Estimates, 1984. - Vote 42: Office of the Minister for Defence.

I move:

That a sum not exceeding £229,715,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December 1984 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 1984 is for a net sum of £229,715,000 of which £172,572,000 or 75 per cent provides for pay and allowances. Provision has been made in the Estimate for increases in pay granted under the First and Second Phases of the Public Service Pay Agreement.

The Estimate is based on an average strength of 1,537 officers, 90 cadets and 12,450 other ranks — a total of 14,077 in the Permanent Defence Force. The net provisional outturn for 1983 amounted to £199,759,000 which included £3,529,000 charged to the Vote for Remuneration.

The gross provision in the 1984 Estimate is £240,471,000 and represents an increase of 8 per cent on the 1983 outturn. It includes £67,899,000 for non-pay items. The provision of £10,756,000 for appropriations-in-aid shows a reduction of £12,368,000 on the 1983 provisional outturn — mainly due to the fact that the balance remaining to be recovered from the EEC in respect of the fishery protection programme is £1.2 million compared to a sum of £12.759 million for 1983.

As Deputies are aware, considerable demands were made on the officers and men of the Defence Forces during the past 12 months particularly in relation to internal security matters. While the Garda Síochána have primary responsibility for such matters the involvement of the Defence Forces in this field derives from their role of rendering aid to the civil power. It is unfortunate that the present security situation in the country continues to necessitate the deployment of military personnel and resources on a large scale in providing assistance to the Garda Síochána in the maintenance of the rule of law.

The need for the maintenance of strict security measures will be evidence to all having regard to the difficult situation which the State has faced in recent times. The Defence Forces have performed a very positive role in the security area in supporting the Garda Síochána in enforcing the law of the land, principally in combating terrorism and preventing serious crime. It is an unhappy fact of the times in which we live that members of the Defence Forces, and of the Garda Síochána, are placed in situations where their lives are at risk in upholding the law of the land. In discharging their role of rendering aid to the civil power of the Defence Forces work in very close liaison with Garda and security arrangements are kept under constant review jointly by the Garda Síochána and the Army so as to ensure the optimum use of available resources in manpower and equipment. The Government are committed to giving the Garda and the Defence Forces every support in combating criminal and subversive activities. All steps necessary will continue to be taken to strengthen the hand of our security forces in dealing with these problems.

The preoccupation of the Defence Force with such matters has imposed a heavy burden on their personnel for some years past. Some particulars of the scale of the security type duties in which the Defence Forces are currently involved have already been given to the House in relation to 1983, but it is well to repeat them in the context of the debate on the Estimate for Defence.

Eighteen thousand military parties were supplied in Border areas for checkpoint duties and over 16,000 joint Garda/Army checkpoints were set up; more than 14,000 patrols were sent out into the road network along the Border or in other areas; escorts for explosives and blasting operations were provided on about 1,000 occasions; almost 3,000 escorts for the movement of cash were provided; about 100 requests for bomb disposal teams were handled.

The Defence Forces also provide guards for the movement of prisoners and assist in searches for arms, ammunition and explosives. In addition certain vital non-military installations are protected either by permanent military guards or by military patrols.

Particularly heavy demands were made on the Permanent Defence Force towards the end of 1983 arising from the participation of a very large number of members in the joint Army/Garda search operation carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances in the Ballinamore area. Tragically an Army private and a recruit Garda were murdered during this operation. It is appropriate here to pay tribute again to the memory of these young men. I would also like to express my appreciation of the outstanding service rendered by members of the Defence Forces, and indeed by the Garda Síochána, in their efforts to combat the aggression which the community has had to face in recent times.

Members of the Defence Forces are required to display courage and devotion to duty on a daily basis in carrying out their tasks. The performance of the many facets of their duties and responsibilities demands a high level of dedication and integrity. Such service is given willingly to the community by the Defence Forces and for the most part it is unspectacular and unsung. Nevertheless the qualities I mention are vital to the wellbeing and morale of the Defence Forces and are deserving of our recognition, appreciation and encouragement. At a time when credibility and confidence in our democratic institutions are under attack from all sides the men who, when the occasion demands it, put their lives on the line in the defence of our institutions and basic freedoms are surely fully entitled to our support and commendation.

Following the murders of Private Kelly and Recruit Garda Sheehan a wave of anger and revulsion swept the country and loyal citizens expressed their antipathy to the Provisional I.R.A. and its front Provisional Sinn Féin in no uncertain terms. Regrettably, however, those feelings quickly subsided and the old attitudes of, at best, complacency and, at worst, ambivalence began to manifest themselves.

The most striking example of this was the selection by a leading white collar union of a Vice President of Provisional Sinn Féin as its Chief Executive shortly after the Sinn Féin congress which reaffirmed support for a policy of terror and murder, a policy which counts Private Kelly and Recruit Garda Sheehan among its victims. This selection by this union seems to me an inexplicable piece of moral blindness and even worse would have been unanimous but for the attitude of a Dublin branch of that union.

Loyal citizens have a duty to show antipathy at all times and at every opportunity towards all who espouse the cause of murder and terror. In contrast to antipathy there is complacency and the Provisionals interpret complacency as implied support for their evil cause. I am constantly amazed by the complacent attitude of so many to such a great evil.

General recruitment to the Permanent Defence Force was suspended early in 1982. I am pleased to say, however, that, in addition to the usual recruitment of cadets and apprentices, there was an intake of 486 recruits — 330 for general service and 156 for the Naval Service in 1983. Further intakes of recruits are expected to take place as necessary during 1984, the intention being to ensure that the strength of the Permanent Defence Force is kept at an adequate level.

In 1983, as part of the Government's programme for achieving reductions in the level of public expenditure it was found necessary to suspend temporarily recruitment to the FCA and Slua Muirí and to reduce all annual training by seven days. Having reviewed the matter, I am pleased to say that recruitment has resumed to the extent necessary to replace wastage during 1984. Unfortunately, it has been found necessary to continue in 1984 the restriction imposed last year in regard to annual training. Notwithstanding the reduced period of annual training I have again decided that the gratuity payable to qualified members of the Reserve Defence Force who complete the maximum permissible period in 1984 will be at the full rates and not at the reduced rates which would normally apply in respect of attendance at training for the shorter period.

The pay and conditions of the members of the Defence Forces continue to be maintained at a high standard. All ranks received the increases due under the terms of the agreement on pay in the public service in 1983. In addition, the pay of all personnel, from private 2 Star up to and including the rank of commandant, have got the benefit of a 6 per cent arbitration award to some grades in the Civil Service. The first phase of that increase — generally in the region of 2 per cent — was paid with effect from 1 October 1983; the second phase which provides for a further increase of about 2.5 per cent is due from 1 December next and the remaining balance will fall due for payment on 1 September 1985.

The current rate of pay of a recruit is £110.96 a week rising after about 14 weeks' basic training to approximately £129. On advancement to private 3 Star, which usually takes place during the first year of service, gross pay rises to £133.64, while after three year's service the gross pay of a private is over £145. I am sure the House will agree that these rates of pay are reasonable by any standard.

Allowances are payable to officers and men who perform duties of a security nature. I am pleased to say that as a result of a recent review of these allowances, an increase of 21.5 per cent was granted with effect from 1 January 1984. This increase brought the rates of allowance for service in the Border area to £18.55 a week for officers and £16.10 a week for men, while the allowances for other duties in aid of the civil power such as guard duties on vital installations, cash escorts, and prisoner escorts were increased to £7.90 for each week-day and £15.80 for each Sunday or Army holiday.

I also had a review carried out of the rates of overseas allowances payable to personnel on service with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and, arising from the review, an increase of 21.5 per cent with effect from 1 January 1983 was authorised. The current rates of the allowance now range from £11.40 a day for single men to £18.55 a day for senior married officers.

In addition, the rates of allowances payable to the relatively small number of personnel serving with the United Nations Peace-Keeping Force in Cyprus and the 20 or so military officers serving with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation in the Middle East have been reviewed and increased. The current rate of the UNTSO allowance is £8.50 per day and the UNFICYP allowance ranges from £4.40 per day for single men to £13.10 per day for senior married officers.

This country has consistently supported the policy of the United Nations in regard to peace-keeping missions and we recognise fully the value of this policy. Our firm commitment to peace-keeping has been demonstrated by our participation in international peace-keeping missions for over a quarter of a century. In undertaking peace-keeping missions it has always been our fundamental belief that the co-operation of the conflicting sides is essential to a satisfactory outcome to any such mission. Any departure from this basic principle creates difficulties for peace-keeping forces and for the United Nations in reaching an equitable settlement to the particular dispute.

It is important to recall that, before a contingent of Irish troops could be made available to serve with the United Nations Force in the Congo in 1960, new legislation was necessary to authorise, subject to the prior approval of the Dáil, the dispatch of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force for such service outside the country. I think it should be emphasised that this legislation, under which contingents were subsequently made available for the United Nations Force in Cyprus and for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, provides for the dispatch of troops for the performance of duties of a police character only. It will be readily understood that the role of our troops serving with United Nations Forces has been peace-keeping and not peace-enforcing. That remains the position in the case of our troops currently serving with UNIFIL.

At the present time an Irish contingent of 737 all ranks is serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. This force is commanded by an Irish Officer, Lieutenant-General William Callaghan, which in itself is an indication of the standing which our troops have with the United Nations. An Irish contingent of eight personnel is serving in staff appointments with the United Nations Force in Cyprus and 21 Irish officers are serving with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation in the Middle East.

Despite the unsettled situation in Lebanon, especially in the area around Beirut, I am glad to be able to report that the area of South Lebanon in which the Irish contingent is located is relatively calm. The dedication and selfless efforts of our troops in the service of the UN are a credit to Ireland and to the Defence Forces.

This has been acknowledged on many occasions not alone by the Secretary-General but by the Lebanese people within the area of operations of the Force. It is gratifying to be able to record that the presence of the Force has had a stabilising effect and that it has ensured to a great extent that the population within the area have been able to achieve a large degree of normality in their business dealings, schooling, agriculture and their life in general.

During 1983 the Courts-Martial Appeals Act, 1983, was enacted. This Act was a major reforming one in so far as the administration of military law is concerned. The Act which established a new Courts-Martial Appeal Court to hear appeals against convictions and sentences of courts-martial became law on 29 June 1983. Before that there was no provision in law for an appeal to a higher tribunal by persons convicted by courts-martial. In terms of status, constitution and powers, the new court is similar to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

With a view to ensuring that the right of appeal being provided should be as meaningful as possible, provision was also included in the Courts-Martial Appeals Act for the introduction of a scheme of free legal aid at courts-martial and on appeal. This scheme has been closely modelled on that already in operation for persons being tried by the civil courts on criminal charges. Since the enactment of the Appeals Act, there has been a total of five cases appealed to the Courts-Martial Appeal Court. Of these appeals, one was successful, three were dismissed and one was abandoned before hearing.

The foregoing measures represent a substantial reform of military law. I should say also that proposals for further amendments of the Defence Act, 1954, are being actively pursued within my Department with the intention of introducing further legislation at the earliest possible date.

As usual, competitions for the award of cadetships in the Army, Air Corps and Executive Branch of the Naval Service were held in 1983, and 40 cadetships were awarded. A special competition for the award of cadetships in the Equitation School was held at the same time as the other competitions and four cadetships were awarded.

Arrangements were made in 1981 to train deck cadets of the Naval Service in Ireland in future. Prior to that, such cadets had to be assigned to courses abroad. This training is 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 and UCC on a part-time basis. Three cadets trained under this scheme were commissioned in 1983 and further nine are undergoing training at present.

In 1978, a cadet scheme was introduced for the purpose of providing the Naval Service with qualified marine engineer officers. Training under this scheme is undertaken for the first year at the Cadet School in the Curragh and at the Naval base. The cadets are then assigned to a three-year Diploma Course in Marine Engineering at Cork Regional Technical College, followed later by a nine-month course of training in a British naval establishment. Fifteen officers have been commissioned under the scheme to date. Four of these completed the course of training in Britain in 1982. It is expected that following necessary practical experience at sea and further study both in the Naval Service School and at the Regional Technical College in Cork these four officers will be fully qualified marine engineer officers by 1985, having secured their Watch-keeping and Naval Engineering Certificates. A further five are undergoing their nine-month course in Britain at present, and the remaining six officers will also be assigned to that course later.

Following the 1983 competitions for the award of apprenticeships in the Army and Air Corps, a total of 103 apprenticeships were awarded. The 1984 competition for the award of up to 107 apprenticeships attracted considerable interest following the advertisement in January last. The findings of the interview boards should be available soon. Arrangements to ensure that personnel of the Defence Forces can avail of the best possible educational and training facilities continued during the past year. A total of 118 officers are undergoing various full-time courses at third level educational institutions. A number of personnel attended courses in foreign military establishments to ensure that our Defence Forces keep up-to-date with modern developments elsewhere and to provide for the efficient maintenance and operation of the many sophisticated equipments in use in the Defence Forces.

The scheme whereby personnel are registered with AnCO as apprentices in various trades and attend either full-time off-the-job training courses, day release courses or block release courses, continues to operate successfully. These special educational and training arrangements are designed to supplement the constant day-to-day training that all personnel receive within their own corps or service or jointly with other corps or services.

The non-pay provisions for this year total almost £68 million gross, and are required to maintain the capabilities of the Defence Forces and to meet commitments already entered into.

Later this year will see the delivery to the Naval Service of the first new design helicopter carrying vessel — LE Eithne. Preliminary work on this project began in 1978 and the development of the new design commenced in 1979. After the choice of hull design had been made, extensive tests using a model of the design were conducted to ensure that the design fulfilled all the specified criteria. My Department were assisted in this new development, not alone by a European design institute but also by the shipbuilders, Verolme Cork Dockyard Ltd., and the Department's consultants, Irish Shipping Limited. The contract for the ship was signed in April 1982. This new addition to our fleet, which is a tribute to all concerned, will greatly enhance the surveillance capability of the Naval Service.

Provision is made for stage payments for the five Dauphin helicopters ordered in December 1982 from the French aircraft manufacturer, Aerospatiale. Two of these aircraft will be naval helicopters for use in conjunction with the new helicopter-carrying patrol vessel for the Naval Service. The other three helicopters will enable a more effective search-and-rescue and air ambulance service to be provided.

The Dauphin is a twin-engined helicopter with accommodation for up to ten persons, including the crew. It has a fast cruise speed of over 150 knots and an endurance of about four and a half hours. The helicopter will have a rescue hoist and sophisticated radar and navigation equipment and will have the capability of flying at night and in periods of reduced visibility.

Provision is also made for the balance of the cost of the new radar system on order for Casement aerodrome, Baldonnel, which is due for delivery later this year. The new system will assist landings in conditions of reduced visibility and is part of a programme to modernise the aerodrome facilities at Baldonnel.

The Naval Service has recently acquired a decompression chamber for use in connection with deep-sea diving. The service now trains its own diving unit, and the provision of a decompression chamber is an essential safety precaution where such training is being undertaken. The use of the decompression chamber avoids the danger of an attack of the potentially fatal condition known as nitrogen narcosis, commonly called "the bends". The decompression chamber purchased for the Naval Service is of the portable type and can be fitted on board a naval vessel or transported by truck.

Last year a new computerised marine training simulator was installed at the Naval Technical Training School, Haulbowline, to meet the additional training demands on engineers and technicians for the modern patrol vessels. The simulator makes it possible to simulate a wide variety of realistic fault situations and to monitor the trainee's reaction under pressure. Exercises that would be hazardous for trainees on an operational ship can be undertaken safely using the simulator.

As from 1 January last, my Department have been given responsibility for the purchase of clothing, transport, and certain communications and other items required by Government Departments. Prior to that date, this central purchasing function for Government Departments was discharged by the Stores Branch of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. Consequent on the abolition of that Department and the establishment of Bord Telecom Éireann and An Post, responsibility for these purchases has been transferred to my Department.

It is estimated that in 1984 expenditure on these purchases will amount to more than £10 million. Provision for this expenditure will be made in the Estimates of the various Departments for which the purchases are made. However, a new provision of £550,000 has been made in Subhead GG of the Defence Estimate to provide working funds for the purchase of certain items which must be held as common stores in anticipation of Departments' requirements.

The provision in the Estimate for buildings which includes new works, repairs, renewals and maintenance, is £5.3 million against an outturn last year of approximately £5 million. Included in the provision is a sum of £3.2 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 various locations and a programme for the improvement of older billets is continuing. A contract was recently placed for a large new boiler at Collins Barracks, Dublin, to serve a central heating system already installed.

Work was recently completed on a major extension to the apprentices' hostel at Casement aerodrome. A contract has been placed 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 development of the Naval Service necessitates the provision of additional buildings and facilities. The space required is not available on Haulbowline and, accordingly, it is planned to provide the buildings and facilities on Spike Island where a number of works are already in progress.

Among the significant works recently completed is the new Army sports pavilion in the Phoenix Park. This pavilion provides excellent facilities, including comfortable dressing rooms, showers and so on for games and sports. New single officers' quarters are being built at Cathal Brugha Barracks. The first phase of the project is nearing completion and tenders will shortly be invited for the next phase. Arrangements are being made for the provision of a new anti-tank range at the Glen of Imaal. It is hoped to have work commenced later this year on the second stage of the construction of the new Ceannt Barracks at the Curragh Camp. This stage will comprise living accommodation for personnel of Command Headquarters Company, Curragh, and a new depot for the Signal Corps as well as office and storage accommodation. It is proposed to arrange for the installation of aviation fuel tanks at a number of military posts to enable helicopters of the Air Corps to be refuelled at those posts. This will improve the operational effectiveness of the helicopters.

The need has long been acknowledged to provide a new military post at Cavan to replace the present barracks, which is very old. Considerable difficulties were experienced by the Department in acquiring a suitable site for the post but I am glad to say that such a site is now available. A deed governing the transfer to the Department of the title to the site has been completed. A certain amount of preliminary planning has already been done, and now that the site is available, the necessary detailed plans, drawings, specifications and so on will be prepared.

The building of married quarters for soldiers is a matter which is normally referred to in the debate on the Defence Estimate. The provision of housing in this context is, as Deputies will be aware, primarily a matter for the local authorities and married soldiers have an equal claim on such housing with other members of the community in the same category. It has, however, been the policy to supplement the efforts of local authorities where soldiers' housing needs are greatest. In pursuance of that policy, some 346 new married quarters have been built at various locations over the years and planning has been carried out for the construction of new houses for married soldiers at the Curragh Camp, Collins Barracks, Cork and Stephen's Barracks, Kilkenny.

With a view to the rehousing of families living in old married quarters at Arbour Hill, Dublin, my Department offered to make the site of these quarters available to Dublin Corporation for the building of additional houses, subject to conditions to be agreed. This matter has been the subject of correspondence and discussion for some time and I am glad to say that agreement has now been reached with the corporation. I propose to have consideration given to the question whether similar arrangements can be made in other areas where soldiers and their families are living in old married quarters.

As I indicated when introducing the Estimate for my Department in 1983, I would question whether soldiers should be housed by the Department 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. The system under which married quarters are allocated at present leads inevitably to the problem of the 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 well over 100 married quarters are overheld — many of them for several years past. The overholding problem has to be looked at in the context of whether the present system of providing houses specifically for soldiers should be ended in favour of some arrangement whereby their needs would be catered for other than in married quarters. I would welcome any comments which Deputies have to offer on this matter.

My Department have a long-standing involvement in equitation through the Army Equitation School. The equitation school had another successful year in 1983. The most encouraging aspect of the competitive performance of the riders and horses from the school has been the increase in the number of first prizes won in showjumping. It means that there are hopeful signs that the task of finding replacements for horses such as "Rockbarton" will be successfully accomplished when these horses are no longer able to compete, which, hopefully, is still some way in the future. Although "Rockbarton" is now 15 years old, he continues to be one of the world's great horses and was a winner at major competitions last year. I am sure that riders and horses from the school will continue to enhance the reputation that they have already gained throughout the equestrian world. It is expected that Army riders and horses will participate in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

"Asgard II" completed her full programme of cruises planned for 1983, covering a total distance of over 10,500 miles. About 600 people, including 361 boys and 192 girls, participated in the cruises. A feature of the year was the increase in the number of young people from the inner city areas of Dublin and Limerick who availed of cruises. This is a trend which Coiste An Asgard is taking steps to encourage. Among the highlights of the 1983 season was the voyage of "Asgard II" right up to the heart of London which necessitated a rare opening of the Tower Bridge to allow the high masts of the vessel to pass through. In June 1983 "Asgard II" made a visit to Copenhagen which coincided with the State visit of the President to Denmark. "Asgard II" was joined in Copenhagen by the Danish sail training vessel "Georg Stage" and the two vessels sailed in company for five days visiting a number of Danish ports and exchanging crew members. The young people thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Another highlight of 1983 was the Cutty Sark Race from Weymouth to St. Malo in August. "Asgard II" acquitted herself well in finishing second in the square rigger class.

A full programme of cruises on "Asgard II" is being undertaken again this year. As usual, some of the cruises include visits to ports abroad. At the invitation of the town of St. Malo the vessel recently visited St. Malo for a gathering of tall ships which took place there in celebration of the 450th anniversary of the voyage of Jacques Cartier from the port to Canada where he carried out the first exploration of the St. Lawrence. The vessel will also be visiting Fécamp in Northern France for a sea festival to be held there on 30 June and 1 July 1984.

In commenting on the provision for Civil Defence (Subhead G of the Estimate), I am conscious of the fact that Civil Defence and its main area of concern, the threat of nuclear warfare, have been very much in the news in recent months. The terrifying power of these weapons, the technological advances which appear to threaten rather than support the delicate power balance and the failure of the superpowers to make any significant progress towards the prospect of a lasting peace have reawakened public fears about the nuclear threat. Public concern as reflected in the press and on radio and television has raised two main issues — the need for a new initiative directed towards nuclear disarmament and the effectiveness of Civil Defence in the face of a threat of the magnitude of global nuclear warfare. Let me reiterate that there is no conflict of interest between the objective of Civil Defence and the objective of nuclear disarmament. Indeed, these are complementary aims and successive Governments have recognised their obligation to maintain both a reasonable state of Civil Defence preparedness and a policy of useful intervention towards the achievement of nuclear disarmament.

The former is my particular responsibility as Minister for Defence. To those who allege that in the event of nuclear war there is nothing Civil Defence can do I would say, first, that we are very well aware of the limitations which apply to Civil Defence response against the effects of nuclear weapons. At or close to the point of a nuclear strike Civil Defence is almost meaningless. We make no claim that our Civil Defence measures are designed to cope, or could cope, with such an eventuality. We do claim that that eventuality is by no means a likely threat for this country and that civil defence policy is rightly directed towards preparing against the hazard of radioactive fallout.

Against that hazard, there is a vital role to be played by Civil Defence — a role for which the State has no other agency in a position to respond. How good the Civil Defence response might be would depend on a number of factors and one not to be overlooked is public perception of Civil Defence measures and the preparedness of the public to take the advised protective steps. A certain amount of comment in the media has shown that there is cause for some disquiet in this regard; I would like to see a better dialogue towards establishing greater acceptance of relevant feasible Civil Defence measures. Obviously, Deputies and representatives of other public bodies can play a very useful role in this direction and any such co-operation will be very much appreciated.

We have never set out in this country to create an elaborate comprehensive Civil Defence structure. I do not think it appropriate that we should do so or that our situation demands it. The measures introduced have been influenced to some extent by our resources; more so, they have been influenced by what is feasible and relevant to the type of situation most likely to prevail. Periodically, plans are reviewed and, if the current examination shows that areas which merit special attention could be strengthened by realistic improvement measures, every effort will be made to initiate the required action without delay.

The planning process of itself is not financially demanding and, if there are financial effects of any consequence resulting from the current examination of civil defence arrangements, they are unlikely to be felt within the present financial year. This year's financial allocation of £1.5 million for Civil Defence is mainly required to provide for the customary grant-aiding of local authorities in respect of Civil Defence activities and the purchase and maintenance of training equipment and stores. Provided for within the sum for equipment are the new radiation dose rate meters which are being manufactured at present in this country and the initial issue of the new style Civil Defence uniforms, distribution of which is in progress. We are fortunate to have in Civil Defence such a fine expression of voluntary service to the community. Preparedness against the risks of war is indeed their primary purpose but Civil Defence volunteers continually serve the community well in a wide variety of peacetime situations. On behalf of the Government, I convey our appreciation and thanks and I include in this expression of gratitude the Irish Red Cross Society, the Order of Malta and the St. John Ambulance Brigade for their continuing co-operation with Civil Defence.

I turn now to the Army Pensions Estimate for the year ending 31 December, 1984, which is for a net sum of £37,839,000. The net provisional outturn for the year ended 31 December 1983 was £33,504,800. The 1984 Estimate represents an increase of £4,334,200 or 13 per cent, on the 1983 outturn.

The Estimate provides for the general increase in public service pensions effective from 1 July 1983 and the further increase in these pensions effective from 1 September 1983 by reference to the amount of the first phase increase in the public service pay agreement. These increases, which applied during the latter part of 1983, apply, of course, to the full year 1984. I am pleased to say, also, that in accordance with the decision of the Government announced in this year's budget statement, pensions and allowances have been increased with effect from 1 February 1984 by reference to the amount of the second phase increase in the public service pay agreement. Provision for this increase will be provided for in the Vote for Remuneration as required.

The main increases in the Estimate in terms of overall cost are: £314,000 in subhead C — allowances and gratuities to dependants, and so on; £2,996,000 in subhead E1 — Defence Forces (Pensions) Schemes and £610,000 in subhead K — grants in respect of the provision of free travel, electricity, bottled gas, television licences and telephone rental for veterans of the War of Independence.

A token sum of £10 is provided in subhead J for compensation payable by way of lump sum to or in respect of members of the Defence Forces who served with the United Nations Force and who were killed or wounded or who died or were disabled as a result of disease contracted during such 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 are recoverable from the United Nations.

As regards military service pensions, subhead D, and special allowances, subhead G, the numbers involved continue to decrease. There are now less than 1,600 military service pensioners and about 3,500 special allowance holders on pay representing reductions of approximately 350 and 500, respectively, in the past year. There is, however, a big increase in the number of widows of veterans of the War of Independence for whom provision is made under subhead C and an increase in the number of ex-members of the Defence Forces on retired pay and on pension for whom provision is made under subhead E.1. The total number of pensioners and allowance holders, accordingly, remains at approximately 20,000.

I commend both Estimates to the favourable consideration of the House. I look forward to the debate and I will be happy to supply any further information that Deputies may request in the course of it.

I should like to join with the Minister in paying tribute to the Defence Forces and the Civil Defence. I am sure that is an annual affair when the House is dealing with the Estimate. It is often a case that it is only when members of the Defence Forces are in the front line and facing major difficulties we write and talk about them. It is only right that we should express our gratitude to the Defence Forces for the job they are doing. For many years the Defence Forces have been playing a major role in our security arrangements supportive of the civil power and on a daily basis. The task is carried out quietly and efficiently and is a tribute to all those involved. As the Minister pointed out it is a sad reflection on our society that because of the times in which we live and the overspill of the Northern Ireland problems the Army are involved in more daily duties. The Minister has outlined the massive patrols the Army are involved in, the many check-points they man along the Border, the dangerous work involved in escorting explosives and the escorts provided for the transport of large sums of money. Those services are an indication of how the Army is used as a back up for the civil power. In the last ten years the Army has been called upon to carry out such duties, and we are all aware that one member, Private Patrick Kelly, paid the supreme sacrifice in Ballinamore last December. His death and that of Garda recruit Garry Sheehan, shocked the House and the country and brought home to us how the problems of vandalism, lawlessness and subversive activities have gripped the country. I agree with the comments of the Minister as to how quickly such events are forgotten.

The Air Corps is identified in a special way for its humanitarian work whether it is on dangerous rescue missions, providing an air ambulance service or other activities. Those activities are only a portion of the work of the Air Corps, who are also involved in a support role in the security field. The acquisition of the new French built helicopters will add greatly to the capabilities of the Air Corps. They are long overdue. These twin-engined helicopters capable of flying at night and in periods of reduced visibility will greatly enhance the Air Corps. In search and rescue missions and the air ambulance service we should not forget that the machines, sophisticated and modern though they may be, are only as good as the men who fly them. Time and again the Air Corps have achieved rescue successes in very hazardous conditions but always in a low profile manner which is characteristic of the Defence Forces in general.

With the expansion of our exclusive sea fisheries area the Naval Service have to assume a wider range of responsibility. Those involved in that service, like our fishermen, often carried out their duties in weather conditions that would shock ordinary people. An unpleasant feature of their work in recent years has been the task of dealing with the salmon fishing problem. Anything the Minister, in consultation with the Minister for Fisheries, can do to sort out this dangerous problem would be more than welcome. The arrival later this year of the new helicopter carrying vessel is eagerly awaited by the Naval Service. In his reply the Minister should indicate if there are any more ships in prospect and how he sees the future. The original intention was to acquire two ships of this type.

In the region of 75 per cent of the Defence Estimate goes on pay and allowances. The total Estimate is for £230 million, which is not a large sum when one considers the number of people involved in the Defence Forces and the fact that tomorrow in a short period we will be voting through £90 million to pay off the debts of a semi-State company. It often amazes me how little effort is put into examining public expenditure in certain areas. It is amazing to think that a Department of State is being run for a sum which is double the amount a semi-State company has run up in debts.

It is well to remember that there is no trade union involvement or representative bodies in the Defence Forces. I accept that that is as it should be because of the role the Defence Forces play, but it places a responsibility on the Minister to ensure that with regard to pay and related matters the Defence Forces are properly and adequately provided for. I assume that the increases granted to the public service are passed on as a matter of course to the Defence Forces and that all allowances are up to date. In the present economic climate it is not the best thing to suggest that substantial increases be granted, but I am sure the Minister will agree privately that the take home pay, bearing in mind the hours of duty of members of the Defence Forces, when compared to other public servants and those in the private sector is abysmal. We must take into consideration the dedication and loyalty of the Defence Forces.

I am pleased that the Minister dealt with the question of accommodation. In my constituency a number of barracks are located and while architecturally those 17th and 18th century buildings are very interesting, they are not the type of accommodation for a modern Army. It is nice to visit them and watch the soldiers carry out their drill but they are totally unsuitable as living quarters.

An aspect which the Minister mentioned and which I deal with daily as a public representative is that of married quarters. I have several times been involved with deputations to Dublin Corporation and directly to the Minister about the Arbour Hill married quarters. The arrangement which the Minister has worked out is very satisfactory and I would ask him to give some of the details when replying. This arrangement could possibly be extended, with the co-operation of the corporation. I agree with the Minister's point that it should not, perhaps, be the function of the Department of Defence to deal with people who should be on a housing list and it would be helpful if an alternative arrangement could be worked out with the local authorities. For a number of years soldiers felt that they had to leave the Defence Forces in order to get local authority accommodation. In that way they got some degree of priority but the arrangement ceased some years ago. It is an unfortunate problem which does not enhance the otherwise stable relationships in the Army. It can be an embarrassing subject and it should be dealt with in other ways. Perhaps the Arbour Hill development will be a headline for solving the problem in other areas.

For almost three years regular recruitment to the Defence Forces and annual training for reservists have been almost eliminated, with the exceptions which the Minister mentioned. The reasons are financial but in comparison with other Departments the Department of Defence cannot be accused of being an abuser of public money. They are one of the Departments who try at all times to stay within the financial guidelines laid down. They may suffer for this. The normal answer of other Departments when asked to cut some percentage points from their Estimates would be to think up one or two hair-raising things which would bring the nation to a standstill. The Department of Defence look at it in a different way because of their training. Successive Governments have reduced the overall numbers by several hundreds. This is an easy way to save money in a Department which is disciplined, whereas in a Department which is not in control of its own finances because of inefficiency it would not be done. It is wrong that a Department like Defence which has a relatively small Estimate should suffer as against abusers of public money or those who do not make an effort to stay within the guidelines laid down.

During a time of limited recruitment priority should be given to people directly involved in the FCA or other elements of the Defence Forces. This is only fair to people who give up their spare time to participate in the activities of the Defence Forces. Those who spend a number of years becoming familiar with Army training and discipline should be rewarded and those who wish to take it up as a late vocation should be told that the positions are held. I do not think it would breach any regulations of the public service because the screening of people joining the Defence Forces is far more important than an open competition. People who have obtained knowledge and expertise should get any positions which are available. I would ask the Minister to consider that point.

I wish to associate myself with the great work being done by our Defence Forces under Lieutenant-General William Callaghan in the Lebanon and our other forces in the Middle East. They have been excellent ambassadors over the past 25 years and the high reputation which they enjoy is richly deserved, based as it on the performance of officers and men in a number of locations throughout the world. The fact that the area in which the Irish battalion in the Lebanon is located is an area of peace and stability in an otherwise strife-torn land is evidence of the worthwhile contribution which the Irish troops and other UN contingents are making.

There were some signs over the weekend of a political breakthrough in the Lebanon. A new agreement was announced by the Prime Minister designed to restructure the army and restore peace in Beirut. There have been many initiatives designed to achieve peace but most of them have been all too transient. Perhaps this one will be more successful. Meantime our troops are engaged in the difficult task of peacekeepers, a task requiring skill, patience and diplomacy of a high order. These are qualities our troops have shown in difficult circumstances at home and, more importantly, abroad where they have been given extremely difficult tasks.

The Civil Defence is an area for which I had responsibility for a short time. In the event of the unthinkable occurring, that is, a nuclear war, the ability of the Civil Defence to help will depend on how this country is affected. In the event of nuclear fall-out the Civil Defence organisation could mean the difference between life and death for many thousands. While people generally have a major interest in nuclear disarmament, one of the criticisms levelled at Civil Defence relates to nuclear fall-out rather than other matters. I commend the major overnight operation undertaken early this year by Civil Defence to show how effective they can be. They have a tiny budget of £1.5 million. Civil Defence have proved over the years to be an extremely dedicated volunteer organisation.

At times when people were unable to do things for themselves, because of laziness or otherwise, the Civil Defence people were able to help out. We need only remember the dreadful weather of January 1982 when the Civil Defence, along with other voluntary groups, saved the country in a somewhat ludicrous situation. In the more dangerous, isolated locations the Civil Defence provided an excellent service, bringing their usefulness to the forefront of many people's minds, not least the Department of Defence who had advocated a saving of £1 million through the abolition of the Civil Defence. Perhaps they were not then up the mountains, as were the Civil Defence people, or in any other isolated area; probably they were living in centrally-heated homes in nice areas. Had they been then in any of those isolated areas, they would not have brought forward such a silly suggestion. I know the Minister will do the same as I did when I had the opportunity, tell the people in his Department to be somewhat more sensible and more logical. The saving of £1 million through the proposed abolition of the Civil Defence was one such silly suggestion and evidently the best they could offer. Certainly it demonstrates the mentality of some people.

I presume the pension figures mentioned reflect the pension increases granted elsewhere in the public service, keeping pace with the pensions paid to public servants in general. Presumably also any disability pensions attributable to the United Nations peacekeeping service are recoverable from that organisation and will not be a burden on our taxpayers. It should be remembered that people in receipt of old IRA pensions have decreased in numbers over the years. Bearing in mind the very small number now involved I would ask the Minister to continue to do everything possible to help that small band of people who continue to decline rapidly because of age. It is at this late stage of their lives that such people deserve consideration and appreciation of the tremendous service they rendered this State. The figures involved are miniscule compared with those involved in the public service generally. I do not think anybody would object to their being assisted. It is perhaps primarily a matter for the Minister for Finance but they are not now a vociferous group; they cannot fight their own battle any longer but it should be remembered that they fought this nation's battle long enough. In view of their very small number, they and their widows should be excluded from the general pattern of what is given to the public service because they constitute a case apart and are worthy of any assistance we can give them.

I welcome the continued improvements at various barracks, a number of which the Minister mentioned in the course of his remarks. I would underline also the importance of the Asgard II cruises because it is extremely difficult nowadays to find anything to occupy people in the inner city areas. This week we have had the debate on the Misuse of Drugs Bill and before that a long debate on the Criminal Justice Bill. While we realise that some people in the inner city are involved in crimes of one kind or another I, for one, would not condemn them because large numbers of them are deprived, suffer real poverty, are in need of assistance which is hard to come by. Any effort put in by anybody, whether in the public or private sector which helps to brighten their lives, making them feel they are part of society and not just a neglected and rejected lot — which they genuinely feel with some degree of justification — is to be welcomed.

The House need only imagine somebody living in a small flat in the parish of Seán McDermott Street where there is 84 per cent unemployment, very few community facilities, a lack of interest being shown in the area by many authorities, somebody perhaps whose parents or older brothers or sisters are unemployed. The children in those areas do not look to this House with any great degree of hope. In a small way the participation of individuals from the inner city in the Asgard II cruises helps brighten their lives in a way that would not be necessary for people in more affluent areas who can well afford to provide such facilities for themselves. Every Department, every area in the public and private sectors must do something to help these deprived people. I congratulate the Minister in this regard and on the fact that he has said that he will endeavour to extend these services which will be of major importance.

The Minister has been in public life sufficiently long to know that Bills such as the Criminal Justice Bill and others would not be necessary to the extent they are today were more such facilities provided. For example, children in those inner city areas would much prefer to be out on Asgard II cruises rather than joyriding in BMWs had they all the opportunity to avail of such amenities. They are not all thugs and delinquents. I am proud to know a large proportion of them. Indeed the activities of this House would be rendered all the more realistic to them if they saw more action emanating therefrom rather than the many Bills passed which are not of much benefit to them except, perhaps, putting them out of circulation.

I should like to place on the record my appreciation of the great work of the officials of the Minister's Department. They do a tremendous job in a somewhat difficult Department, not staffed in the way other Departments are. They work in a conscientious way with a dedicated section of our community, the Defence Forces. They do not spend much of their time on major disputes and, perhaps because of that, are not in the public eye as often as are other Departments. But over the years they have shown their strength in a number of ways whether it was in the course of a petrol strike, refuse strike, incidents like the Ballinamore and other kidnapping cases and so on. It must be said that the officials of the Department and the Defence Forces in a very quiet way have continued to uphold law and order here to an extent that might otherwise not have occurred. In saying this I am not being critical of other sections of the security forces but it must be said with justification that the discipline and organisation and dedication of the people who form part of our Defence Forces is beyond question.

This always strikes one when one visits an army barracks or goes to a meeting involving people in the Department of Defence and sees how they conduct their business. I do not suggest that the remainder of the country should start marching around but, even if we took three-quarters of a leaf from their book, this country might be a far better place in which to live, when there would be far less squabbling, more work done, far more done in the interests of the country and the community as a whole rather than as dictated by sectional misguided interests which so often happens. Anybody who has worked in the Department of Defence and with the Defence Forces will know exactly what I mean. Perhaps it would be a good exercise if the Minister were to organise guided tours for certain sections of the community to Army barracks, when perhaps such people would try somewhat harder when they returned to their own desks the following day.

On behalf of my party I am glad to approve these two Estimates. I wish the Minister and his officials continued success in the Department.

, Dún Laoghaire): My special concern in relation to the Department of Defence, namely Civil Defence, has already been commented on. In particular the Minister for Defence has concentrated on the fundamental purpose for which Civil Defence was established. He has adequately put into perspective the position of Civil Defence in the face of a remote but real threat of nuclear warfare and has outlined the thinking which underlies Government policy in this regard. There is no need for me to amplify what the Minister has said about the primary role of the Civil Defence organisation, but I would like to give some additional attention to their very valuable secondary role which was adverted to by him in his concluding remarks regarding the current Civil Defence provisions. I shall, therefore, speak on the peacetime role of Civil Defence.

A very noteworthy aspect of Civil Defence which is often overlooked is that they are a voluntary organisation. The Civil Defence volunteer is a public-spirited citizen who devotes time and effort without any payment other than the service of his and her community. In this important respect the Civil Defence volunteer is the same as anyone who serves without payment in charitable organisations or who engages in unpaid social work. As a voluntary organisation Civil Defence give great value to the State. I think the estimated cost is in the region of 50p per head of population.

While the volunteer is imbued with the spirit of community service, good intentions, as we know, are of but little use unless accompanied by effective action. The volunteer is effective because he or she is well trained in a variety of useful skills. As a member of any of the five Civil Defence services — warden, casualty, rescue, welfare and the auxiliary fire service — the trained volunteer would be capable of giving some assistance in almost all areas at peacetime accidents, natural disasters and emergencies. To ensure that he is not only trained but well trained and that his training keeps pace with the latest developments in techniques and technology, the volunteer has the backing of a very professional establishment in the Civil Defence School. As we know, the Civil Defence School is located in the Phoenix Park and is a very practical complex combining a lecture theatre, classrooms, workshop, stores, offices, library and training ranges. It is staffed by experienced and dedicated technical officers and instructors and has the back-up of up-to-date facilities for TV and video film production. I invite Deputies to visit the Civil Defence School, and if any arrangements need to be made for that I will be only too pleased to make them on behalf of the Deputies of this House. I can guarantee that anybody who chooses to visit the Civil Defence School will be favourably impressed.

The Civil Defence organisation is structured around the local authorities with the county managers as county controllers. The great peacetime advantage of this is that the organisation can be brought into action quickly at the behest of the controller to meet local demands and emergencies. Specially equipped county control centres are available from which relief work in disaster situations can be co-ordinated. The organisation is held in high esteem by the local authorities, an esteem shared by all those who have had occasion to call on their services for whatever reason. In referring to that point I would like to mention, as Deputy Ahern mentioned briefly, an attempt in the not too distant past of some journalist to imply that Civil Defence wardens in the event of fall-out or nuclear strike would get on their bicycles and cycle around the country. That type of language, implying that Civil Defence were a backward group of individuals who had only bicycles at their disposal, does nothing to promote and encourage people to take part in voluntary organisations as the men and women in Civil Defence are doing. I would like to put on record that I was unaware that such comments were being made on a programme of that nature. Had I known that that was the type of programme we were about to face I would not have been agreeable to take part. It is too easy for people to use the media on occasion to give the public the wrong impression of what a very dedicated group of people in Civil Defence are endeavouring to do. It behoves all of us in public life who see attacks of this cynical nature on such voluntary organisations to speak out and say that we do not support this type of snide remark which is often made about many of our voluntary organisations.

The Minister in his speech made reference to the role that Civil Defence would have in the event of a terrible disaster occurring such as a nuclear war. The facilities in training we have given to the volunteers are designed to deal with fall-out. None of us endeavoured at any time to pretend that if there was a direct strike in this country Civil Defence could solve all our problems. It is highly unlikely that too many of us would be around to find out. We are preparing, as we must, our Civil Defence volunteers for, one would hope, the unlikely event of fall-out. If it were to occur simple things can be done by the population, given proper direction and guidance by the trained personnel in Civil Defence, that could save numerous lives. That is the type of organisation Civil Defence have been and will continue to be.

In a society where it often seems that materialism increases daily while discipline and self-sacrifice decline the Civil Defence volunteer is a shining exception. Since their rebirth in the fifties the present organisation has trained perhaps 100,000 men and women. It has offered no monetary reward and only hard work. It swallows up spare time and engages in activities which, though often exciting, are sometimes boring and occasionally dangerous. Civil Defence confers no authoritative status as does Army or Garda service, yet with 40,000 members it equals both in strength. All this is proof that Civil Defence in peacetime can tap a noble instinct to community service which is latent in mankind. Many young people particularly feel dissatisfied and disillusioned in a materialistic world. They wish to help with society's problems but do not know how. I urge these young people to join Civil Defence, who will train them well and give them a sense of belonging and an opportunity to help whenever disaster strikes their community. It will also instil a sense of discipline, as referred to by previous speakers. Both the Army and Civil Defence instil into people a sense of discipline which in turn can only benefit the community at large.

In the context of increasing youth involvement in Civil Defence, I hope shortly to arrange for the distribution to schools for inclusion in the civics curriculum for junior cycle pupils a new instructive package in Civil Defence. With the support of the educational authorities, which I would like to acknowledge on behalf of the Department of Defence, I have no doubt that the package will receive a welcome reception and will be of mutual benefit to the Civil Defence organisation and the younger members of our society. When one considers the range of useful skills comprehended by Civil Defence training, the known commitment of Civil Defence volunteers and their willingness to help, one might ask if Civil Defence is being utilised in peacetime as much as it should. There is greater scope for involvement of the service in peacetime. Without greater involvement and expansion of the service the response that would be looked for from Civil Defence might not be quite adequate should we ever be unfortunate enough to experience an emergency beyond the historical level of peacetime disaster affecting this country. Modern technology brings with it the risk of emergencies beyond the historic scale, and it would be imprudent not to give some thought to developing the peacetime back-up provided by Civil Defence in line with the changing situation. I intend to initiate such consideration, and I will ensure that in the major review of the peacetime role of Civil Defence which I have in mind the views held by Civil Defence volunteers will be ascertained and borne in mind in any revision of policy.

In conclusion I ask the Deputies to support and foster Civil Defence in their constituencies. I am also very pleased indeed to add my thanks to the expressions of appreciation and gratitude in the Estimates statement of the Minister for Defence and of the Opposition spokesman, Deputy Ahern. Tributes to those who have served Civil Defence have been frequently put on record. From what I have seen since I came in closer contact with that great organisation I can confirm that the commendations are well deserved.

I join with the Minister and with Deputy Ahern in paying tribute to our Defence Forces. We have been very fortunate in that our Defence Forces have at all times supported the democratically-elected Government of the State. That is something we seem to take for granted, but we do not pay sufficient tribute to these men who have served the State so loyally since its foundation. It behoves the Government of the day to give the best possible deal to the men and women of our Defence Forces. There are areas such as conditions of employment that I would be concerned about. Also, as Deputy Ahern pointed out, the Defence Forces do not have trade unions to support them. In those circumstances it falls to us as elected representatives to speak on behalf of these men and women.

The Minister referred to his remarks in 1983 when he questioned whether housing should be provided by the Department of Defence for members of the Defence Forces. In the early days men were moved at short notice from post to post so there was a need to provide accommodation for them, but, I am concerned in particular about people who have served in the Army for 21 years and who find themselves at that stage without a home. Those people are at a disadvantage in terms of local authority housing. There is a need for greater liaison between the Department of Defence and the Department of the Environment with a view to some preferential treatment being given to these people. I am not suggesting that they be put ahead of families who have been on the list for three to four years but they should be given some consideration. After living in married quarters for a number of years members sign on for local authority housing but are put at the end of the list. There are problems, too, in that families being housed by local authorities are housed in areas quite a distance removed from the area in which they had lived while in the Army.

The witholding of grant payments until such time as the married quarters have been vacated is one that should be discontinued, because it imposes considerable hardship on the people concerned.

While there was limited recruitment during the year it involved recruitment to only one command. I appreciate that there was a special case to be made in so far as the Eastern Command was concerned, but the problem is evident throughout the country. This is resulting in commanding officers being put under strain and it is creating social problems for people in the Defence Forces. There is a reluctance on the part of commanding officers to sanction transfers, because once a command is depleted its strength may not be brought back up again. I hope that there will be an even spread so far as any future recruitment is concerned and that recruitment will be on a quota basis to the various commands.

There is reference, too, to consultancy fees. The one area in which I would be critical of the Army, and it is in their best interest that I offer this criticism, is the area of public relations. There is need for a much better public relations job to be undertaken on behalf of the Defence Forces. To some people the Army seem remote and to children in particular the sight of soldiers on the street guarding banks and so on can be intimidating. It is significant that at a recent careers exhibition in Cork the stand which proved the most popular was the one relating to the naval service.

The recreation facilities that are available to the Defence Forces in the form of playing fields and so on should be made available to the public in cases where there is no possible danger to security. The Army have a lot of property which could be put at the disposal of youth clubs and organisations.

The Minister refers to a token estimate of £10 under Subhead J. This deals specifically with service with the UN. In the event of a member contracting disease or being injured while serving with the UN he is paid a pension which in turn is recovered from the UN. Consideration should be given also to any member who must terminate his service because of contracting some disease while in the service. I know of one case where immense hardship was caused to a married man who was the father of a young family as a result of his having to leave the Defence Forces prematurely after contracting a disease that was not curable and from which therefore, he is likely to suffer for the remainder of his life. In that sort of situation there should be an arrangement on the lines of that which applies to civil servants who have to leave the service before reaching the age of 60 because of ill health. In such cases six years service are added for pension purposes. A person joining the Army signs initially for a three-year period and then renews the contract for up to a 12-year period, but time served after the 12-year period should be allowable on a pro rata basis with full entitlement to pension. One case I have come across recently concerned a member who had served for 18 years but who by reason of dire family problems had to leave the force prematurely. He did not qualify for a pension. The Minister should give consideration to the aspect.

I have received some complaints also regarding payment to members while they are serving with the UN. There is the feeling that payment is not made in full in such cases, that what the UN pay to the Irish Government is not passed on to the serving officer. I should like the Minister to clarify this point.

There is the question, too, of the patrol vessel. The helicopter ship will be coming into operation later in the year. There is a need for a highly sophisticated vessel of that nature, but the cost involved seems to be outlandish. People who are employed in the building of ships claim that two ships similar to the ones already in service could have been provided for the price of this one. I appreciate that recent incidents off our coasts have made it necessary for us to improve our technology in this area. These incidents involved our fishing fleets and lives were in danger. There is need for greater surveillance. There is demand for a ship which will be capable of locating submarines which are intruding into our waters. However, the cost of the ship is way beyond what could be justified.

In recent times we have become more aware of the role of the Defence Forces. It is regrettable that we cannot take on the number of people we require due to our financial position. I do not advocate that we should use conscription as a means to solve our unemployment problem. The Defence Forces could become actively involved in the area of apprenticeship training. There is a great demand for young people to enter the apprentice school in Naas. Some of the money which has been allocated to other Departments for youth training should be transferred to the Department of Defence. There could be greater co-operation between AnCO and the Department of Defence. Once the recession is over there will be need for skilled people. At present many young people are unable to complete their apprenticeships because so many companies are in liquidation. The Army could play a useful role in this area and the Minister should consider this point.

There is a lot of money involved in this Estimate and 75 per cent of it is for pay and allowances. The Estimate is for almost £230 million. We have an excellent Army. Their standard of discipline and contribution has been recognised worldwide.

Perhaps the Minister could make a saving in the area of maintenance where a large number of civilians are employed. From my information it would seem that of all the people involved in the public service this group have the highest number of sick leave weeks each year. There is need for a certain amount of maintenance in Army barracks but perhaps some saving could be made.

It is vitally important that the Army is kept up to full strength and has the most modern equipment. The House must provide the necessary finances to ensure that standards are maintained. The turbulence and difficulties in our country, particularly in Northern Ireland, have contributed significantly to the large amount of money which is needed in this Estimate. The cost of maintaining the Border and of keeping law and order is another factor.

Our Army has a proud record of international contribution through the UN service. Many members of our Defence Forces have given their lives in the cause of peace. We must respect that. We must ensure that the strength of the Defence Forces are kept up to give the type of service and security the nation requires.

As regards unemployment there may be an opportunity for the Minister to consider some type of optional Army training for young people coming out of second level education. They could perhaps do a year's training in the Army. Along with that they could do some kind of career training whether in the trades, electronics and so on. If there was consultation with AnCO there might be an opportunity for people to receive self-help which would help them to surmount the difficulties they would encounter in normal life.

The Army has made a major contribution in the equestrian world. We have always had outstanding Army show jumpers, horses and riders. They have helped not only to display our traditions and culture but have focused world attention on the quality of our horses and horsemen. The Army have done Ireland proud throughout the world in this area. I welcome the Estimate and would like the Minister to consider the points I have made.

I thank Deputies who contributed to the debate for their constructive questions and helpful comments. A casual observer might say that because of the few Deputies who contributed there was not much thought of the Defence Forces. That would be a mistaken impression. The fact that the Defence Forces are non-controversial and have not provoked a large number of controversial speeches is a compliment to them and an indication that they are serving the nation satisfactorily. That is the general public feeling about the Defence Forces. It is one that they deserve.

Deputies Ahern and O'Sullivan made the point that there is no system of representation within the Defence Forces á la trade unions and representative bodies. There cannot be because it would be inconsistent with the nature of a disciplined force organised in a hierarchical fashion. There are other forces which have such bodies. The arguments for or against them in such forces is a matter for other people in other debates. This debate concerns the permanent Defence Forces and I am satisfied there is no role for such representation within the Army. I am equally satisfied that because of that there is an unusual burden on the Minister for Defence of the day and on all Members of Parliament to be alert and sensitive to conditions in the Army and the grievances which Army personnel may have from time to time. They must be able to respond to this in a real way. If the Minister in question and Oireachtas Members are sensitive in that regard they will ensure that the demand for a representative body or the like will not emerge. The members of the Defence Forces would not welcome any such development. They had experience of it through their service with UNIFIL. Some continental armies have trade unions within their ranks. I spoke to our personnel when I visited Lebanon and asked them for their views on this subject. They viewed the presence of trade unions among other UNIFIL contingents with amused amazement. They had no sense of envy and did not want to see the like become part and parcel of the Irish Defence Forces. I am satisfied that that was the genuine feeling. As I say, a sense of amusement was the paramount feature of their reaction to this development. They, as good soldiers, thought it inconsistent with the military role and military experience. Again, I take the point that because of that it is important that the Minister of the day and public representatives would be alert and in contact with members of the Defence Forces to ensure that all grievances are properly and legitimately aired and, more important, that they would be dealt with.

One of the most important factors contributing towards a sense of wellbeing, satisfaction and good morale is to have good pay and conditions — especially good pay. Deputy Ahern again mentioned this. I should like to assure him and other Deputies that all the public service increases are, of course, automatically passed on to members of the Defence Forces.

I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that an extra £4½ million will be required from the Vote for remuneration in 1984, in addition to the £172,572,000 provided for pay in the main Estimate. This is to cover extra increases in allowances which were not provided for in the Estimate. These represent enhanced remuneration for officers and men of the Defence Forces. Over and above national pay agreements, certain special pay awards that were granted to other categories have been applied to these forces. I am glad that it was possible to do this. It is an earnest of the Government's desire that the pay in the Defence Forces would be kept up to the best possible level. We are also very concerned to ensure that allowances for extra duties in the security area would be kept under constant review. As I indicated when opening the debate, significant increases have been made in those allowances during the year.

I know that sometimes comparisons are made between the special allowances received by another uniformed force and the members of our Defence Forces and that it is felt that the balance is out of jig — that may well be. There are historic reasons why the system has developed in that way. The fact that it has so developed is not necessarily an argument for having both forces remunerated in exactly the same way. That would just not be possible. What we must do is decide on a fair level and keep that level under constant review so far as the Defence Forces are concerned. That is my continuing objective. I think we can safely say that the rate of pay and allowances is better than adequate. I would consider it to be good.

Certainly, the amount of interest shown by people who want to enter the Defence Forces would not be there if there were any public perception that the Defence Forces are underpaid or do not get proper allowances for the many duties which they have to perform. As I say, pay is an important element in keeping up morale. I am conscious of that and try to meet it in so far as possible within the general constraints of the Exchequer.

Another matter that touches on conditions in the Army is the question of housing. That has been adverted to by the Deputies who have spoken. I am glad that Deputies share my view that housing is primarily a matter for local authorities and that it should not be felt necessary to house soldiers as an exceptional section of the community. As Deputy O'Sullivan pointed out, the original need for married quarters — and these are all in existence since before the foundation of the State — arose due to the fact that in those days the military establishment then in this country transferred regiments right around the world. Of course, they had to have married quarters available for them whenever they were located in a new depot, barracks or station. That was the original need for them. Of course, in those days local authorities were not providing housing, in any event, on the same scale as they do nowadays. That reason and need do not apply to our Defence Forces who, by and large, are stationed permanently for the duration of their service in the one location. They can integrate and become part of the community and should be housed within the community by the local authority, or by themselves with the assistance of whatever State agencies are available for citizens generally. That is the way it should be, and that would obviate this great problem of over-holding to which Deputy O'Sullivan referred. It is a particular problem in that Deputy's area.

We cannot twist the arm of the authorities to give us special preference. I know that local authorities and their executive officers are sympathetic to the problems of soldiers finding themselves over-holding and do try to accommodate them. However, they are citizens competing with other citizens who have equally pressing housing needs. It is a difficult situation, but I want to assure the House that it is one of which we are very conscious and we keep in close contact with the local authorities.

With regard to the withholding of gratuities, this is done because people are over-holders and, as such, are in breach of contract. When it is a question of a pension or a gratuity, both are not withheld. Generally, the pension is withheld and the gratuity paid. People in that situation are not usually deprived of income because they would have their entitlements under other pension headings. Where the gratuity is withheld, in cases of hardship it has been my practice and that of my predecessors to release substantial amounts of the gratuity to enable any hardship to be met. It is not a hard and fast rule but, on the other hand, the rule must be there because unless some pressure is put on over-holders they would be inclined to remain on in a house which generally is available at a very low rent, indeed, and there is no incentive to move out. We must be realistic about it and have to ensure that there is reasonable pressure on over-holders to move out.

Behind the over-holder there is a serving soldier waiting to be accommodated. The serving man has to have preference since the houses were built for serving soldiers. Again, a person may not move out because he might not like the accommodation that has been offered by the local authority. As Deputy O'Sullivan pointed out, it may be in a wrong part of the city to suit his family obligations. In other towns, it may be in a particular scheme which is not popular. These are all difficulties which arise from the provision of married quarters. They are all arguments in favour of ending the system, so that local authorities would provide soldiers' houses. We are still engaged in building some married quarters because the need is so great and the resources of the local authorities are so limited that we have to supplement them. I envisage that as being an operation engaged in less and less frequently.

Deputy Ahern asked with regard to Arbour Hill. I do not know if I have all the information which he has in mind, but I understand that the agreement has now been made to transfer the site of the old quarters to the corporation. It would be a nominal consideration which would be paid. As part of the deal, the corporation are proceeding to rehouse the occupants of the old quarters and there are now only about 16 families left to be rehoused. They will be rehoused by the corporation when that body take over the quarters and rebuild on that site. There are two other old quarters at Arbour Hill which are separate from those being handed over. They are occupied by two NCO's. We have applied to the corporation to rehouse those two NCO's. Perhaps Deputy Ahern could use his influence with the corporation to have that done, so as to make these two old quarters available, because they represent a security problem in relation to Arbour Hill Prison.

With regard to the Naval Service and its fisheries role, Deputy O'Sullivan mentioned that the vessel recently launched in Cork cost an amount which would have provided two vessels of a different design. That is very possible. Of course, one reason why it cost so much is that there were significant overruns due to technical advances in design. I do not propose to go into the reasons for that now. The type of vessel which was commissioned was deliberately designed of the size and sophistication eventually provided. The requirements of the navy were to meet its enhanced role consequent on the new EEC fishing rules and the extension of the maritime jurisdiction with regard to fishing for the EEC countries. Having regard to the way the new fishing arrangements have settled down in the fishing areas within the 200-mile limit and the respect being shown to the limits by non-EEC countries we are satisfied that our present naval establishment, supplemented by this new offshore patrol vessel when it comes into commission, and with its helicopter carrying capacity, will be well able to fulfil our obligations under EEC regulations to patrol this fishery area. We have agreement in that regard from Brussels.

There is little controversy in regard to enforcing the fishery laws in the 200-mile zone generally where the people involved with our naval forces are non-citizens and non-EEC nationals. Ironically and regrettably, the controversy arises through our own citizens being in serious breach of our fishing laws within the territorial waters. Deputy Ahern suggested that I should sort out the problem with the Minister for Fisheries, but it is not a problem for me and the Minister for Fisheries to sort out. The only problem is the failure of a certain small number of salmon fishermen to obey the law. The law is quite clear as to how they can fish, when they should fish and with what type of equipment they should fish. There is no difficulty about the law. There is no problem in that regard. It is their unwillingness to obey the law that has caused the problem. I had hoped that, having seen the firm application and implementation of the law last year, the fishermen would realise that the days of thumbing their nose at the fishing laws had come to an end and that this year we might have a more peaceful scene.

I regret to say that as late as today off the south coast there were incidents where violence was used towards naval parties and the Garda involved. I have to deprecate that in the strongest possible way. I urge these fishermen to realise that the laws will have to be enforced and will be enforced, and that there is no profit for them or advantage in flouting the law. I appeal particularly to Deputies from maritime constituencies to use their influence to ensure that the incidents which occurred off the south coast will be isolated and will not be repeated.

I want to pay tribute to the men of the Naval Service for their dedication in assisting the civil power in this area, because it is not something they relish doing. It is incidental to their duties but, when called on as members of the Defence Forces to come in aid of the civil power, they respond loyally.

I welcome Deputy Ahern's remarks about the Asgard. It was interesting to hear from a Deputy from the inner city about the value of having people from that part of the city availing of the facilities of the Asgard. The committee who run the Asgard are anxious to expand. I am glad to be able to say commercial firms are making sponsorship available so that more young people from that part of the city can be accommodated and spared the full cost of joining the ship. The Asgard is a most valuable experience. I am happy that it will be available in an enhanced way for young people.

It is appropriate that I should thank those involved in running the Asgard and particularly the members of the committee who serve on a voluntary basis, and also thank the personnel from Irish Shipping who manage the vessel for us. They give us a tremendous service, a service of a very high standard of efficiency. Nothing is too much trouble for them. Likewise the permanent crew deserve our thanks for making the cruises so successful and so popular. That should be said.

Deputy O'Sullivan and Deputy Ahern spoke of the need to bring the Army more to the people and suggested that the general public should be more aware of the high standards one finds in the Army. On visits to Army installations, the neat and tidy appearance, the general air of calm discipline would be good therapy for many citizens in this troubled and untidy world. Deputy O'Sullivan thought we should do more in public relations to enhance the image of the Army.

I am satisfied that there is a very good public perception of the Army and that people are proud of it. Where they come in contact with soldiers, their perception of the Army is always enhanced. In many ways the Army is engaged in coming out to the public. For example, during the year, and particularly during the summer season, teams of gymnasts very often attend at summer fetes and shows. The Army band is available as much as possible for recitals and for charity occasions, very often on a non-fee basis. I must emphasise to Deputies that that is a limited service and for very special charities only. For general shows a fee has to be charged to cover the cost.

Within the operational demands on their time, the Air Corps try to make themselves available as well, with the helicopter and the fixed wing planes. In various other ways Army personnel in their own areas can help by providing tentage and small things like that. They are only too glad to help and they do help. Of course the Army horses move around the country at various horse shows. Our Army is small and it is not possible for it to be visible to the extent I or they would like in many places during the course of the year. People who live as I do in a garrison town would have a higher appreciation and perception of the value of the Army. The general public have a good appreciation of the value of the Army and its disciplined nature.

In addition I should say for Deputy Ahern's information that the Army hold open days in some barracks around the country. They are very popular. For example, they had one in Mullingar and Kilkenny. Open day in a barracks is probably particularly suitable where the barracks is situated in a town and the local community can identify with the Army, and the numbers are controllable. It is a good idea and I would like to see it expanded wherever possible, subject to security and being able to have the matter dealt with in an orderly way.

Another matter mentioned was the question of numbers in the Army. I and the Army authorities would like to see extra numbers recruited. Deputy Treacy mentioned this in the context of an enhanced or expanded apprenticeship scheme. He mentioned a year but a year would not really be long enough. It would pose immense problems if it were to be expanded to the size Deputy Treacy and Deputy Barrett last year had in mind. It would pose immense problems in terms of accommodation and equipment to train and the provision of instructors.

If the Army apprenticeship training scheme were to be expanded, it would have to be phased and gradual. I do not think it could be expanded on a sufficiently wide and dramatic scale to make an immediate impact on the level of unemployment or any such thing. I should like to see it expanded and it is something I am giving thought to at the moment. Possibly it would complement the question of civilian employees in Army barracks. There was a traditional need for them in that they relieved soldiers from doing certain duties so that they could be available for operational military duties. It is a matter that is being considered all the time. There has been a reduction in the number of civilian employees. Many of them have been there for many years and now we are looking at the balance between them and the military capacity to provide the services they are providing at the moment.

With regard to the numbers in the Army, it is a balance between what the Exchequer can afford and the operational needs of the Army. The Army authorities might feel the balance is a little tight against them in favour of the Exchequer but I am in between having to hold the ring. I should like to see a little easing but the Exchequer position is very tight. This year we are recruiting only to replace wastage as we did last year. Deputy O'Sullivan pointed out that last year recruitment was confined to the Eastern and Curragh Commands. The reason for that was there had been most serious wastage in units in those Commands and they were under-strength. This year recruitment is being spread equally between all Commands but it will be of a very limited kind. It is a scene I am watching carefully and one on which I shall be advising the Government in the course of discussions on the Estimates for 1985.

Deputy Ahern raised the question of pensioners and he asked that we might improve the pension entitlements of that dwindling number who fought in the War of Independence. He asked that we be as generous as possible to them. I sympathise with that point of view in respect of all pensioners who have served their country in some form. They are entitled to the most generous approach possible. Again, we must pay attention to the straitened position of the Exchequer although for this year a practical improvement was made for all State pensioners when it was arranged that their pensions would be paid from the date of the National Pay Agreement rather than postpone them to the following July which had been the procedure. That has meant an improvement in cash terms and it has removed a legitimate grievance because pensioners felt they were being discriminated against. That should not happen because they are entitled to our thanks, having served their country in whatever capacity. It was a small earnest of the Government's concern and it is something that will be kept under review.

Civil Defence was dealt with in considerable detail: I spoke about it, as did Deputy Ahern and Deputy Barrett, Minister of State, who has primary responsibility for that matter. The common theme in all our speeches was that we were disappointed at the lack of public perception of the value and importance of Civil Defence. People think about Civil Defence and they get a mental picture of nuclear holocaust, of the end, where nothing can be done. As I pointed out in my speech, our Civil Defence arrangements are not geared towards dealing with a direct strike because I doubt if any defence arrangements could deal with the consequences of a direct strike. What they are geared to deal with is what is most likely to affect this country, namely, radioactive fall-out and an immense amount can be done to protect the population against the adverse consequences of radioactive fall-out.

We will have to embark on a campaign of alterting the public to the advantages of Civil Defence and the protective measures that can be taken at comparatively little cost by citizens in their own homes. Certain elementary precautions can be taken so that in the event of a catastrophe happening and radioactive fall-out affecting this country we would be able to take simple protective steps that would save many lives. That is possible in practical terms but we have to convince the public and get their support. Deputies could do a valuable job in that regard by availing of any opportunity to spread that message. Even more so, they could do good work in identifying with Civil Defence in their own areas. They could attend Civil Defence functions and exercises, thus letting the 40,000 Civil Defence members know that they are appreciated and that their work is valuable. That is important and it is work that could be done by Deputies.

The main emphasis during the debate in so far as the Defence Forces are concerned has been on their role as an aid to the civil power. I mentioned their function of assisting in salmon protection and Deputy Ahern drew attention to their duties on the Border. Generally speaking, the public perception of the Defence Forces is that their main operational role is in aid of the civil power. However, the basic role is to defend our neutrality and to defend the country against external aggression of an armed kind.

The capacity of our Defence Forces to do that compared, for example, with other traditionally neutral countries such as Sweden and Switzerland is limited. Our spending per head of population on defence is the lowest in western Europe. In 1982, the latest year for which I have figures, our spending on defence was $82 per head of the population, whereas Sweden spends in excess of $300 per head of the population and the same applies to Switzerland. Those countries are traditionally neutral. There is no inconsistency between a neutral policy and substantial spending on defence. In fact, there is a consistency because if one is to maintain one's neutrality one must be prepared to defend it and to mount such a bite in military terms that a would-be aggressor would be deterred from infringing on that neutrality. It would cost thousands of millions of pounds if we were to try to enhance our defence capacity to put ourselves in that position. While we are neutral and while our policy is one of neutrality, we must be brutally frank about it: we are hardly in a position to defend our neutrality as we stand now. That is not to diminish the value of our Army. Our Army are extremely professional and have shown that in their duties abroad with the United Nations. We have a small, professional Army capable of being expanded quickly and of providing the nucleus for quick expansion should the need arise. Because of the size of the Army, their capacity is necessarily limited but they are an extremely valuable part of our national structures.

I welcome the general theme of the contributions to the debate which was to pay tribute to the men and women of our Defence Forces. I should like to echo those tributes and to say, as Minister for Defence, that those tributes are well deserved. We are very well served by the men and women of our permanent and reserve Defence Forces. They deserve all the praise we can given them and as Minister for Defence it is my ambition to ensure that their conditions of service and the general provisions for the Army will never fall behind.

Vote put and agreed to.