments. Britain, Holland and France were mentioned. I am sure there is a choice for using those countries but there are other countries with problems similar to ours which might also be chosen and which would be of benefit to our people. Without giving an exhaustive list, Sweden and Switzerland come to mind. I do not know if the Swiss would accept anybody, but they have a unique system of defending themselves and it would be worth looking at their methods.

I fully agree with the sentiments expressed by the Minister and our spokesman with regard to providing expertise for our soldiers through AnCO and other organisations. The enlightened idea of sending our officers to third level institutions, which has obtained for some years now, is highly commendable. Through personal friendships over the years I have had contacts with our Army, especially the Curragh Command officers, and it was always a revelation to see how au fait they were with world affairs, how interesting and positive they were in their thinking and how dedicated they were to their profession.

We are all pleased when the Equitation School is maintained and strengthened. Deputy Barrett, in his modesty, did not claim any friendship with a man who belonged to the Equitation School and who acquitted himself with great distinction. I played in an All-Ireland final against him in a different code and we all regretted that man's death. From my own area, Commandant Ahern was a member of one of the great old successful Army jumping teams. Every Irishman, even if he does not know a good horse, takes great pride in the achievements of the Army Equitation School. I hope the Minister will soon have news about the military barracks to be built in my area.

Dún Laoghaire): As Minister of State responsible for civil defence, I should like to join in the comments of the Minister for Defence on that subject. In wartime it is very easy to convince people of the need for the Civil Defence organisation. However, we must not forget that the provision of such an organisation on a meaningful level has to be ongoing in peacetime and cannot be conjured up when war is declared.

Deputies are well aware that the Civil Defence organisation is largely comprised of volunteers. In that regard I should like to pay a tribute to the people who served all over the country. I have had the pleasure of meeting many of them over the last couple of months at various activities organised by Civil Defence and I appreciate the efforts they put into these activities. Not only is Civil Defence involved in the vital area of monitoring radiation and the communication of information to the authorities and the general public in the event of nuclear war, their skills also extend to first aid, rescue, fire fighting and welfare for refugees and other distressed persons. These skills are invaluable in all kinds of emergencies. I am glad to see an increasing practical acknowledgement of the volunteer organisations' potential in the framing of local emergency contingency plans. Meanwhile, the Department in conjunction with the local authorities, under whose aegis the volunteers are organised and function, are addressing the question of how to put the volunteer organisations to better use in peacetime so that the community and the volunteers themselves will have a more immediate and obvious return for the training and preparation they have undergone to respond to the needs of a wartime situation.

The Minister for Defence has rightly adverted to the modesty of the provision in the current Estimate to maintain what we have come to regard as an acceptable level of Civil Defence. The organisation is in need of an increase in their transport facilities and replacement of much of their equipment which is now showing its age. But for the careful maintenance it receives it would be on its way to the scrapyard. I should like to have greater means to provide more facilities, but this year we have made some movement by providing and replacing the old stock of radiation survey meters with new stock which are manufactured here.

The Opposition spokesman also referred to uniforms and I am glad to say that some progress has been made in that area. The new uniform was on display at the recent national competition awards in Malahide. I hope that when times get better and more moneys are made available, further facilities and the replacement of equipment will be forthcoming. I would like to put on record my deep appreciation of the support given by the media in the coverage of the various Civil Defence functions throughout the country and in particular to the RTE programme "Countrywide" which has covered a number of the events throughout the year. I again thank the many volunteers throughout the country for the support which they have given to Civil Defence and we are endeavouring to continue to increase the numbers and, it is hoped, to provide better equipment when finances are made available.

The fact that we must have a necessarily truncated debate highlights the need for reform of our procedures so that a matter such as a debate on the Department of Defence and, indeed, other Departments, could get the time and length of contribution which the subject requires. The Defence Forces happily do not have a high profile, but that is not to understate their importance in the fabric of national life.

I want to thank the Deputies who have contributed to this necessarily short debate and on a personal note to thank Deputy Barrett for his good wishes to me in office. I look forward to working in co-operation with him and availing of his experience as my predecessor to work for the good of the Defence Forces. Deputy Barrett in his opening remarks raised an interesting concept, one which has surfaced from time to time, in this time of unemployment and scarce resources whether some extra use could be made of the potential of the Defence Forces as a training place for young people. He did not go so far as to grasp, or indeed offer to grasp, the nettle of national service or anything like that, although his ideas run somewhat on those lines except, of course, with the very important difference between the concept of national service and what he is mentioning here for discussion — that his ideas would be based on a volunteer system.

What, in effect, I think he is suggesting is that with the quite extensive funds which are available and the multitude of activities being funded by them for various agencies, for youth employment, youth training, work experience — the whole range of activities — thought might be given to employing some of those funds via the Defence Forces in the formation of a technical corps where, in addition to receiving training in particular skills, the young people concerned would have the benefit of service in a disciplined body with the advantages that would bring for their personal characters. This is an idea which has attractions, but it also obviously has certain difficulties. An immediate difficulty for the Defence Forces would be the capacity to organise and deal with the numbers needed to make such a scheme significant. It would have to be fairly widespread and this, of course, would require the setting up of new organisations and, inevitably, a certain amount of scarce resources would have to be allocated towards the very organisation itself. Nevertheless, the idea is an interesting and novel one and one which I will certainly arrange to have examined.

I share the Deputy's concern with the level of national malaise manifesting itself in so many unpleasant ways in our society today and anything that we could do or the Defence Forces could be involved in doing to cure that would be a high national duty. As I say, I will arrange to have that particular thought examined and I will keep in touch with the Deputy in regard to whether it will be found possible to advance it, or if it is feasible.

Deputy Barrett mentioned the matter of the Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick being a very old barracks and the possibility of relocating it in Knockalisheen. As he knows and very fairly pointed out, it boils down to a question of finance. At the moment, we have a higher priority in regard to providing a new barracks in Cavan. For Deputy Wilson's information, he is quite up-to-date on the present position. The title to the site of the new barracks is now being completed. The cost of the new barracks we estimate will be somewhere in the region of £4 million, which is significant. One would have to assume that a similar installation in Limerick to replace Sarsfield Barracks would be of that order or probably more, being a battalion headquarters Obviously, there would be significant capital involved in both of these developments. Because of the scarcity of resources, the Limerick barracks unfortunately has to be regarded as being not for immediate attention but as soon as possible. The Cavan barracks is particularly urgent because the present barracks there, as Deputy Wilson pointed out, is literally just not fit for the accommodation of troops. As a matter of priority between it and Limerick, it would have to come first.

On the question of the FCA, I share Deputy Barrett's regret that the annual training had to be reduced to a week. I do not necessarily agree with him that a week is useless because the people coming for the week's annual training will be dedicated members who will have had a high record of attendance at weekly parades and at field days. The weekly training is to put a gloss and final polish on what they would have received during their year's attendances. I will have his point examined of perhaps fewer field days and if the savings which might be effected by reducing them might enable resources to be released so that we could perhaps next year come to consider restoring the second week. It will be purely a question of whether there are sufficient savings to be achieved financially and we will also have to have military advice as to whether the extra week would be militarily of better value than forfeiting the field days. That is something on which I would have to get expert advice.

On the question of tax, I understand that the gratuities are not subject to tax. The annual payment, of course, is and the wages that the FCA members receive are liable to income tax in the normal way.

On the question of the Sam Browne, it is an item of dress which is not in as common use as it used to be among officer ranks. The broad belt is now being worn increasingly frequently. The Sam Browne, of course, was hardly a suitable item of dress when the FCA officers wore the tunic——

(Clare): It is now.

——or the blouse type tunic. Now that these have gone and the men are wearing the longer tunic, as they call it, the Sam Browne would obviously be an appropriate addition. This is something which I will have looked at. Smart uniforms are good for morale.

I am not in a position to give the precise statistics of those who leave at the termination of their three years' engagement. We will know more precisely at the end of this year, because three years ago there was a heavy incidence of recruiting and quite a large number of men are coming to the end of their three year engagement this year. However, the level of wastage is not any greater and, in fact, is somewhat less than normal. That is possibly because of the unemployment situation outside. This leads me to mention how important it is that we keep the wastage replaced so that the figure of 12,800, the approved strength, be maintained. To fall significantly below that means that in some units there has to be a very heavy level of duty incurred by men and constant incidence of heavy duties will drive men out of the Defence Forces. It is important that we maintain our recruits at the approved level.

I am particularly pleased to hear both Deputies Barrett and Wilson extend good wishes to the Equitation School. From time to time, particularly in times of recession and scarce resources, some Members are inclined to say that this is a luxury that we cannot afford. Those who know the entire horse industry will realise the important part that the Equitation School plays in that industry. If it were to be terminated there would be a great void. I was very pleased to hear the welcome and complimentary views that were expressed. Again, I was pleased to hear Deputy Wilson welcome the presence of military personnel in Cavan. It is heartening to know that soldiers are welcome in any community. This is as it should be as they are a credit to our community and should be welcomed at all levels in which they serve.

The United Nations owe us some money. The sum at the moment stands at £10 million odd pounds but payments are taking place on an ongoing basis. By the end of the year that sum will be down but it will be replaced possibly by other liabilities incurred. We do regard the situation as being unsatisfactory and our budget is geared to take account of the method of scaled rate of payments from the UN. I thank Deputies for their contributions and I assure them that the good wishes they extended to the Defence Forces are appreciated. I thank Deputy Barrett for his personal good wishes and I look forward to working in co-operation with him.

Vote put and agreed to.