I thank Deputy Calleary for his comments on the comprehensive report, published by the Department and prepared by Mr. Frank Callinan SC, into the tragic deaths in 1989 of the three soldiers mentioned. I certainly agree that it is appropriate that we would debate that report at some point in this House, and the Whips can make the appropriate arrangements. I hope the comprehensive inquiry conducted by Mr. Callinan SC, the terms of reference that we gave him and his conclusions on those terms of reference bring, in so far as this can ever occur, some sense of closure to the families who for a long time were seeking to ascertain the full background to the tragic deaths of their loved ones. I spent some time with the families on the morning before the report was published and I am personally aware of the grief still caused to them by that incident.
On the question Deputy Calleary raised, there is an ongoing review with the Defence establishment of how to make the maximum use of the resources available. I have had discussions with the Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Seán McCann, in this regard. There are operational issues that fall within his remit and on which there are decisions to be made by him. For my part, I am anxious we maintain the strength of the Defence Forces at or around 9,500. I hope I can achieve that in the context of the internal discussions within Government on financial allocations for next year. As indicated in the response to the question, the approved employment control framework for the Permanent Defence Force is based on a figure of 10,000, but the resources, as we have them this year, create a difficulty in that regard, although I hope there will be some possibility for some recruitment this year. I am anxious to maintain the age profile within the Defence Forces and it is important that new personnel are introduced into the force each year. It is not yet clear what retirements will occur either by the end of this year or by the end of February, and I do not want to give the House figures that may be misleading. I do not have accurate figures in that regard at present.
There is a continuing assessment being undertaken on the manner in which the Defence Forces are structurally configured in the context of the existing barracks. No final decisions have been made in that regard. That issue in the case of Mullingar is raised today, as Deputy Calleary mentioned, on the topical issues debate and will be addressed. No final decisions have been made yet on any particular barracks by Government but we must look at how we maximise the use of the resources. As Minister for Defence, my objective in maximising the use of resources is to ensure we have what I believe to be the number of members of the Defence Forces required to facilitate them meeting all their obligations, both to the civil power and internationally. I am anxious to ensure the preservation of buildings does not create an expense that could be better utilised to maintain members of the force, and that balance will have to be struck.