Other Questions.

Defence Forces Strength.

Simon Coveney

Question:

6 Mr. Coveney asked the Minister for Defence the current strength of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25666/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

155 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the strength of the Permanent Defence Force and the Army reserve by rank and gender; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26116/05]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

163 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if the current and anticipated strength of the Permanent Defence Force is adequate to meet current home and overseas commitments; the way in which this will develop in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26125/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 155 and 163 together.

The White Paper on Defence of February 2000 sets out a figure of 10,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force, comprising 930 for the Air Corps, 1,144 for the Naval Service and 8,426 for the Army.

The strength of the Defence Forces, and the number of female personnel by rank, as advised by the military authorities, is provided in the following table. The figures are correct as at 31 August 2005.

The White Paper provides an overall strength figure of 10,500 for the Permanent Defence Force, all ranks. This figure comprehends provision for the allocation of up to 850 members of the Permanent Defence Force to overseas peacekeeping missions at any given time. The military authorities advise there are some 750 members of the Permanent Defence Force serving overseas on such missions. I am satisfied the current strength is adequate to meet all needs arising at home and overseas.

I intend to maintain the established Government policy of ongoing recruitment to the Defence Forces. Recruitment into the Permanent Defence Force will continue to maintain the strength at the level set out in the White Paper as required to meet military needs. Recruitment is ongoing to the Reserve Defence Force. The Defence Forces continue to take a proactive approach to recruiting.

Strength of the Permanent Defence Force - 31 August 2005

Lt Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

Sgts

Cpls

Total NCOS

Ptes

Cadets

Total

Army

1

2

6

39

124

352

280

264

1,068

32

41

129

246

1,051

1,606

3,105

4,448

54

8,675

Air Corps

0

0

1

2

14

31

47

39

134

8

4

47

15

136

186

396

305

11

846

Naval Service

0

0

1

2

13

48

25

65

154

6

6

77

15

188

182

474

419

18

1,065

KEY

Lt Gen

Lieutenant General

SM

Sergeant Major

Maj Gen

Major General

BQMS

Battalion Quartermaster Sergeant

Brig Gen

Brigadier General

CS

Company Sergeant

Col

Colonel

CQMS

Company Quartermaster Sergeant

Lt Col

Lieutenant Colonel

Sgts

Sergeants

Comdt

Commandant

Cpls

Corporals

Capt

Captain

NCOS

Non Commissioned Officers

Lt

Lieutenant

Ptes

Privates

Strength of Males in the Pemanent Defence Force - 31 August 2005

Lt Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

Sgts

Cpls

Total NCOS

Ptes

Cadets

Total

Army

1

2

6

39

123

337

242

229

979

32

41

126

245

1,041

1,501

2,986

4,218

43

8,226

Air Corps

0

0

1

2

14

31

45

38

131

8

4

46

15

136

175

384

301

10

826

Naval Service

0

0

1

2

13

48

19

54

137

6

6

77

15

188

179

471

385

17

1,010

Strength of Females in the Permanent Defence Force - 31 August 2005

Lt Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

Sgts

Cpls

Total NCOS

Ptes

Cadets

Total

Army

0

0

0

0

1

15

38

35

89

0

0

3

1

10

105

119

230

11

449

Air Corps

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

1

3

0

0

1

0

0

11

12

4

1

20

Naval Service

0

0

0

0

0

0

6

11

17

0

0

0

0

0

3

3

34

1

55

Strength of the Reserve Defence Force - 31 August, 2005

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

Sgts

Cpls

Total NCOS

Ptes

Total

Army Reserve

115

189

358

662

23

22

117

110

886

1,507

2,665

7,098

10,425

Naval Reserve

4

10

12

26

0

4

13

1

25

32

75

307

408

Strength of Males in the Reserve Defence Force - 31 August 2005

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

Sgts

Cpls

Total NCOS

Ptes

Total

Army Reserve

115

189

306

610

23

22

116

108

819

1,113

2,201

4,829

7,640

Naval Reserve

4

10

10

24

0

4

13

1

24

25

67

209

300

Strength of Females in the Reserve Defence Force - 31 August 2005

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

SGTS

Cpls

Total NCOS

Ptes

Total

Army Reserve

0

0

52

52

0

0

1

2

67

394

464

2,269

2,785

Naval Reserve

0

0

2

2

0

0

0

0

1

7

8

98

108

Strength of the First Line Reserve - 31 August, 2005.

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

Sgts

Cpls

Total NCOS

Ptes

Total

Male

68

84

11

163

11

15

26

175

364

Female

0

2

0

2

0

1

1

18

21

The Minister mentioned that recruitment to the Reserve Defence Force is ongoing. Will he confirm that the Reserve Defence Force has been disbanded? I received a call from somebody today who went in for training last night and was told the training centre was closed and that he should turn up in Limerick to say goodbye. There may be no truth in this but the Minister might be able to clarify the matter.

There is an ongoing programme of reform of the Reserve Defence Forces. The FCA is becoming the Army Reserve and Slua Muirí is becoming the Naval Reserve. Therefore the different units are being reorganised and amalgamated in various places. The official changeover takes place next Saturday, 1 October 2005. The ceremony will take place at Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick and I will extend an invitation to Deputy Timmins if he wishes to attend.

I am not aware of the case to which the Deputy refers but there should be no interruption to training or anything of that nature. There was no question of closing until next Saturday. That is not the position and should not have happened.

Is it carrying on as usual?

That is fine. I thank the Minister for the invitation but unfortunately I am otherwise engaged. Had I received a timely invitation I would have been happy to attend, even if it is in Limerick.

We will miss the Deputy.

Peacekeeping Missions.

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

7 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Defence the nature of the official visit by the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces (details supplied) to Washington in May 2005; the person with whom this person had talks; the nature of those discussions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25793/05]

Lt. Gen. Sreenan visited the United States from 28 March 2005 to 1 April 2005 on foot of an invitation from General Richard B. Meyers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This visit was a Chiefs of Defence Staff visit, which is a traditional means of CHODs paying courtesy visits to their foreign counterparts and discussing matters of mutual interest.

Lt. Gen. Sreenan held bilateral discussions with General Meyers and his staff on matters of common interest, namely operational aspects of UN mandated peace support operations in Kosovo, KFOR; Bosnia, EUFOR; Afghanistan, ISAF; and sub-Saharan Africa.

Lt. Gen. Sreenan also held bilateral discussions with commandants of schools where Irish officers attend training courses. Lt. Gen. Sreenan also used the visit to observe demonstrations and be briefed on the latest developments in regard to equipment for the protection of the individual soldier on peace support missions.

Is it not the case that when General Meyers visited here the Minister went off sick but visited a barracks? The indication was that he had been instructed because of a possible embarrassment and unfavourable optics to go missing.

Does he agree that the meetings outlined in his response reveal that we are hand in glove with the United States in military matters? This is confirmed almost every day in Shannon where we are complicit in this bloody war in Iraq which gets worse day by day. Our so-called neutrality is going out the window. The Minister, and this Government in particular, have contributed more than any other Government to dismantling the last vestiges of our neutrality.

I am glad Deputy Gormley got the opportunity to make his usual speech. I did not take off sick when General Meyers visited.

That is how it was reported.

That is an unworthy aspersion. I know the Deputy, who is a decent man and a native of Limerick, will feel obliged to withdraw it.

Deputy Gormley is a lucky man to come from Limerick.

Is Deputy Gormley from Limerick? That explains a great deal.

The Deputy implied that I feigned illness. I do not feign illness. I was visiting a barracks in Athlone. I did not feel very well. The visit went on longer than I had anticipated and there was not sufficient time to travel to Dublin to keep the appointment with General Meyers which I regretted and for which I apologised. That is the truth and I hope the Deputy accepts that. There was no question of me being instructed to go missing. I do not go missing and I certainly do not take instructions to go missing from anybody, no matter who he or she is.

Does the Minister not even take such instructions from the Taoiseach?

No. I take no instructions of that nature from anybody. I am who I am. I was genuinely ill on that day and genuinely sorry I could not meet General Meyers. There was no insult intended to General Meyers. I made that clear to his staff and to the American Embassy.

I compliment Deputy Gormley on his wonderfully imaginative description of us getting rid of neutrality and being "hand in glove with the United States" and "complicit in the bloody war in Iraq". There is no complicity in the war in Iraq. This is an arrangement in Shannon that has continued for the past 50 or 60 years under the jurisdiction of various Governments.

If the Green Party becomes part of the next Government Deputy Gormley will insist that this arrangement comes to an end and we will lose 1,500 jobs immediately in the Shannon area. The troops will be able to go to another airport in a so-called neutral country to avail of the facilities there. Some countries whose governments won elections on the basis of opposing the Americans fell over one another to offer the facility to the United States if we were to withdraw it.

That is not true.

That is a fact.

I would like to correct the record.

One government in which, as I understand it, the Deputy's party is sharing power was quite ready to provide this facility.

We are running out of time. I call Deputy Timmins.

I wish to correct the record.

I hope the Deputy will correct the record.

There is a great deal of correcting the record to be done here today. I note the Minister said he contacted the American Embassy to express his regret at not being able to meet General Meyers. Is it correct that he contacted the embassy not that the embassy contacted the Department of Defence?

No. We contacted the embassy.

I will allow Deputy Gormley speak very briefly to ask a question.

The neutral states to which the Minister refers do not afford landing facilities to the——

That is a statement not a question. We will move on to Question No. 8 in the name of Deputy Jim O'Keeffe.

Will the Minister confirm that all the other neutral states do not allow American troops to land on their soil to participate in the war in Iraq? Are we not being complicit by allowing them to do so? That is the case.

Will the Minister also correct the record to say that this arrangement has not been in place for 50 years? A case was brought to the High Court and the judge found this arrangement was not in place. I want the Minister to correct the record on that point.

The Deputy did not say the High Court also concluded that this in no way infringed our military neutrality.

That is because it is not in the Constitution.

Deputy Gormley should allow the Minister to continue without interruption.

The Minister should correct the record.

The Deputy should resume his seat. The Minister was called to answer a question and he is entitled to do so. We will move on to Question No. 8.

Defence Forces Recruitment.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

8 Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the way in which he intends to attract more females into the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25623/05]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

11 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Defence the efforts he has made to encourage more women to join the military and Defence Forces; if he has reviewed the measures in place to maximise the number of women applicants to the Defence Forces; the number of women serving in the Defence Forces for the latest date for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25928/05]

Olwyn Enright

Question:

32 Ms Enright asked the Minister for Defence the way in which he intends to attract more females into the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25629/05]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8, 11 and 32 together.

The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women in the Defence Forces, Army, Air Corps, Naval Service, including the Reserve Defence Force, and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities. In effect that means that women are eligible on the same basis as men for participation in operational and ceremonial activities, for assignment to all military appointments and educational and training courses, and for promotion. All female personnel undergo the same training and receive the same military education as their male counterparts.

To encourage increased participation by women in the Defence Forces, my predecessor decided in March 1998 to reduce the height requirement for all female recruits to 162.5 cm, or 5 ft. 4 in. That height requirement now also applies to male recruits. The Defence Forces actively encourages female applicants, for example, by advertising. Where possible, all graphical advertisements and booklets produced for the Defence Forces show both male and female personnel and emphasise that all applicants are assessed on an equal basis. Stands at recruiting fairs are generally staffed by male and female personnel. When the Defence Forces are invited to give talks at all-female or mixed schools, every effort is made to have a female speaker.

The strength of female personnel in the Permanent Defence Force grew from 244 at the end of 1997 to 524 at the end of August 2005. That constitutes an increase of over 100% in the number of females serving over the period. On 5 August 2005, I wrote to both the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, along with a number of outside organisations, seeking their views and recommendations on how more women might be encouraged to enlist in the Defence Forces. I hope to have replies by the end of this month.

When the submissions have been received and examined, I propose that officials, both civil and military, of my Department meet representatives of each of the organisations that made submissions, along with the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers and the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association, to consider the ideas and suggestions to see what, if any, improvements or changes can be made to the programme of recruitment to encourage more females to join the Defence Forces.

Does the Minister have any idea why it is difficult to attract females to join the Defence Forces? He mentioned height, which is an old bugbear of mine. If I understood him correctly, the requirement is now 5 ft. 4 in. for both males and females.

Does he agree that, in view of the fact that the average height of a woman is less than that of a man, a greater proportion of women are disqualified from joining the Defence Forces?

The Minister appealed for more women to join the Army. Did he do so mainly to be politically correct? He claims that a great deal has been done to encourage women into the Defence Forces, but can he expand that to say what specific initiatives have been taken in the 12 months since he assumed office?

To be honest, I do not know the answer to Deputy Timmins's question. I do not know why women do not see it as the job for them. Traditionally, that has been the case, and fortunately we are trying to change that. I take the Deputy's point about height. As he knows, the Garda Síochána has got rid of the height requirement and instead introduced one for physical fitness. To the best of my knowledge, that has been the case for the last few years. I have asked the military about this. I believe that the United States has a lower limit of 4 ft. 10 in. and Australia 5 ft.

There was a time in Ireland when the lower limit for male recruits was under 5 ft. I have asked the Army about that. One of the problems is health and safety. The Army received medical advice that females in particular, but also men under a certain height, because of some of the gear that they have to wear, especially when abroad, are more likely to be damaged by the physical activity in which they are forced to engage as part of their duties in the Army. That is being kept under constant review, and I have asked the military to report to me on it.

Limerick College has been researching it.

Regarding Deputy Sherlock's question, I am not being politically correct. Put bluntly, half the population are women, but only 5% of those in the Army or the Naval Service, and fewer than 5% of those in the Air Corps are. Women should be allowed to play their part.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.