Written Answers. - Defence Forces Reserve.

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

114 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Defence the plans for the implementation of the report of the ministerial steering group on the Reserve Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4658/03]

Dinny McGinley

Question:

126 Mr. McGinley asked the Minister for Defence if there are plans to downgrade FCA facilities in any part of the country; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4747/03]

Denis Naughten

Question:

131 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Defence his future plans for Boyle Barracks, County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4566/03]

Denis Naughten

Question:

133 Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Defence his future plans for the RDF in County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4567/03]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

170 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the current strength of the army reserve and its role in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5006/03]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 114, 126, 131, 133 and 170 together.

On 15 January 2003 I approved in principle the report of the Reserve Defence Forces Review Implementation Board. This implementation board was established to formulate a plan for the implementation of the recommendations of the special steering group on the Reserve. The steering group, which I established to undertake a study of the Reserve, reported to me in September 1999.

The Permanent Defence Force is now organised in a three-brigade structure and a Defence Forces Training Centre. The Reserve Defence Force will be similarly reorganised and restructured and it is envisaged that the implementation of these changes in the Reserve Defence Force will take place over a period of approximately six years.
The White Paper on Defence recognised that a notable and important feature of the existing FCA organisation is its countrywide, geographical spread. This aspect will, in general terms, be retained in the future. The full organisational and establishment details of the new Reserve will be determined in the course of the ongoing detailed implementation process.
Plans are currently being prepared by each general officer commanding a brigade for the amalgamation of FCA units in line with the proposals outlined in the steering group report. The objective of this process is to ensure that better training and other facilities will be provided to members of the Reserve Defence Force. No decisions have yet been taken on the location of the proposed newly amalgamated units but the military authorities have advised me that all proposed amalgamations will provide an optimal environment for personnel in the relevant areas to partake in the new enhanced Reserve Defence Force.
In general terms, the blueprint for the new Reserve Defence Force will involve replacing An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil with an army reserve consisting of two elements. One element will provide personnel who will integrate with Permanent Defence Force units to bring them up to full operational strength in a contingency. Personnel who opt for a period of integrated service will be provided with enhanced military training. The larger element will provide the overall army reserve, organised into three reserve brigades.
Members of the FCA are already seeing the benefits in terms of better clothing and improved equipment and more and better quality training. As the process develops we will see additional benefits in terms of a clearer role for the Reserve Defence Force, a better overall organisation structure, and opportunities for suitably qualified reserve personnel to serve overseas. We will also see benefits from the closer integration of the reserve with the Army.
I am very mindful of the need to preserve and to retain the very many traditional and well established strengths of the current reserve system, not least the admirable spirit of individual voluntary commitment, close social links with local communities and a good depth and scope as regards nation-wide geographical spread. The strength of the reserve on the 31 December 2002 was 13,835.
As regards the future of the reserve in County Roscommon, no final decision has yet been made. I can assure the Deputy that there will be a reserve presence in Roscommon but it may have a different role in the new organisation than it has at present.