Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Defence Force Female Membership

6.

asked the Minister for Defence if the Government have any target figure for female membership of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

(Dún Laoghaire): The strength of the Permanent Defence Force is determined from time to time in the light of military requirements, and does not differentiate between male and female members.

Because of the non-combatant role of female personnel, the enlistment of recruits for general service has had to be confined to male personnel in recent times. The question of recruiting additional female personnel is reviewed periodically in the light of current strengths and commitments.

I am anxious to ascertain from the Minister if there is any point in recruiting a tiny number of females to the Army, a total of 61 out of 12,063? Is there some policy, programme or target for a certain area of recruitment or is the Minister anxious to give the impression that the Army is open to men and women by having a token number of women recruited? Is there a target in regard to recruitment when recruitment takes place? Will a certain proportion of the number recruited be female? I understand that only one woman was recruited this year and last year, four in 1982 and 50 in 1981. What is the Minister's target and policy in regard to the recruitment of women?

(Dún Laoghaire): The recruiting of additional female personnel is reviewed from time to time in the light of the current strength and commitments of the Defence Forces. A lot depends on the number to be recruited. The fact that female recruits are non-combatant plays an important part in deciding whether males or females are taken on.

Recruitment of men and women has slowed down at present but I am anxious to know the Minister's policy in regard to normal recruiting. How many members of the Army would the Minister regard as combatant? Is there no place for women in the Air Corps or the Naval Service where women have not been recruited? Are noncombatants recruited to those services? Has the Minister a policy in regard to recruiting women to those services?

(Dún Laoghaire): It depends on the requirements of the Army, the Naval Services or the Air Corps and because of the small number being recruited at present those being recruited have been males. That seems to be reasonable since the duties they will have to perform are not performed by women. There is not a policy not to recruit women. It depends on the resources available to the Department of Defence and the duties the military authorities feel they have to fulfil. At present those duties are of a combatant nature.

Given that the nature of duties open to women will remain non-combatant, should the Government not start some positive move for female enlistment? Will the Minister agree that since Deputy Molloy, who as Minister for Defence introduced the enlistment of female recruits to the Army, left that Department the momentum has stopped? Will the Minister agree that it is now a cosmetic exercise for the purpose of being able to say that the Irish Army is open to men and women when in fact it is only open to men? Does the Minister feel that 61 out of 12,000 is equal representation?

(Dún Laoghaire): I do not accept that former Minister Molloy was engaging in a cosmetic exercise when he permitted the recruiting of females.

I said that Deputy Molloy started the exercise.

(Dún Laoghaire): It was a worthwhile process and it will continue but it depends on the resources available and the duties to be performed from time to time. We have to be guided by the military authorities in all this. At present because of the small number being recruited and the fact that they are combatant means that fewer women are recruited.

Where is the misogynist Minister?

(Dún Laoghaire): The numbers are smaller in relation to females.

This Government are discriminating against females in the Army. They are not recruiting female apprentices because of a lack, they say, of proper accommodation. What arrangements are being made to provide proper accommodation for female Army personnel?

(Dún Laoghaire): Deputy O'Rourke has made a very valid point because when female members are recruited into the Defence Forces, accommodation must be considered. The question of providing accommodation will continue to be considered in the context of competing demands for scarce resources. It is not simply a question of recruiting.

Deputy Haughey.

Deputy Haughey and I have an arrangement. I will ask questions now and he is reserving his right to ask questions later.

And the Chair will decide.

Of course.

Would the Minister tell the House the establishment figure for women members of the Defence Forces in each of the services?

(Dún Laoghaire): In the Army there is a total of 61——

I asked about the establishment figure. Does the Minister know the difference between the establishment figure and the strength figure?

The establishment figure is the figure up to which you are allowed recruit.

(Dún Laoghaire): No figure has been decided.

There must be ——

There has always been an establishment figure above which we may not recruit and the strength is the actual strength which would be the establishment figure or less, but never more. I am asking what is the maximum number of female members who may be recruited into the Defence Forces in each of the services.

(Dún Laoghaire): No figure has been decided on.

Considering the fact that two minutes ago the Minister did not know the difference between the establishment figure and the strength ——

(Dún Laoghaire): I know the difference.

——the answer the Minister is giving now is not factual.

(Dún Laoghaire): I was looking at the file.

There is no point sending a boy in to answer questions.

(Dún Laoghaire): You were in the darkness for a long time——

There was always a light at the end of the tunnel.

(Dún Laoghaire): I am not afraid to complete with you at any time.

Order, please, Deputies. Deputies should address the Chair.

Where is the Minister?

It appears the Minister does not have the facts at his disposal. The purpose of the question was to find out what was the establishment for female recruitment. In view of his reply, would the Minister tell us the type of duties open to women in the Army? What duties do they perform?

(Dún Laoghaire): The present female personnel are integrated into the various divisions and the duties they perform vary. There are some women medical officers, some cadets and there were 41 recruits in 1981.

Where is misogynist Cooney?

I am moving to the next question.

(Dún Laoghaire): You are not going to ruffle me. You may have ruffled the Minister of State, Deputy O'Brien but you——

Order, please. Deputies should address the Chair.

(Interruptions.)

The Minister said that in time of scarce resources priority must be given to certain areas. Does he not regard female recruitment to the Defence Forces as a priority? Is this recruitment to fall off because of scarce resources?

(Dún Laoghaire): As I said, it depends on the commitment in the Army whether males or females are recruited, and because of the present commitment they have been concentrating on males.

I want an assurance that in view of the general policy and attitude of this Government there is no intention to privatise the Army.

Where is the Minister? What is he at?

(Dún Laoghaire): Performing official duties on behalf of the Army.