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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 21 Mar 1990

Vol. 397 No. 3

Defence (Amendment) Bill, 1990: Second Stage (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by the Minister for Defence, Deputy Lenihan, on Tuesday, 13 March 1990:
That the Bill be now read a Second Time.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "That" and substitute the following:
"Dáil Éireann declines to give the Bill a Second Reading until such time as the document entitledPermanent Defence Force — Representative Groups has been published generally and has been considerd and debated by Dáil Éireann.
—(Deputy Nealon.)

(Carlow-Kilkenny): I had an opportunity during Question Time to check the papers for reference to the meeting between Deputies Hillery and Kitt and the Army but I failed to see any such reference. Maybe it went on into the early hours of the morning or maybe it is a sign that these kinds of arrangements should not take place. If we cannot get a report on it, even through the papers, we certainly will not know what is going on. This is probably not the right way to run the business of the House.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, one of the difficulties we have is that we do not seem to know what is going on in this Bill. If the Minister, even today, had outlined the position as it stands we might not have to say some of the things we are saying now. I understand that the Minister has made a statement regarding the meeting last night and that the spokesmen have information we do not have. I am not sure whether we are supposed to know what is going on in this Bill. It is being rushed through the House but we intend to put down amendments to it. Perhaps we are being kept in the dark. I do not know the procedure but certainly if there are documents available we should all have got them so that we would know exactly what is taking place.

It is a pity there is acrimony regarding this Bill. Unfortunately the people in the Army feel they have to almost fight their way to establish their rights for representation. There are regulations concerning the Army going back to the 1800s. The Army must have a certain line of discipline at all stages amd must obey orders. I do not think that was ever in question but they should be able to represent themselves. There will obviously be a long discussion between the Army and the Minister's office. The process of conciliation and arbitration should be available to the Army so that problems can be sorted out. We want no more argument and we do not want hassle with PDFORRA. The Army must march in tune and it is very important that we do not put them out of step by introducing nitty gritty proposals which they are not happy with and which might make very little difference.

If the Minister tries to impose his will on the Army it may achieve very little. It may do a lot of damage and turn them sour and we do not want that. If the disputes that arise could be referred to conciliation and arbitratiion they could be ironed out. I think the Minister has already conceded the regulations. There has been talk about holding meetings in Army installations. I would suggest to him, when setting up a group, that they might meet in a hotel which would be much more comfortable than an Army barracks which may not suit people who have to travel long distances. That is something that, in this modern age, is slightly out of tune. I am not sure why the Minister of State is shaking his head.

There is also a regulation on good rating and as has been pointed out by my colleagues, a person whose haircut does not comply with the standard of the commanding officer might finish up without a good rating. If such a situation could arise, it would be farcical that a person could be prevented from standing for election because he failed to achieve a good rating. If, as accepted right across the board, somebody is fit to serve in the Army and is not asked to pack his bags and go, then he should be considered fit to stand for election. All public representatives should defend that right. Who can stand up and say he is perfect? It would never do if that was the standard adopted for standing for election. How many of us would get a good rating as TDs when it comes to standing for re-election? We might be putting obstacles which should not be there.

It appears this Bill is being rushed through the Dáil. I hope this does not lead to difficulties and that amendments which should be considered carefully are not ignored. I welcome the Bill in that it proceeds to give rights to members of the Army to have their own spokespersons. I appeal to Members to do nothing to worsen the position which should never have been allowed arise.

I take this opportunity to welcome the Bill. A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, you are much aware that some five years go I initiated the discussion in this Chamber on the matter before us today. At that time, I was told in very positive terms by the then Minister and by a number of Ministers, that the Defence Forces did not want a representative body. Indeed, that is on the record of the House and that was the position of all spokesmen and of successive Ministers. They said the Army did not want a representative body, but having spent 29 years plus in the Defence Forces — I am definitely the longest serving member of the Defence Forces in the Oireachtas — I knew they would demand and get a representative body. It is a proud day for me to welcome this Bill. If the former Ministers, and in particular the previous Minister, had listened to the advice that was given by people like me, this mess that has emerged in the Defence Forces would not have arisen and there would not be this stiff opposition to some aspects of the proposals. If both the Bill and the regulations had been circulated in the military establishments two or three years ago, they would have been more readily accepted. The Defence Forces were misrepresented and the elected representatives took what the Department said in good faith, but a great deal of what was said was put across badly and was misleading in many respects, as emerged following the previous review. One has to accept that there is a great deal of mistrust in the Defence Forces about the whole political scene, and particularly what comes out of the Department.

The Army wives set up an organisation to get around the DFR regulations and then we saw the formation of PDFORRA. On St. Patrick's Day I had the opportunity to meet with a wide variety of different ranks, officers, NCOs and men in a number of locations, particularly in the Border areas. The general consensus was that they would welcome the main thrust of the Bill and the regulations, with certain reservations. It was a matter of finding a way to unlock the impasse and I congratulate the two members of the Government party who took the initiative in that regard. Someone needed to take the initiative because, under the Defence Force Regulations, the Minister could not give official recognition to an organisation which was not provided for in the Defence Force Regulations or in the Bill. I would have proposed that the Minister leave the Bill in limbo, which he is entitled to do under section 8 (3), to allow for discussions either directly or indirectly with PDFORRA so that they could tease out the proposed regulations. I assume that the regulations as circulated are proposed regulations and not final regulations. There are certain aspects of the regulations that can be improved and changed without interfering with the main thrust of either the Bill or the regulations.

The Bill can be amended on Committee Stage and I will be suggesting a number of amendments to our own spokesperson. I know that other members of the Opposition, and perhaps the Minister, who have listened to the debate, will welcome amendments to certain sections, in particular sections 2 and 6. I do not think it is appropriate at this stage to start a discussion which can more appropriately take place on Committee Stage.

However, there are a number of problems that have to be overcome. One matter that came out loud and clear was the exclusion of the conditions of service from the provisions of the Bill. The members of the Defence Forces feel that conditions of service have to be included in a much broader sense and that the terms of reference in the regulations and the Bill are far too narrow. They are not, of course, suggesting for one minute that every time an order is given, be it a fire order or a command, people stop and question everything they are required to do. That is not the intention but there are more aspects involved than just pay and allowances which need to be put right.

It is an accepted fact that the Defence Forces have been neglected generally. While their living quarters and dining facilities in billets have been improved there is still a long way to go. For instance, some Army barracks should have been demolished and rebuilt 100 years ago. There is also the question of rationalisation. It is recognised within the Army that there is too much overlapping and wastage. Some units are not properly equipped and the transport service is a national disgrace. I have raised that matter in the House but was told that there was no problem. If there was an emergency tomorrow we would have to go to CIE to get buses to transport troops as the transport service within the Army has virtually broken down.

I do not know whether the new representative body would want to talk about things like that but I respectfully suggest to the Minister that they should at least voice an opinion as they will have to deal with this matter on a daily basis. Not alone should we give them the pay and allowances they rightly deserve but also give them back their self-respect. The feedback we have been getting in recent times is that their pride and self-respect have been taken away from them. They have been told lies and been misled. At times they have been told that things were OK when everybody knew they were not and they have taken a constant hammering. They must be free to voice their opinions.

In many other European countries not alone are there representative bodies within the defence forces but also all-party committees within parliament made up of people who have served in the defence forces who know what they are talking about. Unfortunately, I think the Taoiseach and I are the only two Members of this House whose service in the Defence Forces is worth talking about. Therefore one can see that the Members of the Oireachtas and members of the public service do not really understand the feelings of the men who have to do 24 hour duty on the Border. A former colonel in the Defence Forces who shall remain nameless, once told me that men do not do 24 hour duty and that I was wrong. That is an indication of the level of ignorance even among former members of the Defence Forces.

The real service, apart from the early days of the State, commenced in 1969. I am aware, being a former member, of the extent of the security duty which had to be performed at a time when the Army was very thin on the ground and when the FCA carried Defence Force personnel on their backs in the Border area. While reference is made to representation for members of the FCA in the form of Permanent Defence Force personnel serving with FCA units, there is no mention of direct representation for members of the FCA. We should bear in mind that most of the conditions affecting the members of the PDF also affect members of the FCA. I suggest that provision should be made in the regulations to allow the representative body co-opt a number of experts or advisers to represent a category not generally covered by that body. There would be nothing unusual about this. In fact it is quite common among trade unions. I have run national groups within my own union and very often have found it necessary to bring in experts. Perhaps a special place could be found for women and members of the FCA of officer, NCO and private rank as they have a contribution to make and have much more experience of industrial relations than the members of the PDF. That is one of the problems that is going to be encountered.

This is a new weapon for the members of the Defence Forces and there is no manual they can consult. The majority of serving members have never been members of trade unions. As I said, 99.9 per cent of them have no experience of industrial relations other than what they have learned from the newspapers, their families and friends. Therefore we will have to be very patient. They have waited a long time for this representative body. This is a very important step and it has to be thought out properly. Above all, there has to be agreement between both sides. There would be no point in asking the Army to operate under conditions they do not agree with. We would be far better off having no legislation or regulations if we were to go down that road. A big mess was made the last time. However the Minister seems to be handling the matter this time in a much more professional and understanding way.

A number of other matters should be looked at. First, I suggest that eventually there will have to be a second phase as, given the turnover of personnel particularly at NCO and private level, it is obviously going to be difficult to maintain continuity within the ranks. I hope the position will improve and that serving members will stay longer now that some of their dignity is being restored. The second phase would be the setting up of some form of outside secretariat, in other words the representative body would be serviced by somebody recruited from outside the Army, such as a professional person or group of people who would be paid by way of contributions from the members of the Defence Forces or jointly by them and the Army. As members of the public service will know there is not the same level of turnover or transferability in other sectors. For example, many hundreds of members of the Defence Forces over a period of two years will have served overseas with the United Nations or other international groupings. Many of these will have to go on courses while others will be transferred, go on the ticket, retire or leave the Army for one reason or another. Therefore to maintain continuity in the organisation the second phase should be the establishment of a full-time secretariat.

I am also very interested in the question of conciliation and arbitration. It is also the question I am most concerned about. As I have pointed out previously, the members of the Defence Forces receive pay increases following the conclusion of negotiations carried out by the public service unit of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. This unit negotiates with the Government of the day to work out an agreement for the public service and eventually this is passed on to members of the Defence Forces. I have also pointed out and it has come out in this discussion that they have never been paid special increases unlike various other sectors within the public service whose union are able to negotiate such increases. I am referring to national understandings and national pay agreements. The Defence Forces could not do that because there was no procedure under which they could put their case. There is no form of arbitration or conciliation for them and the Minister should give careful consideration to that.

We must bear in mind that there is no professional expertise in the Defence Forces in relation to industrial relations. This is a new ball game for them and that is why I welcome the suggestion that PDFORRA should have further consultations on the regulations and the provisions in the Bill. I suggest, respectfully, to that group that they should consult with trade union representatives, preferably at Congress level, who are expert on conciliation and arbitration. They will get only one bite at the cherry.

Much of what I wish to say in regard to the Bill will have to be left to Committee Stage. I can understand the reluctance on the Minister's part, and on the part of senior officials in the Department and senior Army officers, to broaden the scope of the provisions of the Bill. They are afraid that to do so would create problems. I suggest that the regulations should include a provision that the scheme should operate for a trial period of one year or, perhaps, two years. The period should be based on the term of office to be included in the regulations. At the end of the agreed period there should be a positive review of the scheme and any changes considered necessary should be introduced. There is no such thing as a perfect document when dealing with industrial relations and nobody knows that better than I do.

I am satisfied that the proposals in the regulations for representation are reasonable. They are based on a 50:1 ratio which is the type of representation that exists within the trade union movement. It appears to me that geograpically and by command corps and unit, every effort is being made to make the scheme as fair as possible. There is no doubt that problems will arise. For example, the problems of a married man with six children and those of a single person are very different. There is no doubt that conflicts will arise within the ranks because a married man is paid in a different way and his allowances are different from those of a single man but those problems will be sorted out as time goes on.

I should like to ask the Minister to consider a point I wish to make in regard to the FCA. In my view the FCA is the eyes and ears of the Permanent Defence Forces. The members of that group are the main link between the Army and the civil population and it would be wrong to exclude them from this whole operation. The Minister should make provision for the co-operation of a representative of the FCA. I should like to congratulate the Minister on taking the initiative in regard to the Bill. Many years ago an attempt was made by a famous FCA senior officer to form an association but not alone did he run the risk of being court martialed but he was almost excommunicated. It was considered that he had committed a mortal sin by making such a suggestion. This is a proud day for me because I claim, whether other people agree with me or not, to be the person who initiated this campaign. I am pleased that the changes will be made without a split being caused in the Defence Forces. If the Minister had not taken a step to the rear, perhaps an iompaigh thart or a seasaigaí ar ais, we would have been in trouble. We were heading in that direction. It would be better if we delayed a decision on the Bill for a further period and reach agreement on all aspects of it so that we can soldier together on this issue, the political and the military.

I welcome this opportunity to make a contribution on the Bill. I am interested in its provisions. At the outset I should like to state that next month a new Army barracks will be opened in Cavan and I welcome that move. I support the amendment, proposed by Deputy Nealon, calling on the Dáil to decline to give a Second Reading to the Bill until such time as the document entitled, Permanent Defence Force Representative Groups, has been published generally and has been considered and debated by Dáil Éireann. I support the amendment not because I am opposed to the Bill but because sufficient discussion had not taken place on the provisions of it. The Minister has missed a great opportunity. Now is the time to give the Defence Forces a full say in the running of their affairs. Had the Minister approached this in a different way and entered into proper consultations with the people concerned, the confusion that exists would not be upon us. There is no doubt that there is a lot of confusion about the Bill. It was apparent from the moment the Minister sat down after presenting the Bill and Deputy Nealon our spokesperson on Defence, commenced his contribution that the Minister was lost. He realised that he has made a hash of the Bill. He backed off. He told us that there was no problem, a phrase he often uses. I appreciate that he has solved many problems but he has many problems to solve in regard to the provisions in the Bill.

There are rumours circulating that negotiations took place last night between Government backbenchers and others. The Minister should tell us if those negotiations took place. Why is it necessary to have such hush hush meetings? The Minister is not clear on this issue. We are entitled to know if talks took place. Why are the Government adopting this attitude? We have been told that the provisions in the Bill will give the Defence Forces the representation they desire and we have been asked to support them.

The denial of the right to form an association contravenes the UN charter on human rights and Article 40 of our Constitution which deals with the right to form and join an association. The Bill ignores the resolution of the European Parliament in 1984 which called on all member states in peace time to allow armed forces to participate in representative associations. If that right had been recognised in time the formation of the Army Wives Association and PDFORRA would not have been necessary.

The introduction of the Bill is a move in the right direction but an amount of work remains to be done on it. I suggest that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted. Otherwise, the Minister will have to take on board a number of amendments. Many of the provisions of the Bill are unacceptable. I am a long time admirer of the Defence Forces. Many people, including Members of the House, see fit to criticise them and that is not right. In Cavan we have one of the oldest Army barracks in the country and the personnel there have had to endure very bad accommodation. A replacement is long overdue and I am pleased that the new barracks will be ready for occupation next month. The conditions under which the soldiers lived and worked in the Cavan barracks were very poor. I am glad to say I was one of a number of people who campaigned vigorously for the building of an Army barracks at Cavan and I look forward to being present at the opening of that barracks in the near future.

I have first-hand knowledge of the Defence Forces particularly in relation to Border duties. In recent years that has become a very difficult task and personnel are daily putting their lives at risk. Many people may suggest they are off on another hike on a Border tour but it is fraught with danger. Fortunately we have not had too many incidents but there have been a number and an incident can be sparked off at any time. These men are prepared to lay down their lives to defend this country from undesirable elements that seek to disrupt the development of our country both North and South, and to bring about peace and unity.

I recall, after we became a member of the United Nations, our troops being asked to go on a peace-keeping force to the Congo. Again there were the people who would say it was a holiday for them but it was not very long until a number of their members had to lay down their lives when they were involved in an ambush. People then began to realise this was not a picnic but that this was the real stuff and it did not deter subsequent units of the Defence Forces from continuing on a peace-keeping basis. They are acknowledged worldwide for the manner in which they are prepared to face into their task and for being prepared to lay down their lives in the defence of peace. They also have the great ability to mix with the local civilian population, which is very important and is a tribute to our Irishness. They are recognised as people who can deal with tricky situations and who can bring about a settlement where others might create greater problems or further trouble.

For that reason alone it is important that these people are given the recognition for which they have been striving for the past 70 years, since the foundation of the State. It is sad to think that it took us until 1990 to do something about it. We had the formation of the Army Wives' Association. I met those people. On the day the Bill was introduced in this House I had the pleasure of taking a number of them from Cavan-Monaghan to the public gallery where they could see at first hand what this Bill was about. I can assure the Minister of State that they left this House very disappointed. I told them all was not lost, that we would be pushing amendments. I have met those people during the past three or four years since the association's formation. I will admit that I was not fully aware of the difficulties experienced by the wives of those men in keeping their households together on unacceptably low pay. It came to my notice for the first time that the Society of St. Vincent de Paul were regular callers bringing food parcels to people who were in desperation at weekends. That is a fact of life.

On numerous occasions I have had to make representations to my own local authority in relation to arrears of rent not because such people were living beyond their means, not because they were wilfully spending the income they had. Far from it; they were very frugal people, proud of their young families and trying to clothe them properly and schooling them but not having sufficient money at the end of the week. It may be said that that is the story of many other people and I accept that, but, nevertheless, these people are in a different category and should be given a salary that would keep them in reasonable comfort without having to campaign and march to Dáil Éireann when they should be at home with their families. I found they were genuine people who did not wish to disrupt anybody's livelihood but only to seek for themselves a reasonable standard.

The formation of PDFORRA resulted from necessity. When this Bill becomes law, not in its present form I hope, but after it is properly amended, I wonder if the Army Wives' Association will be allowed to continue. Having started their work these good ladies do not intend stopping when they have at last found a niche for themselves and find they can be of support to their husbands. I hope they will not be outlawed. Likewise, the position of PDFORRA is not clear. In relation to people standing for election to the new association a good conduct clause will be invoked. I understand a soldier's conduct rating is a matter of secrecy and that it is not knowledge that other members of the Defence Forces would freely have. If a person puts himself forward for election and he is not accepted then, obviously, it will then be said that his rating was not sufficient to allow him. That would cast a slur on him which would be totally wrong and unconstitutional.

Under the provisions of section 6 (2) if a person came to me to seek advice as to how a member of the Defence Forces should go about improving their lot and if I suggested that they join a union, that would be in conflict with the terms of this Bill for which I could face a term of imprisonment. It is outrageous in this day and age that that type of thinking is still abroad and it is not acceptable. These are points of which the ordinary decent members of the Defence Forces are aware and are annoyed about and wish to have straightened out. Section 2 (3) states that:

An association shall be independent of and shall not, without the consent of the Minster, be associated with or affiliated to any trade union or any other body.

Again, the Minister will have the final say as to how these people conduct themselves. I think we should give them the recognition to which they are entitled and the Minister should not wave the big stick in that manner. These are a number of items which are causing concern. Others have been raised here by different spokespersons, all of which I can assure the Minister are put forward in the most reasoned manner to ensure that when this Bill is finally enacted it will give the Defence Forces the representation they desire and also that it will give them something of which they can be proud. That is the least we owe them.

In relation to other aspects of the Defence Forces and particularly the new barracks in Cavan, I understand that the travelling distance from their homes in Cootehill is 18 miles and that no transport service is being provided for the soldiers. This is a matter that should be examined. Those based in Cootehill and at present raising families and schooling them there do not wish to move home from Cootehill to Cavan because of the disruption to family life. I suggest that the Minister make transport available to these people. Because of their present level of income very few have motor cars and if they have, and are away on duty, their wives would need the car for necessary household runs. They could not bring the cars to the barracks and leave them there all day long, and certainly they are not two-car families.

If the Minister is prepared to give those matters fair consideration, then we can bring about a Bill that will give the desired representation and that will meet with the wishes of this House. The Minister will have to indicate at an early stage that he is prepared to do that or he may decide to withdraw the Bill and represent it in this House in the form in which it should have been presented in the first place. I will conclude on that point in the hope that what we have said here will be accepted in the spirit in which it is meant and for the benefit of the people this House has supported since the foundation of the State.

I come from a constituency which has probably the greatest concentration of Army personnel in the country. I served in the FCA for a brief period and I know something about the Army from that level as well. County Kildare has benefited by the Army presence for generations and some people from the towns in County Kildare serve in the Army and in the civilian section of the Department of Defence.

Previous speakers have taken issue with the Minister for Defence about the problems in the Army even though he is doing something about them. These problems have existed for a long number of years. As Deputy Bell said, Deputy Lenihan is the first Minister for Defence to do anything in this regard for the Army. We might as well tell the truth about this issue. Since I came into this House, and before that also, successive Governments never dealt seriously with the Army. I believe we can all hold up our hands and claim blame for the problems which have arisen. I am concerned at the lack of trust between the members of the Army and their employers, the Minister and the Department of Defence.

These problems did not arise overnight. As a pundit I can safely say that no matter what Government were in power before the June 1989 elections they were going to be pilloried by the Army, and it just happened that a Fianna Fáil Government were in power at that time. I want to outline the reasons this happened. Before I came into this House I used to keep general election tallies as a hobby. In the postal vote in County Kildare — about 80 per cent Army and 20 per cent gardaí — the Fianna Fáil vote was never less than 55 per cent and on one occasion it was upwards of 76 per cent, but during the 1989 general election it was 11.5 per cent. The majority of the votes for the Army wives' candidate from County Kildare in the general election came from the postal vote — the Curragh Army barracks and other barracks, and in one centre she got up to 90 per cent of the votes in the box. There were 13 candidates in the Kildare constituency and people voted for every candidate on the ballot paper except the Fianna Fáil candidates.

This is enabling legislation which will allow a representative association for the Army to be established. This is the first time any Minister or Government conceded that the Defence Forces should have any representation at all. Within a short time of coming into power the Government set up the Gleeson Commission. Since the foundation of this State the traditional approach by Governments was not to allow a representative association for the Army to be set up and to have their pay and conditions tied to the whim of the Minister or Government of the day.

What happened to Fianna Fáil in County Kildare during the 1989 general election would have happened to Fine Gael and Labour if they had been in power. The reason Fianna Fáil got such a hammering was that Army pay and conditions had gone to hell after 1981-82. Traditionally the Army in County Kildare voted for Fianna Fáil and they believed that when we came to power in 1987 we would do something about their pay and conditions, but we did absolutely nothing. In addition, the famous pay rise did not turn out to be a pay rise at all. Anybody can be fooled once but it is a bit of a joke if they are fooled twice, and this is why this deep level of mistrust has now grown up between the Army and their employer, the Minister for Defence.

As I said earlier this Minister for Defence is the first Minister to have done anything about these problems. It is sad that there is such a deep level of mistrust between the Army and the Minister. I have known Army officers and NCOs all my life and they have accepted levels of discipline and pay which people in other employment would not accept. I think it is safe to say that never in the history of the State has morale in the Army been so low as it has been in the past three or four years. During the general election campaign I said to a journalist friend — I asked him not to quote me at the time — that Fianna Fáil would take a hammering at the general election, that we would have to take it on the chin and that it was tough luck.

It was very dangerous to allow Army morale to sink so low. The blame for this must rest with successive Governments who did nothing about the problems in the Army for a long number of years and, in particular, the attitude taken by the civil servants in the Department of Defence.

Since 1983 junior ranking officers have made it their business to pass on to their superiors the level of discontent in the Army. High ranking officers who came to me told me they were concerned about what would happen if something was not done to solve the problems in the Army. It is very disturbing to hear that sort of information. If a public representative goes public about such a matter he is regarded as being a subversive.

I want to congratulate Deputy Bell who, long before there was talk about a general election, brought the problems within the Army to the notice of the public. I was aware of those problems for a long time, and perhaps I should also have brought them to the notice of the public. What is worse is that the civil servants had been made aware that problems had arisen by high ranking officers in the Army and people who were concerned about the Army. These problems did not arise in 1989 or 1988; they have existed for a number of years. Members of the Army were prepared to accept that times were hard and that they could not get great pay and conditions but when they were shoved to the bottom of the pile every time they were not prepared to accept that any longer.

During the past year the NCOs and the officers have clubbed together to do something about their pay and conditions. I am glad that the present Minister and the Government have recognised the seriousness of the situation. Their first major undertaking when they came to power was to try to redress the problems which had arisen. We, successive Governments and civil servants are to blame for these problems. Traditionally the grandfathers and fathers of members of the Army served in the Army but due to cutbacks in recruitment, that closely knit community has started to break up. Members of the Army have tended to marry younger than other sections of the population and have usually married girls whose fathers were in the Army. The Army community is very closely knit and have great respect for authority. These people never looked for much. They have lived in bad quarters and have been prepared to put up with their lot. However, their dignity was being lessened and neither the Minister, nor anyone else cared about them. This is what has given rise to the problems which now exist.

During the seventies and eighties they started to compare their pay and conditions with those of other sections of the security services. I have often given lifts to Army personnel returning from a tour of duty in Portlaoise where they are standing side by side with gardaí on 24 hour duties, and I have heard them compare the pittance they were getting with that of their Garda colleagues who were on reasonable rates of pay. The Department of Defence then gave them an extra few shillings a few years ago but taxed this and took a meal allowance out of it so it was an absolute joke.

I am critical of the fact that this situation was allowed to develop over a number of years. We have seen the heavy hand of bureacracy on the Army all the time. Officers in the Curragh Camp could have told the Minister and the civil servants just how bad things were. Long before that a report was compiled by a number of Chaplains about the terms and conditions of people living in Army quarters and how badly off people were. People went on their bended knees without making it public, to tell politicians and the Department of Defence that the situation had reached crisis level. Younger middle ranking officers knew it well and high ranking officers said that someone should do something before the situation got totally out of hand. If a Minister had come in with these proposals seven years ago everybody in the Army would have been out in the streets clapping, but due to morale and trust breaking down in the past few years the good initiatives on the part of the Minister are not really appreciated. What the Army are really saying is that there must be some snag.

We have allowed things to go too far. It is a pity that these brillant initiatives were not taken a long time ago. It is also a pity that there is this lack of trust on the part of the Army personnel and that these initiatives are not appreciated. The Army personnel are saying that there must be some snag. They are trying to look at the fine print of the Bill, and with due cause. They also say that if the Army Wives' Association had not existed and had not kicked up such a racket and cost the Government so many votes, nothing would have happened. Let me be honest in saying that I do not think anything would have happened and it is sad to have to say that. The Army have long been regarded as the poor arm of the Government and not enough attention has been paid to their problems. The Minister is a man of political ability who has been able to move with different winds at different times within his own party, but let me give him a word of advice: if he thinks that it is enough to have the Gleeson Commission, to have this representative association, he is in for a very rude awakening. That would have worked seven years ago. Now we have stirred up a hornet's nest and unless it is kept under control we will never have that easy going situation that we have been privileged to enjoy in the past. People who are not in Army constituencies might not believe that what I am saying is correct but I can assure them it is. I could have told them two, three or four years ago what would happen. It will be a big job to win back the trust of Army people.

In regard to the representative body, the question of accommodation will have to be looked at. Some of the living quarters are a disgrace, not fit to house anybody. I know from another source that a report was compiled some months ago which advocated the need for an old soldiers' home at the Curragh Camp and that a considerable amount of work has been done on it. It would cost the Department very little to go along with the idea as the buildings are there and they are not being used. I hope the Minister will agree to the establishment of an old soldiers' home in the Curragh Camp.

The question of housing Army people has been a vexed one for a long time. The Army has been designated as a housing authority. A soldier, therefore who has served 21 years and comes out at the age of 39 taking his gratuity and who does not have enough money to buy a house of his own cannot get out of Army quarters or a house belonging to the Army. The Army then refuse to pay him his gratuity. Kildare County Council will not consider him for a house because he is deemed to be living in a fit house and, second, they say the Army are a housing authority in their own right. These people are referred to as overholders and are stuck there for the rest of their lives. The Army say it is a problem for the Department of the Environment; the Department say it is an Army problem and that has been the situation for many years in Kildare. Despite repeated meetings between various TD's with the Departments this problem has never been satisfactorily resolved. For a while Kildare County Council set aside a number of houses for Army overholders but this did not work and was more trouble than it was worth. This problem should be considered also when the representative association gets off the ground.

I see nothing wrong with this Bill. It is an enabling piece of legislation; but PDFORRA are reading all sort of things into it. There are sections to allow the Minister certain powers and to make regulations for this and that. If the trust that was there ten years ago was there today that would present no problems. It is not there, however, and the Army think they will be screwed when the civil servants and the Minister get their hands on it. I know the Minister, who has served in nearly all Departments and is the longest serving member of the Government, is doing his best, as are the civil servants. They must recognise, however, that there is now a different situation in the Army barracks around the country than there was ten years ago. They are not going to take the kind of treatment they have been getting any more and we had better grow up and live with it.

The Bill is a good one but the level of distrust concerns me. I congratulate the Minister wholeheartedly on being the first to take the initiative of setting up a review body, the Gleeson Commission and in putting through this enabling legislation to allow the setting up of a representative association. I wish him well. It is only through vigilance on the part of this Minster and of Ministers in the future that we will regain the trust that we enjoyed for many years.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I hope my colleagues who are also anxious to contribute will be afforded the opportunity to do so and that by 7 o'clock this evening the Government will have changed the dictatorial stance they have been adopting in relation to the passage of this Bill through the House. This is an extremely important measure because it incorporates a major departure from Army tradition. Because of this the House must get a full opportunity to debate it in detail and to make as constructive an input as possible at all Stages.

Deputy McCreevy pointed out that this is an enabling Bill; that is the difficulty. We must look at the history of this matter. Since 1987 the Fianna Fáil Government and subsequently the present Coalition Government have acted recklessly and irresponsibly in relation to the matter. The position within the Army was regularly brought to the attention of the Minister and of senior civil servants but it was quietly ignored. The general feeling among the powers that be was that the Army could not afford to protest or take to the streets and that they themselves could afford to sit quietly and do nothing about it. Since the foundation of the State the personnel of the Army have been people of the highest honour and integrity. In this instance the Government have failed to recognise men and women of honour and have treated them despicably in their attitude to the presentation of this Bill. One would think they were a group of rebels or criminals judging by the way the Minister and his predecessor dealt with the representative body who were attempting to make representations to the Minister.

The Government have not recognised the genuine frustration throughout the Defence Forces. The main failure here relates to the basic principle of honour: this Government have not recognised the honourable intentions at all levels of the Army from the privates to the most senior officers. The Army distrust the Government and civil servants and they do not feel they can trust them in regard to the introduction of regulations in this House. That is why they want incorporated in this Bill many of the proposals the Minister intends to bring forward in the form of regulations. I can fully understand the feelings of the Army, given the history of the past couple of years. We have seen Minister after Minister parading before various guards of honour across the country and seeing off our troops at Dublin Airport on their way to UN missions around the world where they have represented Ireland very favourably and received the highest commendations at international level. The Ministers are the first to be seen to pose for photographs and television cameras but when it comes to doing something constructive they fail abysmally. That sort of behaviour is to be despised. Front and sham mean nothing; one must be judged by practical action on the ground. There has been too much sham and hypocrisy. The result is a bad taste in the mouths of many people, particularly the privates and the non-commissioned officers.

It would be remiss not to commend the spouses of Army personnel who went out and highlighted their case. It was essential for them to do so if they were to have a decent standard of living for themselves and their children. They have done an extremely good job in very difficult circumstances and in certain cases in the face of a certain amount of threats and subtle intimidation in the background. I commend their courage and determination in pursuing the case for the Army. It was unfortunate that such a line had to be taken and that the Minister did not respond positively before the spouses had to take to the streets.

When one reads through this Bill section by section one finds recurring phrases such as "the Minister may make" or "with the Minister's consent" or "as prescribed by the Minister". Such phrases permeate the Bill. A letter issued from the office of the Chief of Staff to each member of the Defence Forces specifically states that the documents accompanying the letter set out the Government's proposal as issued by direction of the Tánaiste. The Minister and the Government are dictating terms in a way which does not suggest meaningful negotiations between the respective parties. We are talking about decent people who respect the institutions of State and have always been the upholders and defenders of law and order, yet the Government treat them as if they were not to be trusted. It is that suggestion of distrust on the part of the Government that is causing extreme difficulty. It is fundamental to the security of the State and the Government must take a serious view. They will have to do much in the years ahead to redress the difficulties that have been created as a result of their mismanagement.

I welcome some movement since the initial publication of the Bill in that the Minister has agreed to two representative organisations rather than three as originally suggested by him. We all know that there is a fairly straightforward division in the Army. On the one hand there are the privates and non-commissioned officers and on the other hand the commissioned officers. There are two fairly clear sets of people. The officer ranks cover those at second lieutenant level right up to the Chief of Staff. It is important that these two levels be properly and adequately recognised.

I welcome the Minister's decision to enter negotiations with the PDFORRA. I hope these will be real and meaningful discussions rather than the Minister's dictating to the PDFORRA the Government's decision and not teasing out what they want. It is important that he should have parallel discussions with the officers. Perhaps the Minister would advise the House as to whether that has been done or whether he proposes to do it. It is important that everybody should be involved in these discussions. The outcome should be brought before this House and incorporated in the Bill in the final analysis.

Let me digress for a moment to refer to the FCA who have become very much the poor relation and not just of the Army. They are a forgotten group, but they are very important within the community. There is a real need for the Government to start looking very seriously at the FCA and the type of accommodation the respective battalions have around the country, in most cases appalling, in which the personnel are expected to work in outlying parts. It is also important to look at the transport facilities provided. It is extremely important that the Government look at the recruitment of FCA personnel. I know many of our young people have left the country and are not available to be recruited. However, those in the country at the moment should be canvassed to become involved in the FCA because the danger is that there are other organisations out there who consider themselves above the law and who are actively canvassing and recruiting people. Young fellows love the idea of adventure and being involved in some way or other with such organisations. Rather than have illegal organisations recruiting these young people, it is vital that a conscious effort be made by the Government and by senior Army personnel to canvass them for membership of the FCA.

We can talk then about overall accommodation, be it barrack accommodation and work facilities or barrack accommodation as far as housing is concerned for Army personnel. Any of us who travel across the country and visit the various barracks find that in 80 per cent of cases the accommodation is substantially substandard and in some cases absolutely appalling. People talk about corporation and county council housing and the appalling conditions relating to that. Far worse will be seen in some Army barracks than in some of the corporation and county council housing. That must be addressed very quickly.

The Defence Forces are an important institution of State and it is important that the Oireachtas and the Government give them the recognition and attention they deserve. Since the foundation of the State the Army have served this country and the people very well at home and internationally. We have a duty to recognise that and show our regard for them by providing the proper facilities, recognising the difficulties that have arisen and responding positively.

What the Minister is proposing here this evening is not a positive or decent response to what is needed, and I can understand why there is such a reaction to this enabling Bill. Basically it is just that, an enabling Bill. We do not know the fine detail of the regulations that will be introduced by the Minister in due course. It is extremely important that many of the regulations he is suggesting be implemented in the Bill, in order that there be confidence between the existing Department of Defence and Army personnel, rather than having regulations that can be changed or amended at any given time. That could cause difficulties in regard to confidence with the Army. The reason for this lack of confidence is the entire history of the treatment of the Army in recent times by the Fianna Fáil Government from 1987 and by the present Coalition Government. It is despicable of the Government to steamroll this Bill through the House. It is more despicable that some of the Government backbenchers are supporting this line, knowing full well it is not acceptable among the Army personnel, and knowing from representations made to them from Army people within their respective constituencies that they are not happy with this position. There is an onus on all of us to recognise the difficulties. I hope that by 7 o'clock this evening the Government will have changed their minds on this issue. As Deputy McCreevy said, we have the longest serving member of the Government in the Minister, Deputy Lenihan, responsbile now for the Army. Deputy Lenihan has been well recognised for his ability to manoeuvre and to manipulate and solve everything. He is famous for his "no problem".

A major problem.

If he could turn this major problem into a "no problem" by his skillful diplomatic intervention at this stage it would be much appreciated. I am sorry he is not in the Chamber at this moment, but maybe he is in an office somewhere where there is a monitor and he might begin to see the wisdom of changing the arrogant attitude being adopted by Government which is not his normal approach. Usually he is a much more flexible, amenable type of person than is shown in the attitude he is adopting on behalf of the Government at the moment. I suggest that he approach the Taoiseach and the other members of his Government and say "There is a real problem here. We need time to resolve this issue and to introduce considered amendments on Committee Stage so that we will have the best possible Bill passed by the Oireachtas."

I would like to say to Deputy Madeleine Taylor-Quinn before she leaves the House——

I will wait to listen.

——that she has a desperate tongue-in-cheek hypocrisy. God help her with her negative attitude if ever she gets into Government. How she is going to answer things I do not know.

I have been very positive all the way. I will be in to bring this Government down.

Frank Taylor was a decent man. Sir, she passed comments about Government backbenchers sitting over here. I was here with the former Minister for Defence, Deputy Gerry Cronin, and her own father in the House seeking to get pensions for Army widows. In 1978 that was long overdue. A previous Coalition had been here for five years and had not achieved it during that period.

It was well in train in 1970.

It is much too serious an issue to play politics with on this occasion. The constitutional role of the Army must be borne in mind.

You are a constitutional nationalist, no doubt.

The Deputy does not even know what that means. Stay quiet, little girl.

The Deputy without interruption.

Extradition, here we come.

I am tempted — but let me say I am delighted at the initiative taken by my two colleagues on this issue. Where the blame lies for much of the misapprehension must be stated here in the House this evening. Very strongly I blame the history of the recent pay increase in the Army. It was badly handled. It was not a pay increase, it was an extra allowance. Expectations regarding it were blown up far too much and it is a severe disappointment not only in its presentation but in its final effects. The orderly duty allowances, the prison allowances and the extra pay allowances that were granted were far too little far too late over a long time. Deputy Michael Bell said in the House today that really since 1969 the major role of the Army has been appreciated. Extra duties have been put upon them and equipment, but other items have not been kept up to date. Previous to 1969 there was no political will whatsoever to give increased funds to the Army. Only since then, when our constitutional position was in danger, have we appreciated fully the Army's role. The moneys increased tremendously in the seventies but that level of increase has not been maintained and neither have the standards during the terms of office of many and various Governments.

Essentially this is about pay and conditions. I am not happy that a man with ten or 12 years' service in the Army is bringing home £150 a week out of which he is paying about £45 on a mortgage. I know this because I meet such men regularly when they have financial problems with regard to repayment of mortgages or county council loans. I am not happy that such a man should depend on nixers at weekends for that purpose or look for extra duties over a period in an attempt to make up the shortfall in his wages.

I am delighted with the initiative taken by my colleagues because the blame lies with the general staff in the Army who did nothing to allay any fears in regard to this. They did not effectively campaign although I am aware of officers who are anxious to see this implemented. However, they are not given any support at higher level, they are told to sit in at meetings and not to say anything. Very high ranking officers did not have the men's interests at heart, they created a "them" and "us" position and reported that there was not a crisis. I am delighted that the Minister, who is recognised for looking after the people in his Department, is interested in this.

We are sending bank escorts all over the country but the banks are not contributing to the expenses involved. I am delighted that new Japanese patrol cars have been supplied in some areas recently but many of the old landrovers are not roadworthy and are certainly not comfortable for the length of time officers and men have to travel in them compared to the police car in front of them, which very often dictates the speed at which they travel. Any four-wheeled vehicle driven at over 55 miles per hour is unsafe because of its centre of gravity, the height of the wheels and the narrowness of the wheel base. Some day there will be a disaster in those vehicles. Army escort vehicles should be up to the standard of Garda vehicles. I see no reason for the banks not contributing to the protection of their money and this will cut down their insurance costs.

They should be asked to buy the vehicles.

I would not ask them to buy them but they should certainly pay for their use. As a result of the Barna Gap robbery, escort vehicles were introduced but the banks were never asked to contribute to the cost of maintaining the men or the vehicles which are saving their face, money and insurance. We should be told in the House why the banks have not contributed. After all, I presume it would be a tax write-off for them but it would be of great benefit to the State and would supplement the soldiers' incomes.

After so many years of non-action in the area of pay, many soldiers had built up an expectation in that regard. They expected a decent increase but they did not get it. The amount they got came too little and too late over a long period. There was an increase in Border duties and no consideration for the type of food they were getting. Even on bank escort duties they had a mug of tea and a sandwich compared to the others who could dine in a hotel or a restaurant. There was a feeling of being hard done by, certainly in relation to the type of food with which they were provided.

I am not happy that the Army look after their own people when they are on exercise duties. They do not get proper food although they are on duty for 24 hours and sometimes for 36 hours. People may argue that the men are not serving all that time, but they have to be within 15 minutes of the barracks, which means that they cannot go for a drink or have a social evening with their wives.

The concern of the PDFORRA group and many other members of the Army was that no outside body would be allowed to give them the necessary advice in regard to negotiations, especially in relation to pay. There was a feeling that none of the Army people is trained to negotiate on pay and conditions. They should have been allowed to seek the advice of an experienced body outside the Army, even if they were not affiliated to it. They could get the advice free — or pay for it — but there is no reason for not allowing them to do so. If they are to sit round a negotiating table they need their own personnel properly advised or trained in such matters.

I have been disappointed over the last number of years at the number of privates and officers who left the Army after 21 years' service. Indeed, many did not serve that long because they were not satisfied with conditions. There is great goodwill towards the Army from politicians and the public. I am aware of the outcome of the Gleeson report but it should be on a proper basis because they have not been properly paid for many years. The departmental document contained a reference to the DFHQ about which nobody had ever heard. It relates to the Department of Defence Headquarters. I understood that free access to the media would be allowed but the document is ambiguous in that regard. Will the Army be allowed to issue their own statement? Will statements have to be monitored? It states quite clearly that no matter of security, command or military discipline should be up for discussion in these matters. They are concerned that there should be control over what their group should be allowed to say in regard to their negotiations.

As I said already, there is great goodwill in this House towards the Army although there is also bluster and hypocrisy.

The Deputy excels in that regard.

I do not——

Will the Deputy be voting with us tonight?

No, because I see other implications for this which are far more serious.

The Deputy has a long head on him.

Deputy Taylor-Quinn's father, who was a member of the FCA for a number of years, would have appreciated the difference.

I have expressed some of his views here today.

I would not say that. I hope, when this Bill is passed, that the genuine talks will go ahead and that all the ambiguity feared by members of the Defence Forces will be cleared up before any proposals for elections are put forward.

I hope there will be a reawakening of this House to the general staff in the Army. It is as much their duty to look after the men as it is to be responsible to this House and to this Government. They should be more enthusiastic about this matter, and be seen to be so, rather than playing the part which they have played for the last couple of weeks. A certain amount of mistrust has built up and it is time to put that mistrust aside by showing an openness on both sides to have genuine discussions. For the first time there has been recognition of this problem, albeit a little too late. We should develop good relationships and ensure that the Army morale is improved and matters can be discussed openly. After all, they are the experts in their own field.

I was amazed to hear complaints in various military institutions about delays of up to four and five months in getting shirts for people in the Army. It amazes me to think they cannot even get those goods supplied. I would re-emphasise that this Bill is about pay and conditions in the Army, and those conditions extend to vehicles, many of which are highly dangerous and should not be on the roads. They endanger not only the lives of the soldiers but also of the public at large. I hope commonsense will prevail and I urge Members to think of the long term. This matter is much more serious than many people realise, and they should not play politics with it.

It is a pity this morning's interruption has taken from the importance of the issue we are debating this evening but it is quite understandable in the circumstances. The issue is very clear to most people at this stage. I suggest that we would not be discussing this Bill this evening were it not for two things: first, the election last year and second, the Army spouses. The Army spouses played an integral part in the campaign to get recognition for the Defence Forces' fight for justice. It is in this light that the Labour Party's amendment should be very clearly spelled out. It states that the constitutionality of the measures proposed in the Bill shall have been established; the substance of the regulations proposed to be made by the Minister be made available to Dáil Éireann and, very importantly, that consultations take place on all relevant matters between the Minister and all interested parties to the Bill, including the democratically chosen association currently representing members of the Defence Forces, the Permanent Defence Forces Other Ranks Representative Association. That is a very fair amendment and I hope the Minister will recognise it.

To rush through legislation of this nature has its pitfalls. One of the pitfalls is that if this is not done properly nothing will be rectified. There will still be the festering sore that has been there for a number of years. Other Deputies have remarked that this problem has been ongoing for a considerable time, and that is true. Anyone on the election trail last year who knocked on the doors of Army houses got the message very clearly: unless something was done these people were prepared to vote against the party in power and that is what happened. They did that very effectively. The Government got the message very clearly and that is why this legislation is before the House this evening. If it were not for that election the problem would have gone on and the Army and Navy would still be working under the same conditions they had to put up with for a long time.

Members of the House with experience in this area have spoken of the long hours of duty these people have to work and their low pay. They compared their hours of duty with other people, such as members of the Garda who are much better paid and have much better conditions. The members of the Defence Forces have to endure this type of tedious duty and get very little remuneration. For them the end of the road has come but because they were prohibited from voicing their protest, their wives came out and did a very effective job. I give great credit to them because it was the one way the message could be driven forcibly home to any Minister for Defence or to any Government.

Everybody has said the country owes a debt of gratitude to the Defence Forces, and that is true. We are very fulsome in our praise of the Defence Forces when it suits us. I live in a constituency where Army personnel reside. Many of them have endured a number of hard years trying to make ends meet on very low pay. I have had consultations with quite a number of them and they told me in no uncertain manner that they would watch the political parties to see who would endorse their demands. It is very important that, in the House, full recognition is given to this matter and that a full debate takes place. There is no point rushing through legislation while not really getting to the root of the matter.

We have been told that conditions, pay and so on would be discussed and that is vital at this stage. We can no longer divorce ourselves from Europe. This point has been made many times and also applies to various other aspects of life in Ireland. It has been said that we are all Europeans and we have to abide by the European model; yet we choose not to do so when it comes to the Defence Forces. That point has been driven home very forcibly. Those people sought better conditions and a very good arrangement was made with the people in Europe to ensure that they got their rights in this issue.

It is ironic that last week in the House we discussed at length the Industrial Relations Bill. We were told that what was needed was proper consultation between groups. I can think of no better example where consultation should take place than between the Department and the Defence Forces. Consultation is vital because any fears that exist could be expressed and allayed. It is futile to say that two Fianna Fáil Deputies met the Army people, although I welcome any move on the part of the Minister or the Department to try to arrange consultation, but I would suggest that that is not the proper way to do so. Hopefully the Minister will consider all the points that have been raised here this evening.

We could discuss at length the various problems that exist. We have heard examples of Army personnel on transport duty for banks, manning road blocks at all hours of the night and being called out in emergencies such as floods and fires, helping the Garda, fire brigades and so on. For too long, all these things have been taken for granted and any Government that continue to take such matters for granted without making compensation will rue the day. There has been a tremendous tradition of loyalty in the Army, but that loyalty has been exploited very well by previous Governments down through the years who have paid lip service to the Army.

One thing that struck me very forcibly while I was on the election campaign trail was the huge problem in regard to Army housing conditions and the problems for the personnel of trying to live on their pay. There were obvious major problems within the Army structure itself. The message hammered out on the doorsteps was taken very seriously by most politicians. The ballot box results showed that people were no longer prepared to accept what they regarded as second class citizenship status. I am delighted to be able to make some small contribution to the debate because I represent quite a number of people who are involved in the Defence Forces. I made a commitment that I and my party would do everything in our power to see that they got justice. The amendment before the House tonight shows very clearly that justice can be done if the Minister is prepared to recognise the genuine fears being expressed and to recognise that there has not been adequate consultation with PDFORRA.

I welcome wholeheartedly any movement towards consultation, but I question the method and the way it has been done in this case. It may not have been the proper way to do things, there could have been a better way. Last week the Government took a dictatorial stance on the issue but there obviously has been a change. I ask the Minister to go the whole hog, to accept the amendments that have been tabled and to come back to the House and show once and for all that this House is united in trying to get to grips with a problem that has gone on for far too long. People have suffered severe hardship. The Minister should indicate that the Government and the elected representatives of the day recognise fully the contribution the Defence Forces have made to our society over the years. When the pomp and glory is taken away, what is left for the people who have gone out and risked their lives and limbs to safeguard our society? More so today than ever, we need the Defence Forces.

Finally, once again I ask that the Minister takes on board the various suggestions made by Deputies in this House and that what we are trying to do is to find genuine solutions to come to grips with a problem that has gone on for far too long.

This is the first defence Bill that has been before this House since 1987 and it is the first really substantial defence Bill we have had since 1954. In itself it is potentially a very significant Bill because it brings about certain changes in relation to the way things are done in the Defence Forces. For that reason it is a Bill that needs very careful attention and very careful teasing out in this House.

Sir, I live surrounded by the Defence Forces in the Curragh. I am in contact with them every day in all sorts of different ways. My father spent a great many years of his life in the FCA, so I have had that dimension to my life from as far back as I can remember. In my experience as Minister for Justice I have seen the Defence Forces at very close quarters carry out the duties they must undertake on our behalf along the Border and in other places. From all those contacts I am fully aware of and, indeed, admire, the professionalism of our Defence Forces and their dedication to their job. I admire they way in which members of the Defence Forces, when they go on duty, put behind them the many problems they have to cope with in their personal lives, family problems, perhaps, and the problem of trying to provide reasonable living conditions for their families. I take some relative satisfaction from the fact that despite the slow rate of progress, we are making some inroads in a material way in dealing with living conditions for members of our Defence Forces. It was a matter of some rejoicing in my own constituency to see that so many of the older parts of the living quarters in the Curragh Camp were being knocked to the ground because of their totally unsatisfactory nature. We would all like to see a great deal more being done and we would all like to see a great deal more co-operation between local authorities and the military authorities to provide the kind of living conditions for serving members of our Defence Forces that we believe they are entitled to.

Looking at the Bill we see that it has importance in a wider context than some of us had given it credit for. It was all the more unsatisfactory, and indeed all the more incredible, that the Government should have tried to rush the Bill through the Dáil in the way they first proposed. My reaction on reading the Bill when it was published was that it said almost nothing about the central issues before us. Everything of substance that the Bill provides for was to be done by regulation and we did not have any indication as to what was going to be in the regulations and, almost as significant, nowhere in the Bill was there any indication as to when the Bill and the regulations would come into effect. We were being presented with an unknown quantity and we did not know when it would come into effect. I find that totally unsatisfactory because I do not think this House should be asked to write a blank cheque for any Minister, for the Tánaiste or any other Member of the Government. We should not be asked to write a blank cheque for things that are not before us and I think it would be highly dangerous, and certainly most unsatisfactory, for the Legislature to be asked to provide for structures and procedures that have not been defined and for those structures and procedures to come into effect on a non-defined date.

We can ask ourselves how the need for this Bill arose in the first place. There are many factors involved but the proximate reason for having to have this Bill at all at this stage must certainly be what I can only describe as a sham pay deal at the end of 1988 — a dallamullog — that the Government tried to pull over the eyes of the Defence Forces in cracking up a pay deal to be an awful lot more than it was. That created a great deal of discontent. It is understandable that it should have done so. I think I am not going too far when I say the last Government and the Minister for Defence in that Government treated the Defence Forces with contempt in never giving them credit for what they were doing; in never recognising the difficulties they faced; and in trying to sell to them a spurious pay deal which was supposed to be the answer to their problems. Indeed, many thought it was the answer to their problems until they actually saw what it amounted to in reality. In a very real sense that attempt by that Government to pull the wool over the eyes of our Defence Forces led directly to the movement that we all saw in the last general election, the National Army Spouses Association who felt that even if their menfolk could not carry on the kind of campaign they felt they were entitled to on behalf of their families, it was up to the womenfolk to go out and campaign for them, which they did. I might add that it gave me some pain, as a candidate in the election and campaigning in a constituency where the National Army Spouses Association ran a candidate to see the shabby way the Fianna Fáil Party treated those people during the course of the campaign.

None of us likes to see an opposing candidate competing for votes but we all have to recognise that people do not lightly get involved in politics and that the members of the NASA who got involved in the last election certainly deserved at least the same respect given to every other candidate. I must say, and it pains me to say it, that they certainly did not get that from the Fianna Fáil Party. It is a shame that that should have been the case. That is yet another strand built into the discontent which has led us to having this Bill in front of us today.

During that campaign, and the many discussions which preceded it, it was clear there was a very strong feeling in the Defence Forces that their pay had got out of line with the pay of other people involved in the security of the State. It is time we recognised clearly and specifically that we must establish a reasonable relationship between the pay of all ranks in our Permanent Defence Force and the pay of those serving in the Garda Síochána and the Prison Service. Comparisons will inevitably be made between two groups working side by side on the same security duties. We all know the differences there are between the pay and conditions of our Permanent Defence Force and the Garda Síochána, two groups who often find themselves serving side by side not only on the Border but on cash escorts and many other duties which maybe we take for granted or overlook. I see them carrying out these duties regularly travelling between Portlaoise and Dublin. This is one of the few occasions when our traffic code allows the overtaking of a convoy on the inside, and it is the one occasion when I feel we can do this with impunity as I know they are not going to move in on us. As I said, we have to recognise and accept the fact when two arms of the security of the State work so closely together comparisons will inevitably be made. We should bear this in mind when dealing with the pay and conditions of our Defence Forces. It was the failure of that spurious pay offer at the end of 1988 to do that in a straightforward and honest way that led to the discontent and worry which, in turn, has led to this Bill before us.

Another reason was the refusal since that pay arrangement was made to engage in meaningful consultations with people who felt they were doing within the Defence Forces nothing more than extending and carrying on a remit they were given with the consent of the Minister and the authorities to talk about the pay and conditions. It is my belief that there would have been less unease and worry if a more flexible, humane and understanding approach had been taken to the efforts of the people appointed by their peers in the Defence Forces, with the consent and approval of the authorities, to articulate their needs in relation to pay.

It is a brave man who can draw a rigid line and say that is where the question of pay ends and the question of conditions begins. One would not have to be a skilled trade unionist to know that there are great overlaps and that very frequently it is the overlap that causes the greatest difficulty. I regret to say that it appears that up to now the fact that the Minister, the Department of Defence and the General Staff did not have that understanding of this crossover between pay and conditions led to what seemed to be a refusal to engage in sensible, constructive and meaningful discussions and is a direct cause of many of the worries people have today.

As I said at the beginning, I meet serving members of the Permanent Defence Force day in and day out. I meet them when I buy a newspaper or a packet of cigarettes, when I go to Mass and when I come out of meetings in my constituency. They are there all the time. I also meet them when I go to the local football club. I hear what they are saying and the reasons for their disquiet. Other Deputies know that the Curragh is not the only place where you have that kind of high presence of the Permanent Defence Force in the community. This is one of the things which made me sit back and pause in some astonishment when I read the provisions of section 6 (2) which states:

A person who is not subject to military law who endeavours to persuade or conspires with any other person to endeavour to persuade a member to join a trade union or other body (other than an association) aforesaid shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to the penalties provided for a contravention of section 257 of the Principal Act.

Does this mean that if I have a casual conversation in the lounge of a pub in Kildare town on a Monday or Saturaday night with an NCO, serving soldier or an officer in the Curragh Command, about the matters we are discussing here I am rendering myself liable to prosecution and making myself guilty of an offence in contravention of section 257 of the 1954 Defence Act? If that is the case, I and Members of this House should be in jail many times over or should be fined heavily because there is no way we can regularly meet members of the Defence Forces without talking about matters envisaged in section 6 (2).

I wonder if that really was the intention and whether they are not the braces which go with the belt that we are now deciding we might to be able to do without because, in legislative terms, we have caught up with self-supporting trousers. If this Bill is worded properly, that is what it will be. However, I am not so sure that this will be done properly because a great many things are still open to question, although I have to say that since this debate started — fewer than 23 legislative hours ago, a good deal less than the Taoiseach tried to pretend this morning — there has been some evidence of movement which I take to be a welcome sign, but it is also an indication that the Minister had not properly thought out the provisions of this Bill before he brought it before this House and tried to stampede the House into passing it.

Both the Government Chief Whip and the Minister used their powers of eloquence and persuasion to try to get agreement to have this Bill dealt with quickly in this House but I am glad the rest of us resisted. We would have been most unwise to allow this House to be gazumped into making rapid decisions on a Bill of this kind which was badly prepared.

The signs are on it. The Bill started off by requiring that all meetings of the associations for which it provides, or for which the regulations will provide, should be held in military installations. It now appears that during the course of the debate the Minister let it be known that that is no longer a condition. That is quite sensible but I ask myself, why in God's name did that ridiculous provision have to be put in the Bill in the first place? I would assume, for example, that proper provisions will be made, as have been made in so many other places, so that members of these associations will have reasonable facilities to carry out their meetings.

It is in the regulations, or it should be in the regulations.

There are no regulations as yet.

This is the bit of the iceberg that we cannot see. The Minister should hold his soul in patience; I will deal with the regulations in a moment. Surely provision will be made to give people time to carry out the duties they will have to do under the provisions of the Bill and/or regulations, whenever they come. That would also mean that they do not have to meet in military installations.

That is it.

That would mean that they do not have to get the permission of the military authorities. Why was it provided that—

In the Bill and in the massive booklet that has been produced.

They are not the regulations.

This is all we have to go on because the Minister did not come clean when he published the Bill. Now it seems that he has moved from that position. I am glad he has done so but he should not have been in that position in the first place. He should not have started the battle from the bottom of that swamp in the first place.

Second, it was apparently envisaged that the elections would take place using a single non-transferable vote, a new animal in Irish elections. It now appears that the Minister believes that we could use a proportional representation system and that access is to be granted to an officer from the franchise section of the Department of the Environment. I welcome that.

I said that in my opening remarks.

Again, in military parlance, the Minister should not have started that charge from the bottom of that swamp. Next we find that it was envisaged that any member of the Defence Forces with less than a good conduct record would be excluded from the possibility of being a candidate in the elections to these associations. It should be remembered that military records are secret and the Minister is not allowed to divulge them to anybody else. The military authorities are not allowed to divulge them to anybody but to the relevant commanding officer. From the outset it was going to be difficult to explain why corporal "A" or private "B" was not going to be allowed to be a candidate but now it appears that the Minister has conceded on that.

It appears that originally there was no intention that there could be any independent secretariat for these associations. We infer that — nothing was said about it specifically — from the requirements to have all the meetings in military installations and from the other provisions which state that the associations could have assistance from appropriate provision to be made by the Army authorities. It now seems that that condition has been taken away. It was specified in the Bill that members of these associations could not belong to any other organisation, but it now appears that the Minister has conceded that these associations could be associated in turn with, for example, the Irish Conference of Professional and Service Associations. It now seems that the Minister, who started off by saying that there had to be three associations, says he will be satisfied with two.

I never said there had to be.

That may be, but this mighty book provides for three associations.

In answer to a question in the House one month ago I said there could be three or two associations.

I am glad the Minister has retreated from that position. He was very sensible to do so but he was daft to start off from that position in the first place.

Nobody listens to me.

The Minister has said that these proposals are a military document and they are put forward, on the other hand, by the Chief of Staff as the Government's proposals as issued by direction of the Minister.

As proposals.

In the letter the Minister sent to Opposition spokespersons on Defence he said that these documents outline the Government's proposals for the establishment of a representative structure — not the Department of Defence's proposals, not the General Staff's proposals, not even the Minister's proposals but the Government's proposals.

Subject to consultation. The Deputy should look at paragraph nine of my letter which deals with full consultation.

My point is that the Minister and the Government started off from a position where they did not want to reveal all their hand in the Bill. Indeed, it was some little while after the Bill became available that a few copies of the booklet became available.

To be helpful.

It was then that it all came out because it contained the real meat of the Bill. The Minister, in the grand old tradition of the rigid quartermasters, was trying to ration the meat but we had to get more of it out of him. We came back, like Oliver Twist, and said we needed more information and, gradually, we got it. However, now we find that having been given the bread to go around the sandwich when the Bill was published we have now got down to the real meat. I have to say that it is not very tasty meat. We are not going to have this sandwich and we are going to have to put a good deal more flavouring into it to make it palatable. It now seems that we are to have consultations on all the matters that are dealt with in the substantial booklet.

We are agreed on most matters.

The real substance of the Defence (Amendment) Bill, 1990, is to be found in that booklet, but how do the Government propose to have consultations? They are proposing that they should do that by passing in the House regulations that would be proposed after consultations take place. The original framework of the consultations was far from satisfactory. It appears that as a result of the debate in the House we are getting some improvements in the framework of the consultations. Those consultations were to produce regulations. The Bill specifies how those regulations should be passed. They would come before the House and if a resolution annulling the regulation is passed by the House within the next 21 days the regulation shall be annulled accordingly. If such a resolution is not passed the regulation shall not be annulled. That means that the House has no choice. When a provision like that is used to bring regulations before the House, there is only one of two things the House can do: the House can accept them or reject them; it cannot modify them. For the real meat of the Bill that is a totally unacceptable way of going about what we are doing in the Bill.

I fully accept the need for regulations. I appreciate the need for some elbow room for the Government and the other people involved to apply legislation that we pass in the House but there is no way I am going to allow legislation to be passed in the House where the real meat will be eaten by somebody else without any real reference to the House.

What about the Bill dealing with the Garda?

I will come to that. We will be proposing very substantial amendments to write in substantial sections, or the equivalent, into the Bill but some matters will need to be dealt with by regulation. I invite the Minister to go back to the procedure that was used in 1987 to pass the regulations for the treatment of persons in Garda custody under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984. I speak from the position of the person who brought those regulations through the Houses of the Oireachtas. We did that in two stages. First, we brought forward the equivalent of a White Paper into the Houses of the Oireachtas and that set out what I believed we needed in the regulations. We had a debate on that and I undertook in both Houses to listen to the debate and to take on board any improvements or worries that the two Houses had. I undertook to come back with regulations modified to take account of the results of that debate.

My memory of that — I am sure other Members will agree with me — is that it worked extremely well. We got a number of improvements made in the original draft of the regulations and the two Houses felt they had done a reasonable few days' work on the treatment of persons in custody under the provisions of the 1984 Act. I heartily recommend that course to the Minister when he is bringing in regulations on foot of this Bill, regulations that will be a good deal less substantial than is his intention at present.

I repeat that it is utterly unacceptable to get this House and the Seanad to pass a Bill when the real meat is in the regulations. If he does it that way and if the Government persist in doing it that way, they are storing up trouble for themselves. I would put this thought before the Minister and the Government. We need certainty for a good while into the future in regard to the structures that will be set in place under this Bill because we are dealing here, as the Minister has reminded us time and again during this debate, with issues on our national security forces. We want clarity and we want certainty and the less that is left to regulation and the more that is in the Bill the better that will be.

The Minister has indicated his intention to build a conciliation and arbitration scheme into the provisions of this Bill. That is a very good thing. If it happens after the elections that will be provided for here, that there is still subsisting disagreement on the structures that have to be put in place, will the Minister use the conciliation and arbitration scheme to sort out those disagreements? I would like to know if that will be done and I hope the Minister will tell us when he replies to the debate.

There are some points in the agreed statement which we got this morning from PDFORRA and two Government Deputies which I think need some clarification. I find this a most unusual procedure. I do not find it unusual on the part of PDFORRA because it is an organisation that is trying to have an influence on legislation quite legitimately, but I find it rather strange that the Government had to have two backbenchers to sort out this problem which surely should have been the job of the Minister himself and his officials.

Should I have——

If the Minister has any sense he will not try to run this kind of thing by remote control like a puppet master with strings from away back. The Minister should get out and do it himself. Part of the problem has been that there has been no direct contact with anybody in authority. That is part of the problem that the Minister and the Government have stored up for themselves——

The Deputy——

——from which this House is trying to rescue him. If he listened to the advice he would be doing a good day's work.

The Deputy must be a fool.

Talks are provided for here on meetings about an agreed system of election——

I am trying to help.

——with an official from the Department of the Environment. I think that is a very helpful step.

Of course it is.

But it is pointed out in this agreed statement that:

Talks will include the structures into which members will be elected and the means whereby open and honest consultation can take place with all interested parties.

Does that mean, Sir, that these interested parties outside this House are going to discuss these important matters with a principal officer in charge of the franchise section of the Department of the Envoironment? If that is what it means, then I think it is a mistake. Those matters should be discussed directly by the Minister and his officials and his aides in the general staff with the representative parties outside, and then they should be debated here in this House. I can tell the Minister and the Government now that we will not stand for things being brought in over the head of this House and being put into legislation effectively by means of regulations.

In conclusion I am asking that the Minister come clean and include on Committee Stage the maximum possible amount of the structure, procedures and specifications that will be put into operation in the Bill and that for that part of it which has to be done by regulation he adopt an open consultative procedure in this House where we will see the regulations in draft, make whatever suggestions for change we believe are required and then let the Minister redraft the regulations and come back to this House. He might also adopt the obverse of the procedure in section 7 and say that unless the regulations are approved by a vote of this House within 21 days they will not come into effect. That would be a far more democratic and more desirable way of doing it.

I agree with the last point made by Deputy Dukes regarding regulations being brought before the House, because we do not know what we are talking about until we see those regulations. Like other Deputies I want to pay tribute to the Army spouses association who began this battle a couple of years ago with great courage and determination and against great opposition and snide remarks on their efforts during those early years. As a result of their efforts the Army people acted in a very responsible manner which eventually resulted in the formation of PDFORRA which is without authority but not illegal. There is no law against PDFORRA but they do not have authority. They have the confidence of the enlisted men and NCOs but no authority to deal with issues with which they want to deal. Great credit is due to the Minister and I am delighted that Deputy Lenihan is Minister at this critical time to take the right decisions. Some Ministers for Defence in the past had rigid attitudes handed down to them which they accepted. Unfortunately, it has been the experience for a long number of years that Ministers for Defence — if any former Minister for Defence is in the House he is excluded — appeared to have a fairly low level of qualification, and it was the least important post in the Cabinet. Deputy Nealon is excluded from any comments or references in this matter.

I did not hear it.

I was making the point that there has been a procedure in Cabinets for a long number of years that the Minister for Defence is a very minor post and the person appointed to that Department does not necessarily require any particular capabilities etc., and we have had some pretty poor Ministers for Defence. I am glad that Deputy Lenihan happens to be in the job at this critical time because it needs a person with flexibility and authority to change the minds of some perhaps rigid staff people in the Army. The Minister, Deputy Lenihan, has had the courage to take this Bill on board, and I am glad that this representative body is here to stay and must be accepted.

The issue of pay and conditions in the Army should be of vital concern to everybody and certainly to any Minister for Defence and to any Chief of Staff because pay and conditions affect the morale of the Army, both officers, NCOs and enlisted men. It is a volunteer Army. People do not have to put up with these poor conditions and in the end they do not stick it. Deputy Davern made the point very clearly regarding their conditions. The result is that there is a very rapid intake and a very rapid outflow from the Army, which is a very costly affair as anybody who knows anything about it will understand; taking in men and training them and they are gone in three years because they cannot put up with the conditions. There was a time when they remained on for 21 years. It was a full-time job. Nobody wants it as a job any more because it is not a job.

The conditions as outlined by previous speakers speak for themselves, conditions on the Border where they see themselves lying out in the open ditches in far worse conditions than the gardaí in the area and on a much lower rate of pay. Everything about their status is twice as bad as the condition of the gardaí on the same job. When Army personnel are sent to Portlaoise and other places they find the position is just the same. They are on duty outdoors for three days and indoors for two days in far worse conditions than the Garda and prison officers. The Garda and prison officers have their own associations who have fought for and got better pay conditions for them. Members of the Army realise that their pay and conditions are not as good as those of the prison officers and Garda because they do not have anybody to speak for them. The National Army Spouses Association was the first group to speak out for them. I believe offices in the Army want a well equipped Army with good morale. Morale among the members of the Army is dreadful at present because of their bad pay and conditions. In addition members have to do the same jobs over and over again because the establishments are not up to scratch.

I have heard about these complaints over the years from members of the Army in my constituency. When I visited the General Army Headquarters in Collins Barracks with other members of The Workers' Party two weeks ago I heard many of the same complaints and saw the conditions in the barracks. I heard some figures in regard to recruitment, the length people stay in the Army and the speed with which they go in and out. It would be far cheaper for the Army to pay men decent wages and give them better pay and conditions so that we have a good Army which members will not want to leave. When you spend all your time training men you do not want to see them leave the following year, which is what is happening at present. It would be much cheaper to do a decent job.

The Minister has a great opportunity of injecting into the Army the morale which is lacking at present by giving them the trust and confidence that is necessary. I hope that, as the Leas-Cheann Comhairle described it, the "cuairt an mheán oíche" last night is not just a dirty tricks brigade to persuade PDFORRA to put off the election they intended to hold next week. They have agreed to put off the election and I hope that whatever promises they were given will be implemented and there will be no going back on whatever was agreed last night. It is vitally important that any promises they were given are implemented in order to hold their trust and confidence at this time. I believe the Minister will do this but he has not given any indication at this stage that he will.

Collins Barracks is being closed down and members are very concerned about where they are to go. Apparently they will be put into McKee Barracks and Cathal Brugha Barracks. Will that make their conditions any better? These are the kind of matters a representative association will want to discuss. I think there is only one new barracks in the country and the representative association will want to discuss where their members will be put. This should not be put down as a matter of discipline or command which is excluded from discussions; this is part of what they will need and should be able to talk about.

The Minister has indicated that he will bring in amendments to the Bill. I hope he will do this, but he must understand that he cannot impose his form of representative body on the Army. He should agree that they can have a representative body who can deal with certain matters but not with others. But you cannot then say, "This is the kind of representative body you will have". According to the Permanent Defence Force Representative Groups document there will be elected to the committee of this body 124 privates and 105 non-commissioned officers. Do they want 229 representatives on their committee? Perhaps they do. The document also deals with other procedures, methods of voting, etc. On the first page of the document I note that the Chief of Staff is telling the members that the most important step is to conduct the elections and that once the elections are over full consultation will take place with the elected representatives on all aspects, including the electoral process itself, the voting system, structures and procedures. I do not understand why the consultation should take place once the elections are over.

The Minister has a great opportunity at present to gain the trust not only of the NCOs but of the officers. The officers in the Army have played a responsible role in allowing PDFORRA to develop. They understand the need for such an organisation and have acted very responsibly. The Minister now has the opportunity to gain their trust. Perhaps the Minister needs to go over a few heads — I do not know what problems there will be in regard to structures. It seems to me that the Permanent Defence Force Representative Groups document was prepared by the Chief of Staff and not by the Minister or his Department. The Minister issued two and a half pages of guidelines on 20 February and the Chief of Staff produced his document on 2 March. If I was an NCO or private in the Army I would be suspicious of a detailed document issued by the Chief of Staff about what kind of representative body the Army should have. This does not seem to be the best way of going about things.

I will be very interested in seeing the amendments the Minister brings in on Committee Stage and in hearing of the consultations he intends to have. I do not know if he officially sent the two Deputies to consult on his behalf or whether he decided they should have consultations first and then come back to him. The Minister must be involved in the consultation process in order to make the decisions which are necessary at this time. I hope the Minister will engage in the necessary consultations so that this Bill can be passed and the representative body formed. It is very important that there is no confrontation. The Minister indicated during his Second Stage speech that he is willing to be flexible on the issue. Perhaps some important amendments will be made on Committee Stage, but it is vitally important for the Minister to consult with the people concerned before he brings in any amendments.

I wish to share my time with my colleague, Deputy Monica Barnes.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

This Bill has come about because of pressure first by the National Army Spouses Association and later by the establishment of PDFORRA. The achievements of the National Army Spouses Association must be recognised. For years the general public felt that all was well within the Army. The Army was being glamorised in television advertisements and so forth and the public perception was that Army life was an easy option. The deplorable working conditions of our Defence Forces, however, were brought home to the public with the emergence of the National Army Spouses Association. The poor pay on which they could not sustain their families was also highlighted. The National Army Spouses Association generally highlighted the lack of morale in the rank and file in our Army. This is very serious and I cannot see this Bill, in its present form, doing anything to raise morale. If the fears that were expressed here are not allayed, morale will be even lower.

PDFORRA continued the work of the National Army Spouses Association. Without the combined efforts of both we would not have this proposal, incomplete as it is, before us today. There is also the likelihood that we would not have had the Gleeson Commission set up to look at pay, especially pay in the Army. I am sure the members of the Army will benefit considerably from the recommendations of that report when it is produced in the summer.

Much concern has been expressed about the inadequacy of this Bill. It does not deal adequately with the principal issues. It leaves the establishment of associations to be dealt with by regulations to be made by the Minister. Despite the Minister's assurances we are being asked to vote through legislation without knowing its scope or impact, and that is very unfair. The total proposal should be before us so that we can discuss it. It would have been far better had the Minister consulted the people involved and then brought his proposals before us so that we would all have a chance to discuss the various recommendations. The way we are going about it now leaves too many questions unanswered. This is very dangerous because if PDFORRA are not satisfied with what is being offered we could have a very serious situation within the Army. I welcome the initiative taken last night as an indication that from now on there will be proper consultation between the Department and PDFORRA and that they will be consulted at all times in regard to any proposals because, without their agreement — and they are a strong body with 8,000 members — the Minister will have trouble with this Bill.

The Army needs a representative body to deal with their general conditions, pay and so forth just as the Garda have at the moment.

It is the very same.

Most of the Defence Forces in Western Europe have their own independent associations and there is an umbrella organisation for all Defence Forces in Western Europe called EUROMIL, as mentioned by Deputy Nealon. If the Army had such a representative body with the agreement of PDFORRA they would be happy with that. Much consultation, however, has to take place before then. I appeal to the Minister not to railroad PDFORRA into accepting some structure they would not be happy with as that would be ineffective and would leave the Army in much the same position as they are in at the moment. That is important because if there is disquiet and turmoil in our Defence Forces it would be bad for us as a nation.

It is important for us as a nation to have a contented Defence Force who are happy to look after their country without having to waste their time and energy on issues like pay and conditions. They should not have to do that. They should be recognised and properly looked after. We have not done this in the past but now we have that opportunity. I appeal again to the Minister to accommodate the wishes of PDFORRA as much as possible. Hopefully the fears that have been expressed here in the Dáil will be allayed when they see the Minister's recommendations over the next few months.

Acting Chairman

Deputy Barnes has until 6.40 p.m.

When does Deputy De Rossa get in?

Acting Chairman

I have no arrangement for Deputy De Rossa.

Acting Chairman

At the outset Deputy Deenihan asked to share his time with Deputy Barnes and the House agreed, so it is not a matter for me.

I do not want to cut into Deputy Barnes's time but I understand the Minister was to be called at 6.45 p.m.

I will give the Deputy five minutes if that is acceptable.

I will attempt to be as brief as possible. If I have any extra minutes I would be delighted to extend them to Deputy De Rossa also. One of the things we all welcome is the number of contributions that have been made, which will be a matter of support and some confidence to the armed forces. It is an indication of the interest and commitment that has been shown on Second Stage and which, I hope, will be responded to by the Minister on Committee Stage.

I do not think any Member who spoke on Second Stage did not pay tribute to the tremendous contribution the Army spouses made out of their sense of desperation. They sent a clear signal to the community about how badly we treat the Army while seeming to attach glamour and even importance to it. Indeed, in cases of emergency, even at community level, the first bastion has been and will continue to be the Army. We all appreciate that. It is, therefore, all the more incumbent on us as Members of the Dáil or the Seanad, who reflect the needs and priorities of our voters and the electorate in general, to respond fully to the demands of the Army and the Army Spouses Association who spoke on behalf of their husbands who were constrained with regard to the kind of pleas they could make for themselves.

Like Deputy Mac Giolla, I am delighted to be speaking to the Tánaiste as Minister for Defence and look forward to getting the kind of regulations and structures to allow those regulations to work fully, co-operatively and without prejudice to anybody. I hope that after the fight that had to be put up for it we will make sure that the expectations of the members of the Army and their spouses will be fully rewarded and that we will not sell them short at this stage. I am also delighted that the Minister will be responding soon to another aspect of the Defence Forces, the exclusion of recruitment within the Defence Forces. We are hoping to integrate in this Bill a level of participation which will allow people to communicate their needs and priorites through proper structures.

It is unaccountable that in 1990 women are excluded from recruitment to the Army except in a very small way. Equality Bill, which I regret did not excluded from an area in which they could give most service to the State. Following many communications from the Women's Rights Committee and the Employment Equality Agency to the Department of Defence, we received a letter on 29 April 1988 in which we learned that cadetships in the Air Corps and Naval Service are not open to female applicants and the Army and Air Corps apprentice schools are open to male applicants only. This is 13 years after we introduced in the Dáil an Employment Equality Bill which I regret did not include within its parameters recruitment to the Defence Forces or the Garda. Because of interventions from Europe, the Employment Equality Act had to admit recruitment through the Garda force. Unfortunately, in 1990, as we talk about equality in a cohesive Europe Ireland still continues obstinately, definitely and insultingly to exclude women totally from important apprenticeships in, for instance, the school of music, the cavalry, engineering, the Air Corps and the Naval Service. There is no practical reason for this.

Various excuses have been given over the years as a result of lobbying by Members of this House and the various committees in the Employment Equality Agency. The very conditions which pushed the Army spouses into picketing openly in cold and windy weather were specified in writing as a reason for the exclusion of women from the Defence Forces. A letter from the Department of Defence dated 30 April, 1988 stated that much of the accommodation occupied by male personnel is substandard and for the foreseeable future, priority must be given to upgrading it. Another reason given in the same communication was that the right of recourse to the Labour Court provided by the Act and the powers of the Employment Equality Agency to conduct investigations would, if they applied to the Defence Forces, have implications for the maintenance of military discipline which would be entirely unacceptable. This could not be countenanced by the Army and the Minister for Defence as it would carry the risk of jeopardising the effective exercise of military command and the proper discharge of the vital functions of the Defence Forces. That incredible letter referred to substandard conditions, yet the rights were denied to members of the Defence Forces to fight their case and that was used as a reason for excluding females. I wrote on behalf of the Women's Rights Committee and expressed shock at the fact such reasons should be put forward for the continuing exclusion of women from the Defence Forces and at the fact that men in the Army should have to live in accommodation that was considered not fit for women. Our point was that if we wanted to give status and recognition to the important work being done by the State forces we should give them proper conditions of work and a proper standard of accommodation. The Minister should give the most serious thought to the inclusion of women in the Defence Forces, now that proper structures are being introduced, so that no longer can such feeble and shameful excuses be given. Otherwise we will find ourselves once again in the embarrassing position of being dragged through the courts of Europe.

On 12 December 1988 we received a letter from the Social Affairs Commission which stated:

In view of recent case law of the Court of Justice in similar areas, in particular the decision of 15 May 1986 in Case 224/84, Johnson v. Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Network is likely to recommend that such general exclusions should be revised.

I would ask the Minister to indicate on Committee Stage that this exclusion is being lifted and that equal opportunity will be given to women. I can let the Minister have a file of letters from disillusioned women who applied to join the Defence Forces or otherwise learned to their shock that this exclusion exists. One of the other excuses given to us as a result of our many communications with that Department and with many Ministers of successive Administrations was that there did not seem to be any overt applications from women. One must consider that if a woman's name was clearly identifiable she did not get an application form. Even so, there was still a high number of applications. I should be delighted to let the Minister have those letters.

The hierarchical structures within the Army which have given rise to so much disillusionment, bad conditions and lack of right of reply are outdated, redundant and totally unacceptable. Deputy Mac Giolla said there was a high level of waste because people were leaving the Army due to the denial of the right of expression. We cannot afford that, either from the Army's point of view or from Ireland's point of view. I know that the Minister will repair that matter within the regulations. I hope the regulations could be issued in a White Paper for discussion by the House so that we could devise the best possible structures to allow for openness, participation and clear negotiating channels. We must never again have the Army caught up in a situation in which morale is low and they do not have the status, much less conditions of pay, which give them the recognition they deserve. The Minister is waiting and I have no time to give to Deputy De Rossa. I apologise to Deputy De Rossa but it was important to sew that into the record.

I thank the Minister for the few minutes he has offered me. I regret that what I have to say is to be confined to five minutes because I feel very strongly that the debate here today and on the previous day is crucial in relation to how we treat our Defence Forces, who have served us through thick and thin, who are a credit to us internationally, who are loyal come what may, who have in all circumstances worked within the law as it exists and have never stepped outside the law even though they had very real and many grievances.

I regret that the Bill we are discussing is so inadequate in terms of what is presented to us. Nevertheless, it is a long way from the position which the previous Minister took when he said a representative body would not be in line with the maintenance of discipline in the Army, despite the evidence from virtually everywhere else in Europe that the opposite was the case. An association exists in Europe called EUROMIL which represents one million soldiers in Europe. There are organisations in virtually all EC countries. A resolution was passed in 1984 by the European Parliament pointing out that member states should allow their defence forces to form representative associations. The Council of Europe in 1988 passed a resolution pointing out that it called on all member states of the Council of Europe in so far as they have not yet done so to grant professional members of the armed forces of all ranks the right under normal circumstances to establish, join and actively participate in specific associations formed to protect their professional interests within the framework of democratic institutions. Unfortunately, the form of the Bill presented to us here does not as it stands present a democratic form of representation for the Defence Forces. I am pleased that the Minister in the past few days has moved to open up some avenues of consultation with PDFORRA and to consider the very real concerns they have.

I was struck on a recent visit to Collins Barracks, organised through the good offices of the Minister for Defence, by the appalling conditions that many of our Defence Forces have to work under. For instance, the catering corps have to scrimp and save from one meal to the next in order to provide a decent sandwich even to members of the Defence Forces on guard duty at night and long-term duty at weekends. There is no doubt that we have neglected to a large extent the needs of our Defence Forces. I hope the Minister will accept many of the amendments which the Opposition parties in this House will be proposing on Committee Stage, and I would appreciate if the Minister would indicate clearly in his contribution here this evening what he proposes to do to meet the very real concerns that have been expressed here throughout this debate.

The number of speakers in the debate on Second Stage of the Bill before the House is an indication of the importance of the Bill in the history of the Defence Forces and of the interest of all Members of the House in the welfare of the forces. I thank Deputies for their contributions. The Defence Forces are the responsibility of Oireachtas Éireann and the legislation we pass here must be the governing factor. This legislation has been introduced by the Government on the basis that there has been no legislation govening representative bodies in our Defence Forces. Any bodies in existence or to be in existence did not have the legitimacy of legislation passed by Oireachtas Éireann. That situation has existed since the formation of the Defence Forces in 1922. We are now seeking to remedy it.

It is important to remember that this had to be enabling legislation by this Oireachtas giving authority in consultation with the personnel of the Defence Forces to bring in structures that would be acceptable to them. This is the path we have chosen to follow, precisely the same path that was chosen with regard to the Garda Síochána Act, 1977 which set up the Garda Síochána representative body structure within the Garda and was based on enabling legislation and subsequent regulations brought into being after consultation between the Department of Justice and the Garda authorities and personnel. It is precisely the same pattern we are proposing to follow here to enable the Permanent Defence Forces to have suitable machinery available to them to give them a representative voice in regard to their pay, allowances and other conditions of service. That is the whole purpose of the Bill. In addition we are proposing to provide for a whole range of welfare activities that the Garda Síochána Representative Body have in their case, that such welfare activities would also be part of the remit of the proposed representative bodies within the Defence Forces.

In addition to all of that, as an entirely new measure we are bringing in conciliation and arbitration for the first time ever for members of the Defence Forces. A similar type of conciliation and arbitration is there for the public service at large and in particular applies to the Garda Síochána, an entirely new dimension which makes the representative body or bodies not just a body representing the personnel but a body who have the power, authority and statutory right to proceed to conciliation and arbitration where required.

The detail under this enabling Bill will be filled in in consultation with those directly involved. This approach is sensible and is on all fours with the Garda Síochána Act, 1977, and subsequent regulation. Contrary to what has been alleged, the essence of the arrangement is an exercise in democracy subject to certain safeguards. There is an important issue of principle at stake involving the armed forces of the country and it is clear that we must have a legislative framework within which these representative associations can do positive good on behalf of their personnel.

I wish to emphasise a number of important points. In the first instance it is necessary to identify representative officers, non-commissioned officers and privates and the obvious way to do that is by democratic elections. We must have democratic elections first to provide legitimacy for the structures we are establishing under this legislation. The first election will be conducted under the supervision of the principal officer in charge of the franchise section of the Department of the Environment, thus obviating any suggestion whatever of irregularity or vested interest, who will as a first step invite submissions from within the Permanent Defence Force, including PDFORRA, to determine a system of election which will find acceptance throughout the Defence Forces. This is the essence of the agreement reached by two of my Dáil colleagues, Deputy Hillery and Deputy Kitt, in discussions last night with eight representatives of PDFORRA. The essence of the discussions between them was an agreement to participate in elections which would be supervised by the principal officer in charge of the franchise section of the Department of the Environment and, on that basis, they were agreeable to suspend any activities in regard to elections within their membership which they were proposing to have. They saw the wisdom of having consultations now to have properly supervised elections in which they could participate and have a useful role. That is the essence of what was agreed last night by the eight representatives of PDFORRA and two Deputies of this House. I welcome that development as positive progress in getting elections off the ground without conflict or acrimony. It is a very positive and constructive step forward and we can proceed immediately——

Consultations about what?

Of course structures will be involved and I will come to them in a moment. I have no preference for one, two or three associations to represent officers, non-commissioned officers and privates. It is essential, however, to establish by democratic process what the personnel themselves want. In the case of non-commissioned officers and privates it seems to boil down to whether they want one association or separate associations. Either course is all right with me. I emphasise that the duly elected representatives will be given every opportunity to participate in drawing up the new arrangements before the associations are established and before Defence Force regulations are made. Clearly, that is the best way to proceed if a system is to emerge which will have the confidence of the members of the Permanent Defence Force. It is their confidence we need in the structures and the regulations. Regulations have not yet been drafted, a suggestion was made that they should be embodied in the Bill but that would be the very obverse of consultation. The purpose of the Bill is to bring in enabling legislation and after the election, the idea is to have detailed consultation and discussions. As a result of that the regulations can then be agreed between the Minister, the Department, the Army, PDFORRA and anyone else who makes submissions on the matter. These regulations can then come before the House as provided for in the section for further discussion. That progression makes sense.

It is clear, from what I said, that there is no difficulty about the scope of representation as sought in various submissions to me. The scope is agreed and there is practically 100 per cent agreement on that score. By "scope" I mean pay, conditions, a whole range of welfare services and raising funds by way of subscriptions on the part of the elected representatives, if they wish to do so. It also covers where they will have meetings and that is a matter for themselves. They will also have direct contact with the media as an independent body outside the scope of any Army command. On all issues raised by PDFORRA or in this House or outside it we can meet them fully. All that remains to be settled by way of consultation prior to regulations are matters of detail. I cannot talk here about every detail but obviously some can be worked out within the framework of what I am talking about.

The framework of the regulations will represent every point of view which has been expresed in the House but if anybody wishes to raise another I will be glad to hear it. I welcome the start made last night in regard to a frank and free discussion. Consultations must take place in an atmosphere free from stultifying acrimony and controversy. For that purpose the mechanism in section 8 of the Bill will enable me to postpone the coming into operation of the Act so that the maximum possible time can be made available for discussion with PDFORRA and any other interested bodies.

I will not name an operative date which would stultify the process of consultations and negotiations. I will not implement the Bill until full discussions and negotiations leading to regulations have been put in place. I will then fully implement the Act. I want to emphasise that because it is the purpose of the mechanism in section 8 to which Deputy Bell referred.

Discussions with the franchise officer of the Department of the Environment can start straight away. We can prepare for an election side by side with the processing of this Bill through this and the other House. This approach will help the democratic process to take place for all concerned in an open, co-operative and amicable atmosphere. The outline of what is contemplated as a starting point is already known throughout the Permanent Defence Force and what will finally emerge within the ambit of the legislation will effectively be determined by members of the force. In other words, this document issued by the Army authorities is very comprehensive and I want to pay tribute to it. There are aspects of it with which I do not agree but it is not a final document, it was designed as the basis for discussion. In my letter covering it, issued as far back as 20 February, I emphasised in the last paragraph that this document would be considered by Army personnel and would be subject to full consultation. It is basically a discussion document, there is nothing of a regulatory kind in it although 80 per cent to 90 per cent of it will form the basis for regulations. Other aspects of it in regard to details which were raised in the House are matters for discussion and negotiation.

The administration of the association, such as secretarial staff and accommodation, are matters which can be fully discussed with the newly elected representatives. It was suggested during the debate that the provisions of sections 3 and 4 of the Bill regarding the position in a state of emergency or when members were on active service could be used in a capricious way by military commanders. This is not so as the state of emergency comes into force only on the making of a formal declaration by the Government.

Deputy McCartan and other speakers raised the question of the affiliation of an association to other bodies. In that regard, under section 2 of the Bill such affiliation will be permitted with the consent of the Minister for Defence. This provision provides flexibility and is in exact accord with the situation in regard to the Garda Síochána.

The question of membership of professional and other bodies which may be essential or desirable from the point of view of the practice of a profession or trade was also mentioned. Membership of such bodies would not be contrary to the provisions of section 2 (4) of the Bill. There has been criticism of section 6 (2) of the Bill which prohibits persons outside the Defence Forces from persuading a member of the forces to join a body other than an official association established by law. In this case a mountain was made out of a molehill as there is no question of any spouses' association being declared illegal under the Bill. That is nonsense. Much of what was said about this was farfetched and hypothetical. However, as an earnest of my goodwill and bona fides I am willing to look at this section before Committee Stage in view of the misgivings which have been expressed about it although it is not germane to the whole thrust of the Bill. I take on board the points that have been made in the House in this regard although I dispute that they apply to some of the far-fetched notions. If people have these far-fetched notions I want to establish trust and understanding. If necessary I will deal with that subsection accordingly on Commitee Stage.

The question of the regulation requiring confirmation by resolution of each House of the Oireachtas has been raised. The provision under section 7 of this Bill is on all fours with section 13 of the Garda Síochána Act, 1977.

The system of election is one that can be worked out with the franchise officer, the principal officer of the Department of the Environment. The type of election system, the constituencies, the numbers and the method of election will be worked out immediately, thanks to last night's meeting between PDFORRA, the Army authorities and other interested parties, with Mr. Sexton of the Department of the Environment, in order to get the first election off the ground in a totally aboveboard manner.

I hope the Deputies will look at this legislation seriously and not in a spirit of political brinkmanship or parliamentary games, as it were. It is a bit above that. It is an enabling Bill concerned with the Defence Forces of the State and in that connection it is important, as with the Garda Síochána Bill of 1977, that it get around-the-House support and that there is public opinion here that emphasises that in this situation the Minister of the day has to be trusted. Deputy Dukes made some remarks about the Minister having the right to do certain things by way of order and regulation. Of course that is the case in any enabling Bill but in the last analysis I have brought in this measure with the authority of the Government and I did not do so just for the sake of bringing in a Bill. Nothing has been done about this matter over the years but something is being done about it now. I assure the House there is a serious purpose behind this Bill. In that respect I am asking the House to have regard to the fact that they can have trust in me, acting on behalf of the Government and on behalf of you, the key House of the Oireachtas. I will ensure that we have supervision over matters of this kind within our Defence Forces and that our Defence Forces, for once and for all, will be rid of this corroding and eroding spirit of suspicion and mistrust that has appeared only recently.

I would appeal in particular to the media to co-operate in this matter which is of such fundamental national importance that we just cannot play around with it. This is a matter of serious intent and will be followed through by me with serious intent. I assure the House that the fullest possible discussion will take place when the legitimacy of election has been accorded to the representatives of our Defence personnel. I will have meetings day in and day out and will work out the detail of the structures that will be embodied in the regulations which will be placed before this House. Those regulations will be honed and fine-combed with the utmost knowledge that this is a serious duty on my part and on the part of my officials to ensure that the personnel of our Defence Forces have machinery of consultation that can last and that will be enshrined in permanent legislation. That, along with the findings of the Gleeson Commission which we have established and which will report next June on the aspect of pay and conditions, will mark a new dimension in the status and standing of the Defence Forces in our State.

What about the status of women within the Defence Forces?

There is no other reply.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand".
The Dáil divided: Tá, 70; Níl, 65.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brennan, Mattie.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Browne, John (Wexford).
  • Burke, Raphael P.
  • Callely, Ivor.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cullimore, Séamus.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Foxe, Tom.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Garland, Roger.
  • Haughey, Charles J.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Hilliard, Colm.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kelly, Laurence.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • McDaid, Jim.
  • McEllistrim, Tom.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • O'Connell, John.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Toole, Martin Joe.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Reynolds, Albert.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Stafford, John.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wyse, Pearse.


  • Ahearn, Therese.
  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Belton, Louis J.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Currie, Austin.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, Austin.
  • De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Doyle, Joe.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • Nealon, Ted.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • (Limerick East).
  • O'Brien, Fergus.
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Shea, Brian.
  • O'Sullivan, Gerry.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Owen, Nora.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Finucane, Michael.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Philip.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McCartan, Pat.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • Mac Giolla, Tomás.
  • McGrath, Paul.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reynolds, Gerry.
  • Ryan, Seán.
  • Sheehan, Patrick J.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Yates, Ivan.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Gallagher and Clohessy; Níl, Deputies J. Higgins and Boylan.
Question declared carried.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Next Tuesday, subject to agreement between the Whips.

Is that satisfactory? Agreed.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 27 March 1990.