Other Questions

Overseas Missions

Clare Daly

Question:

6Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Defence if he will define the role of the Irish forces serving in Afghanistan. [6906/12]

The Defence Forces are primarily deployed on overseas missions in support of international peace and security under UN mandates. On 20 December 2001, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1386 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorising the establishment of an international security assistance force, ISAF, in Afghanistan. Ireland has participated in the NATO–led UN mandated mission since 5 July 2002, following the Government Decision of 2 July 2002, authorising the provision of seven members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the force.

With the increasing use of more robust Chapter VII missions, the UN has turned to regional organisations such as the European Union, the African Union and NATO, to launch and manage operations on its behalf and under its authority.

Since 2002, the Government has reviewed and approved, on an annual basis, the continued participation by seven members of the Permanent Defence Force in ISAF. On 28 June 2011, the Government agreed to continue to provide seven members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with ISAF for a further period from July 2011, subject to ongoing review by the Minister for Defence. The seven Defence Forces personnel work in staff appointments in planning and administrative roles based in ISAF headquarters in Kabul.

Throughout the years, Ireland has and continues to contribute highly qualified Defence Forces personnel to UN mandated missions in small numbers or for short duration. This is a tangible and visible expression of Ireland's continued support for organisations such as the United Nations and the European Union. Examples of such contributions include the Defence Forces' contribution to the United Nations stabilisation mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, the United Nations mission in Ivory Coast, UNOCI, and EUTM Somalia with three, two and seven personnel respectively in those missions.

The seven Defence Forces personnel currently participating in ISAF are all located in ISAF HQ, Kabul and work in staff appointments in planning and administrative roles. I am satisfied that the work carried out by these personnel, particularly by those in the counter-improvised explosive device, C-IED, cell, represents an important contribution to this UN mandated mission.

The Minister says the participation of Irish troops in Afghanistan is subject to ongoing review. In light of the fact that France is withdrawing its forces and the United States has also announced that it will retreat from Afghanistan, will the Minister reconsider the participation of the seven personnel from Ireland in that mission?

The Minister mentioned the ISAF which was established under a UN mandate but which, in recent years, has been led by NATO, and now operates under the guise of the US with some of its EU supporters. The Department objected to a reference in my question to Afghanistan as occupied Afghanistan. Given that the country has had almost 100,000 US troops on its soil for almost ten years, what other word would the Minister think is appropriate in this context?

I know the Deputy has a paranoia about the United States. I remind the Deputy that when this mission commenced the Taliban were in control in Afghanistan and women were not allowed to participate in education, were stoned for alleged misconduct and were not allowed to be seen in public without their faces being covered and wearing the hijab. Following the murderous atrocity of 11 September the United States took particular action in relation to Afghanistan.

Our participation in ISAF is based on a United Nations mandate. We continually review what is taking place there and at appropriate moments decisions will be made with regard to the seven members of the Defence Forces who are there. They are serving an important function which shows this country's willingness to participate under UN mandated missions and to make a contribution on issues of global concern. I do not believe our participation in this has been anything other than a valuable contribution to a peace mission in a very troubled area of the world.

I assure the Minister that I am not paranoid about anything. I am aware that the conditions for women and most ordinary Afghani people are deplorable now, as they were when the Taliban ruled the roost. The US appointed regime has also been shown to have let down ordinary people.

Will the Minister comment on the fact that the, so called, peace-keeping role of the ISAF has been shown to be fraudulent? The international police training role, in which Irish police participate, has not been a success. It has cost $29 billion since the Taliban were defeated in 2001 and yet that country remains a total mess. The force has been found to be routinely torturing prisoners and to be corrupt. How can the Minister approve the participation of Irish forces in such a force?

I have outlined for the Deputy the deployment of seven members of the Defence Forces and the work they do. That work has been an important contribution in a very difficult area.

It would be interesting, for once, to hear the Deputy explain how she would solve the problems of a very difficult and fraught country such as Afghanistan. I do not have the solutions for the difficulties in that region. We must play our role on the international stage in participating in peacekeeping missions that are UN mandated. It is unfortunate that the Deputy does not recognise the valuable role played by our Defence Forces in this area. The Deputy seems to yearn for a period when the Taliban were in control of that country.

A certain re-writing of history there.

Do the seven Permanent Defence Force personnel serve six monthly or 12 monthly rotations? If a decision were made to withdraw those troops, would a period have to pass before they could be physically withdrawn?

If the troops were to withdraw we would consult with and advise the other countries engaged in the mission. No decision has been made for their withdrawal. We are aware of plans of other countries for dealing with matters and for what may happen in Afghanistan. This issue is under constant review.

The Defence Forces personnel serving in Afghanistan are rotated on a six monthly basis.

Defence Policy

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

7Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide an update on the White Paper on the Defence process. [6840/12]

The White Paper on defence has provided the policy framework and development strategy for defence for the past decade. The planning certainty arising from the policy provisions of the White Paper underpinned the modernisation process within the defence organisation. It also afforded the requisite flexibility to develop appropriate capabilities in response to changes in the defence and security environment.

The recent decisions on defence arising from the comprehensive review of expenditure have provided a degree of clarity on the resources available to the defence organisation in the short to medium term. In response to the Government's decision to revise the strength ceiling of the Permanent Defence Force to 9,500 personnel, I have initiated a major reorganisation of the Defence Forces. This will encompass a reduction in the number of Army brigades from three to two.

Having considered the preliminary work undertaken on the preparation of a new White Paper on defence, I decided to expand the planned consultative process by initiating the preparation of a Green Paper on defence. The Green Paper will initiate a broad consultative process. The purpose will be to elicit an informed debate on Ireland's defence policy. The clarity provided by a settled policy framework drives and facilitates service provision. A further long-term policy framework will facilitate planning for and delivery of the required defence outputs. I intend to bring a memorandum to the Government in early 2012 seeking approval to formally launch the process. At this stage, I expect to publish the Green Paper on defence by the end of the year.

I note the Green Paper is to be published by the end of the year. How wide is the consultation process? Does the remit include every area of the Defence Forces, including overseas missions?

The idea is that we will ultimately produce a White Paper that will prescribe the policy approach to defence matters for the next decade, as the previous White Paper did for the last decade. The Green Paper will be a consultative document. It will be produced by my Department in consultation with others. I hope that not just Members of the House but also the broader community will engage in the public consultation process. I have no doubt that the representative associations will have an input into the process. Essentially, it will deal with policy issues and I am looking forward to an open and broad debate. In some areas it may raise questions for debate or propose options on how we deal with particular matters. I hope we will have an informed discussion in advance of the finalisation of the White Paper.

One issue which I am considering is that, following publication of the Green Paper, the justice and defence committee receive submissions and hold hearings on the White Paper in order that we have the broadest possible consultative phase. My recollection of the process for the previous White Paper - I was Opposition spokesperson on defence at the time - is that it emerged from the Government and was presented without this kind of consultative process being undertaken, although I am sure the Government of the day engaged in some consultations. We should have a more transparent process. Ultimately, it will fall to me to make proposals to the Government on the final format of the White Paper and to the Government to make a decision on it. This is a new way of proceeding in what is a very important area which is not often subject to adequate comprehensive public examination and debate.

I welcome the possibility of the joint committee being given the opportunity to hear submissions. It is very busy dealing with justice issues, but this is one way in which defence issues could be raised before it. It would certainly be a good process.

It is welcome that the Minister wants to commence a consultation process. I do not think the role of the Army is appreciated enough among the general public. Many think Army personnel just drive around after cash vans. Would the Minister consider involving CPSE classes in schools and local community groups in the submissions? He could broaden the process to include every aspect of society, rather than just the usual suspects in consultation processes.

The Green Paper will be published and any group or individual across civil society, including those in schools and third level colleges, will be free to engage in a process to hold debates, make proposals and feed into the thinking in the finalisation of the White Paper. The intention is to use it to increase public knowledge of the Defence Forces and the role they play. Their participation in the Queen's visit brought them tothe attention of the public to a greater extent than usual. They were more visible. On previous occasions there might have been a one-day event, but on this occasion there was a series of events in which the Defence Forces were involved which heightened public awareness of them.

It is important that the general public are aware not only of the worthwhile job done on major UN missions such as the one to Lebanon or the smaller one mentioned earlier but also of the assistance the Defence Forces provide for the civil power, not just in dealing with vans transporting cash but also in dealing with emergencies such as flooding, fires and other difficulties caused by climatic conditions. This is a real opportunity for people to learn more than they may already know about the Defence Forces, as well as contribute to a discussion on where we go in the following decade.

I join in the Minister's tribute to the Defence Forces. In particular, I pay tribute to the Naval Service for the role it is playing in the search in Glandore. I understand another body has been brought ashore this afternoon. The House owes a debt of gratitude to all the members of the Naval Service and everybody else involved.

Haulbowline Island

Willie O'Dea

Question:

8Deputy Willie O’Dea asked the Minister for Defence the input he has had on the proposed clean-up of Haulbowline Island, Cork; if he specified the areas of the island that should be dealt with; his plans for the future of the island; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6729/12]

In June 2011 the Government decided that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine would chair a working group to oversee the clean-up of the former Ispat site on Haulbowline Island. My Department is represented on the working group. Cork County Council is acting as an agent of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on the technical aspects of an application to the Environmental Protection Agency for a landfill licence. The preparation of the application to the EPA and its consideration by that body are likely to take up to 18 months to complete. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has also convened a steering group to advise him on the project as it gets under way. The Naval Service is represented on the steering group. As the clean-up of the site is some way off at this stage, no specific plans have yet been considered for its future use.

I understand the technical group decided to include both the eastern and southern tips of the island in the application for a landfill licence, but I understand the work is now focusing completely on the eastern tip. Will all of the island be included? Has the Department of Defence provided an estimate of the cost of the work, or is this within the remit of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine?

The lead Department, as mentioned, is the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. I do not have the information the Deputy is seeking on the licence. There is a need for a landfill licence, as stipulated by the European Commission. Perhaps the Deputy might consider putting a question to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine in order to obtain a more detailed response.

Defence Forces Reserve

Dara Calleary

Question:

9Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Defence his plans for the future of the Reserve Defence Forces; the estimated numbers it will recruit over 2012 and 2013 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6714/12]

A value for money review of the Defence Forces Reserve is ongoing and the recommendations arising from it will inform future plans for the reserve. In addition, I have initiated a major reorganisation of the Defence Forces in response to the outcome of the comprehensive review of expenditure. This will encompass a reduction in the number of Army brigades from three to two which will necessarily impact and include the Defence Forces Reserve. The steering committee undertaking the VFM review will consider the way ahead in the light of the wider reorganisation to take place.

Clearly any recommendations regarding the future organisation of the reserve must dovetail with those for the overall defence organisation. The outcome of the comprehensive review of expenditure has set the defence resource boundaries for the coming years and recommendations arising from the value for money review must have regard to the reduced resource envelope available for defence.

Recruitment to the Reserve Defence Force is linked to the level of funding available for paid training. There have been significant reductions in defence funding over recent years and paid man days have reduced from approximately 60,000 in 2009 to 30,000 man days in 2010 and 2011. Although defence resourcing has further reduced for 2012, the allocation for paid training for the Reserve Defence Force in 2012 will be maintained at 2011 and 2010 levels. In addition to training for existing members of the reserve, this will provide for training of approximately 400 new recruits to the Reserve Defence Force during 2012.

No decisions have been taken with regard to future recruitment in 2013 and this will be informed by recommendations arising from the value for money review, the reorganisation and the prioritisation of resources.

I am happy the Minister has confirmed 400 new recruits and I ask if these will be recruited through public advertisement or from within the system. As regards the overall future of the RDF and its role in the Defence Forces, will the value for money review dovetail with the White Paper or is it a separate exercise? What is the timeline for the completion of the value for money review during 2012?

The issue of the Reserve Defence Force will have to be addressed within the overall reorganisation and these reorganisation matters will not be delayed by the production of the White Paper. As the Green Paper will be produced towards the end of the year, part of 2013 will be taken up with the public process and the White Paper will come thereafter. I hope there will be a clearer view at an earlier stage with regard to the Reserve Defence Force unless some issue arises that is perceived to be best left to the Green Paper - White Paper process.

What about recruitment?

That matter is being addressed at the moment.

Naval Service Operations

Martin Ferris

Question:

10Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Defence the costs of any visits outside of Irish waters by any of the Naval Service vessels during each of the past five years; the locations to which they sailed; and the purposes of these sailings. [6836/12]

The Naval Service commits a number of its annual patrol days to foreign deployments. In 2011, 54 days out of a total of 1,480 patrol days were committed to visits outside Irish waters. Following discussions between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, my Department, and the Naval Service, locations are considered on the basis of the optimum yield that can be derived for Ireland.

The tabular statement contains information on the locations visited by the Naval Service over the past five years and the purpose of these deployments. Details of the costs in relation to these visits are also included for 2010 and 2011, and the costs in relation to 2007 to 2009, inclusive, are currently being compiled. I will ensure that the outstanding data is forwarded to the Deputy as soon as possible.

Year

Destination

Purpose of Visit

Cost

2007

Oslo, Copenhagen, Klaipeida, Kiel (vessel 1)

For diplomatic purposes and also both voyages were structured to facilitate high intensity training of Naval Service Cadets & Officers over short period of time.

Oslo, Aalborg, Gdansk, Kiel (vessel 2)

Malaga, Burgas, Constanta, Valetta

For diplomatic purposes

Zeebrugge, Belgium

For cultural purposes (Naval Service invited to attend Belgian Navy Days – a celebration of the Belgian Naval Service.)

Rotterdam, Netherlands

For diplomatic purposes

London, UK

For cultural and diplomatic purposes (Naval Service participated in St Patricks Day festivities)

Bilbao, Spain

For diplomatic purposes

Bordeaux, France

For economic purposes (Requested by Enterprise Ireland)

Toronto, Canada

For diplomatic, cultural and economic purposes (President McAleese opening of Famine Park Toronto)

2008

Miami, Charleston

For economic purposes (Host receptions for business communities attending cruise ship convention)

Mediterranean/ Black Sea

For diplomatic and cultural purposes (Maritime Festival)

Canada(Quebec/ Montreal/Halifax)

For diplomatic and cultural purposes (Quebec 400 celebrations)

Kiel, Hamburg

For economic purposes (Kiel Week and Enterprise Ireland event in Hamburg)

Zeebrugge, Belgium

For cultural purposes (Naval Service invited to attend Belgian Navy Days – a celebration of the Belgian Naval Service.)

Liverpool

For diplomatic and cultural purposes (City of Culture)

Lisbon

For operational purposes (Headquarters of “Maritime – Analysis and Operational Centre – Narcotics”)

La Rochelle, France

For economic purposes (Annual Boat Show – invite from Failte Ireland)

2009

London

For cultural and diplomatic purposes (Naval Service participated in St Patricks Day festivities)

Edinburgh

For training and operational purposes (Hosting a Fisheries Operations Coordination meeting with the Scottish authorities)

Helsinki

For cultural and diplomatic purposes (200th Anniversary of Finnish independence)

Boston/ Philadelphia

For cultural and diplomatic purposes (Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge & commemoration for Admiral Browne)

Oporto

For diplomatic purposes (Standing invitation from Portuguese)

2010

South America – Argentina/Chile /Mexico/Colombia

For cultural, economic and diplomatic purposes (Requested by Dept of An Taoiseach – Bicentennial celebrations of Argentina & Chile)

€331,257

Zeebrugge, Belgium

For cultural purposes (Naval Service invited to attend Belgian Navy Days – a celebration of the Belgian Naval Service.)

€18,535

Copenhagen, Denmark

For diplomatic purposes (500th Anniversary of Danish Navy)

€6,602

La Rochelle, France

For economic purposes (Annual Boat Show – invite from Failte Ireland)

€7,721

2011

Oslo, Kiel, Hamburg

For diplomatic, cultural and economic purposes (Requested by Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade).

€44,093

Helsinki, St Petersburg, Tallinn, Riga

For diplomatic, cultural and economic purposes (Requested by Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade – Helsinki visit built on the success of previous visit in 2009. Tallin was European Capital of Culture in 2011. Riga was a stopover).

€44,770

Brest

For operational and training purposes (Joint Deployment Patrol with the Community Fisheries Control Agency (CFCA))

€5,508

Greenock

For cultural purposes (Tall Ships communications vessel)

€4,722

Brest

For operational and training purposes (North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum(NACGF) exercises)

€6,072

The costs shown reflect the marginal costs of these trips when compared to the costs that would have arisen if the ships had patrolled in Irish waters for the same periods.

Before I ask a supplementary question, I wish to echo the sentiments expressed by Deputy Calleary about the role of the Naval Service in Glandore which has brought home to the public the importance of the Naval Service and the credit due to the personnel for what they have undertaken in Glandore.

The Minister referred to the locations being chosen with regard to the optimum yield to be derived for Ireland. Are these optimum yields in terms of training or promotion? What criteria are applied during discussions with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade? Are the benefits of these trips solely for the Naval Service personnel or do they also aim to promote Ireland as a destination? Are these criteria taken into account when these decisions are made?

I join with both Deputies in acknowledging the extraordinary work following the dreadful tragedy that occurred in Glandore. I refer not just to the work of the Naval Service but of all those individuals and agencies which have been engaged in dealing with a tragedy which we all wish had not happened.

To reply to the Deputy's question, the particular visits or voyages serve a range of purposes. For example, the voyages offer an ideal opportunity to reach out to the Irish diaspora around the world in an effort to attract inward direct investment to our economy. A naval ship offers the ideal platform for State agencies such as Enterprise Ireland to host receptions attended by local business interests where relationships can be developed. However, I am also cognisant of the costs of deploying the Naval Service to foreign locations and in 2011 I approved only those deployments which I believed yielded the optimum economic, diplomatic and cultural return.

I will give the Deputy some examples of the visits arranged, all of which are detailed in the tabular return. In 2007, before my time as Minister, the Naval Service undertook a visit to Oslo and Copenhagen for diplomatic purposes. Voyages and training visits were structured to facilitate high intensity training of Naval Service cadets and officers. Visits were made to Malaga, Burgas, Constanta and Valetta for diplomatic purposes. A visit was made to Zeebrugge in Belgium for cultural purposes. Further information is contained in the tabular statement. I refer to more recent visits such as a visit to Hamburg for diplomatic, cultural and economic purposes and which was requested by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; a visit to Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinin and Riga, for diplomatic, cultural and economic purposes at the request of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Helsinki visit built on the success of a previous visit by the Naval Service to Helsinki in 2009. Tallinin was the European capital of culture in 2011 and Riga was visited on the way. There is a series of visits for a range of different purposes and they are either training-related or are related to diplomatic, cultural or economic activities or trade promotions in order to attract business to Ireland.

Overseas Missions

Micheál Martin

Question:

11Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Defence if the armed forces will be participating in conflict resolution and counter terrorism cooperation activities during the presidency of the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6735/12]

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, is the world's largest regional security organisation comprised of 56 states from Europe, Central Asia and North America. The OSCE offers a forum for political negotiations and decision-making in the fields of early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. It puts the political will of its participating states into practice through its unique network of field missions.

Ireland assumed chairmanship of the OSCE in January 2012, for a period of one year. It is Ireland's first time to assume this role, and the chairmanship provides Ireland with an opportunity to project its foreign policy values onto the international stage. It is also an opportunity for Ireland to further the goals of the organisation.

A total of eight Defence Forces personnel are involved in OSCE matters during Ireland's chairmanship this year. An Irish officer has recently been appointed as head of the OSCE high-level planning group in Vienna for the period from 1 January until 31 December 2012. The high-level planning group is mandated to make recommendations to the OSCE chairperson in office on the development of a plan for the establishment, force structure requirements and operation of a multinational OSCE peace-keeping force for the area of conflict dealt with by the OSCE Minsk conference on Nagorno-Karabakh. Another Defence Forces officer serves as a staff officer to the high-level planning group.

A total of three Defence Forces personnel are also currently deployed to OSCE missions. Two officers are deployed to the OSCE mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and one officer is deployed to the OSCE mission to Serbia in Belgrade. One Defence Forces officer continues to act as military adviser to the permanent mission of Ireland to the OSCE in Vienna. Two additional Defence Forces officers have also been deployed to Vienna to support the permanent mission during Ireland's chairmanship.

This is a wonderful opportunity for this country to have the OSCE presidency. Is there a budgetary commitment on the part of the Defence Forces to the presidency in excess of our usual commitment to the OSCE? In terms of the ongoing presidency of the OSCE, are the eight personnel specifically in place for this year or is there an ongoing commitment to the organisation on the part of the Defence Forces?

I do not have the figure for the exact budgetary amount but from what I recollect it is extremely modest. I will give the Deputy the exact figure. Clearly some members of the Defence Forces are playing a role that arises because we have the chairmanship. The numbers may change when we get to 2013. The numbers I have supplied to the Deputy relate to operations this year. He may see in one of the examples I gave that one officer will be chairing a particular group that would normally be chaired by the country chairing the OSCE.

EU Presidency

Michael McGrath

Question:

12Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Defence the input he has had in preparation for the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in 2013; if defence cooperation will be a priority for him during the Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6741/12]

The preparations for the upcoming Irish Presidency of the EU Council in 2013 have been under way since mid-2010. The Departments of the Taoiseach and Foreign Affairs and Trade are the lead Departments in planning for the Presidency. Two interdepartmental committees have been established. The interdepartmental committee for co-ordinating the Presidency, chaired by the Minister of State, Deputy Creighton, is responsible for policy aspects. The interdepartmental administrative planning group, chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, deals with administrative, logistical and resource elements. Officials from all Departments, including my Department and the permanent representation to the EU are represented on these committees.

On the issue of defence, formal and informal meetings are held during each EU Presidency. In consultation with the European External Action Service, EEAS, Ireland will facilitate a formal meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in defence Ministers format and a formal defence policy directors meeting. Both of these formal meetings will be held in Brussels. It is also my intention to host, in Ireland, a number of informal meetings and seminars, including a defence Ministers informal. Usually, the subjects of discussion at the informal meetings range from current military operations, co-operation between the EU and other international organisations, the development of EU military capabilities and ongoing developments in the European Defence Agency.

The agendas for Ireland's Presidency defence related meetings will be considered in consultation with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EEAS and our trio partners, Lithuania and Greece. Both my officials and I will be in regular contact with the High Representative, the EEAS and our trio partners in the lead-up to Ireland's Presidency in order to prepare the defence agenda.

The Minister has given us an indication in his justice portfolio of some of his priorities, for instance, the europeanisation of the Criminal Assets Bureau, CAB. Does he have any specific interests or priorities to progress by using the Presidency agenda in the defence area?

The justice side is somewhat different to the defence side because of the role of the EU representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton. I do not wish to comment on it in advance of engaging with her on the agenda. We have particular issues on which we do want to focus which we regard as of importance and to which we believe we can make a contribution. I can mention some of these to the Deputy but I do not wish to go into them in any substantial detail. Effectively, in the context of plenary discussions that have been taking place we hope to advance priorities in the defence realm but no final decisions have been taken regarding the main priorities.

If the Deputy attended those meetings he would know there are several issues that are constantly a focal point of discussion. Some of them are of general importance in the context of the European Union, such as the difficulty with piracy in the Horn of Africa. Colonel Mike Beary is engaged in training Somali troops in Uganda to support the interim government in Uganda. The issue and the area will continue to be one of focus and concern. Issues arise as to how piracy should be addressed and the kidnapping of individuals. There is substantial co-operation between European Union countries in that regard. That area will continue to be one of substantial concern but there is a range of other issues.

Following the discussions that are currently taking place I hope to be in a position to indicate to the House some areas of priority. Unlike justice, in the defence area issues can suddenly emerge that one must prioritise. It may well be that we will not have a final and clear view of priorities until we get into the second half of this year, but I have no doubt the problems in the Horn of Africa will continue, unfortunately, for some considerable time. The European Union is playing an important role in trying to address those difficulties. In the related difficulties in Somalia, Colonel Mike Beary is in charge of a multinational training force which is making a major contribution to assisting to bring the serious problems that exist in Somalia under some level of control so that there is a working defence force within that country. That is a matter of substantial importance because of the difficulties within there.

Departmental Staff

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

13Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Defence the number of vacancies within his Department; the dates on which these will be filled; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6838/12]

Catherine Murphy

Question:

24Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide figures for the total number of employees in his Department who have availed of early retirement thus far and will avail of early retirement in the coming weeks; if he has prepared any contingency to deal with adverse consequences of these retirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6827/12]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 24 together.

Since 9 March 2011, a total of six civil servants in my Department have availed of early retirement. To date, a further four civil servants have formally indicated their intention to avail of early retirement before 29 February 2012. The Government's National Recovery Plan 2011-2014 sets out revised ceilings for public service staff numbers for the Department of Defence which are to be achieved through the implementation of the employment control framework, ECF. Since the introduction of the ECF, my Department has maintained its services through a range of measures, including restructuring, reprioritisation and realignment of business processes, and so on. My Department is required to meet an authorised staffing level of 358 for 2012 and has already met this target. Where a post falls to be filled, my Department will use the mechanisms available.

I am confident that my Department will continue to deliver on its objectives by reprioritising work and streamlining business processes to achieve greater efficiencies despite the reduced numbers.

Will the Minister confirm that the Department is operating at full capacity in terms of personnel and that there is no shortfall in personnel?

Happily, we are probably one of the few Departments-----

That is probably the case.

-----that are in such circumstances. In the context of the Defence Forces, because of the careful accounting within the Department and the efficiencies within the Defence Forces we will be in a position to proceed with further recruitment also as we go through the year so that we maintain the numbers. I accept the Deputy was asking about the Department rather than the Defence Forces but there will be recruitment so that we maintain the numbers at 9,500 in the future.

Army Barracks

Denis Naughten

Question:

14Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Defence his plans for Custume Barracks, Athlone, County Westmeath; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6895/12]

As the Deputy is aware Custume Barracks, Athlone is the headquarters of the 4th Western Brigade. The barracks continues to function as an operational military installation and will shortly provide accommodation for personnel relocating from O'Neill Barracks, Cavan and Columb Barracks, Mullingar following their closure at the end of March. There are no plans of any nature to close Custume Barracks.

Will the helicopter service be located in Custume Barracks in order to help people to be speedily brought to hospital?

The arrangements in respect of that matter are at an advanced stage of discussion between officials in the Department of Defence and in the Department of Health. I hope we will be able to make an announcement about the matter in the not too distant future.

Defence Forces Ombudsman

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

15Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which issues raised in the last report of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces have been identified and addressed in the interim period; the most important issues requiring attention arising; the extent to which such issues have been addressed; if he will indicate his intentions in regard to these or any other outstanding matters with particular reference to the need to ensure the availability of the necessary resources to meet the requirements now and in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6939/12]

I assume the Deputy is referring to the annual report of the Ombudsman in respect of 2010, which was laid before each House of the Oireachtas on 21 June 2011. The annual report showed a welcome drop in the number of complaints lodged with the Ombudsman, down from 229 in 2008 to 116 in 2010.

One of the issues raised by the Ombudsman in her report was the delay during 2010 in responding to the final reports of the Ombudsman, with 19 cases awaiting attention at the end of the year. I can confirm that these outstanding cases were prioritised and that a final determination issued to the Ombudsman in respect of all of those cases during the first six months of 2011. A total of 35 final determinations were issued to the Ombudsman in 2011, an increase from 20 in 2010. Procedures to prioritise the processing of Ombudsman for the Defence Forces final reports on an ongoing basis have been put in place by the Defence Forces and my Department.

Since the establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces in 2005, a number of human resource procedures have been reviewed and revised following recommendations in her final reports, for example, the selection processes for career courses and overseas service. In addition, the recommendations of the Ombudsman have informed the development of a new promotions scheme that is near finalisation as part of the commitments under the Croke Park agreement. Nearly 50% of all complaints arise from administrative issues in the promotion system and the new scheme is designed to resolve these. In addition, a standing committee on HR issues reviews the implementation of systemic recommendations from the Ombudsman every month.

While dealing with the individual grievances referred to in the Ombudsman's reports, her reports are also used to inform the ongoing development of best practice in human resource management for the Defence Forces. The case load of the Ombudsman has been falling in recent years as HR systems in the Defence Forces have been improved and action has been taken to improve the overall workplace environment.

Funding of €520,000 was allocated in 2011, but the actual expenditure requirement of the office was in the region of €486,000. While the funding allocation for this year has not yet been finalised, it is my intention that the 2012 allocation will be appropriate to meet the needs of the Ombudsman's office for this year having regard to the current economic constraints.

One section in the report referred to the possibility of extending freedom of information provisions to the Office of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces. What is the situation? The Ombudsman's report included an expectation that there would be an extension, given the number of freedom of information requests. The report also discussed the additional resources that would be required to deal with an extension.

I have addressed the issue of resources. I am satisfied that adequate resources are available to the Ombudsman. The Government is reviewing the current freedom of information legislation with a view to determining what amendments we will introduce to it. This commitment was given in the programme for Government. I do not want to pre-empt any decision that might be made in this regard.

Consultancy Contracts

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

16Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Defence the details of any consultancy services, and value for money policy reviews, paid for by him for each of the past five years; the names of any reports they delivered; the names of those who drafted or conducted the reviews; the moneys paid to those persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6830/12]

The information requested by the Deputy regarding consultancy services and value for money policy reviews provided to my Department during each of the past five years is contained in a tabular statement, which I propose to circulate with the Official Report. My Department engages the services of external consultants only when there is a clear need for specialised expertise or services not available in-house. My Department is always mindful of achieving value from external consultancy services.

Year

Name of Consultancy

Purpose

Amount

2007

Petrus Consulting

An independent quality assessment of the value for money review of clothing procurement in the Defence Forces, as part of the standard VFM process.

€2,904

2007-2011

Colonel E.V. Campion (Retd.)

Provides expert advice to the Army Equitation School’s Horse Purchase Board in their deliberations following the inspection of horses that are being considered for purchase. The cost per annum is €5,000.

€25,000

2007-2011

ABS Limited

Consultancy on compliance with IMO (International Maritime Organisation ) regulations/ship surveys.

€109,324

2007-2008

Achilles Procurement

ICT consultancy for the running of the competitive dialogue process in the procurement of the network operating system.

€5,270

2007

Belair Research Limited

Consultancy on noise survey for Naval vessels.

€14,520

2007

Germic Aviation

Consultancy services in respect of Military Airworthiness Authority.

€25,773

2007

Prolines Limited

Naval Architect Service.

€61,831

2007

Murray Consultants

A public information and awareness campaign on emergency planning. The contract provided for the development of the emergency planning website, drafting, publication and distribution of a handbook on emergency planning and a media advertisement campaign associated with the launch of the handbook.

€2.1 million

2008

PA Consultant Group

Commissioned to make recommendations on the best means of meeting the medical requirements of the Defence Forces. The consultancy focused on the sustainable provision of the relevant medical expertise and services to the Defence Forces. The consultants recommended a programme of major change, implementation of which is ongoing.

€115,130

2008

Independent Monitoring Group

Review of progress made since the publication of Response to the Challenge of a Workplace in 2004.

€37,109

2008

FGS Consulting

A value for money review of military training lands. This review is part of a programme agreed between the Department of Defence and the Department of Finance as part of the Government’s value for money and policy review initiative.

€89,540

2008

McCann Fitzgerald Solicitors

To provide legal drafting, research and advice services in relation to the drafting of revised rules of procedure and new court martial rules following the enactment of the Defence (Amendment) Act, 2007.

€53,845

2008

BMT Defence Services Limited, UK

Engaged in relation to the Naval vessel replacement programme.

€85,604

2008

Fujitsu (Ireland) Limited

Provide consultancy and maintenance services for the organisation’s Oracle e-business suite and related applications.

€182,261

2008

Entograph Limited

Commissioned to carry out a report for the control of bracken in the Glen of Imaal. The report has been implemented.

€30,129

2008

Mott McDonald Limited

Commissioned to carry out a review of the safety policy at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel.

€50,000

2008

Brendan Gallagher, Refrigeration Consultant

Consultancy on refrigeration and air conditioning plants on NS ships.

€9,860

2008

Promara Limited.

Naval Architect Services.

€7,714

2008

Redstone Technologies

ICT consultancy for the fishery protection service IT system disaster recovery plan.

€4,961

2008

Sea Training International

Consultancy on Naval Service RIBs.

€7,755

2008-2009

Moloney & Associates Limited.

Consultancy on noise survey on Naval vessel LE Emer on completion of remedial work.

€5,760

2008 -2009

Magnum Opus

Engaged to provide project support services for the National Emergency Co-ordination Centre.

€116,207

2009

Deloitte

A review of the finance branch of the Department. The objective of the review was to examine the business processes, procedures and organisational structures in operation in finance branch and to provide a report making recommendations for improvements in order to maximise efficiency and effectiveness.

€97,868

2009

Mc Guinness Killen Partnership Limited

An independent review of documentation in relation to a legal action initiated by a staff member.

€2,430

2009

Version 1 Limited

Commissioned in 2009 and 2011 to provide a report in respect of Oracle licence management in the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces. The results of this report will assist in the formulation of policy and practice in the area of licence management.

€3,661

2009

Germanisher Lloyd

Consultancy on compliance with IMO (International Maritime Organisation ) regulations.

€14,351

2009

Energy Services Limited.

Energy consultancy on technical aspect of joint procurement exercise.

€22,113

2009

Raymond Burke Consulting

An independent quality assessment of the value for money review of Naval Service vessel maintenance, as part of the standard VFM process.

€2,800

2010

DQ Networks

To provide technical assistance with the ICT technical plan for the decentralisation to Newbridge.

€10,386

2010

Epsilon Consulting

An independent quality assessment of the value for money review of military training lands as part of the standard VFM process.

€2,178

2011

ISAS

Information security advice relating to mobile mail solution.

€10,395

2011

Eirdata Environmental Services Limited

Consultancy on compliance with national standard energy saving measures.

€5,808

2011

Graham Evans Fire & Safety

Consultancy on compliance with international maritime standards for naval base oil storage facility.

€2,880

2011

University of Limerick

Consultancy on value management procedure for Naval Service on the decommissioning of vessels.

€5,869

Was any consultant asked to look into the possible closure of barracks and the impacts thereof, for example, Kickham Barracks?

No. Substantial reports on the issue were carried out but I engaged no consultants in 2011 in respect of it.

Departmental Expenditure

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

17Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Defence the details of the Departmental funding allocated to office equipment and external IT services; the money paid to external companies; the names of these companies and the services they provided for both 2010 and 2011. [6829/12]

The overall departmental funding allocated to office equipment and external IT services was €2.4 million in both 2010 and 2011. This allocation covered the purchase of IT equipment and software, ongoing licence support costs, office equipment purchases and externally provided maintenance and ongoing support. The payments to external companies for ongoing support, the names of these companies and the services they provided in 2010 and 2011 are contained in a tabular statement that I propose to circulate with the Official Report.

Company Name

Service Provided

2010

2011

Acrospire

Website Support

€3,571

€0

Baker Consultants Limited

Bluecoat Device Support

€0

€15,055

Bandwidth Telecommunications

Call Cost Monitoring Support

€0

€1,475

BearingPoint Ireland Limited

HRMS Support

€8,207

€5,858

Bluewave Technology

Domino Support

€5,989

€5,445

Caveo Information Systems Limited

Anti-Virus Support

€6,292

€1,149

Conor Flynn T/A ISAS

Security Advice

€0

€10,395

DQ Networks

Technical Infrastructure Advice and Support

€10,368

€3,978

Flextime Limited

Flexi System Support

€5,618

€6,075

Fujitsu (Ireland) Limited

Network and Application Support

€73,626

€78,031

Futurerange Limited

Emailfilter Support

€3,291

€3,291

Hibernia Evros Technology Group

Microsoft Exchange Support

€11,009

€5,504

Integrity Solutions

Firewall Support

€0

€8,488

IPOptions

Trendmicro Upgrade

€0

€907

Waterford Technologies

Email Archive Support

€6,485

€8,409

Webcloud

Website Support

€2,032

€4,308

Total

€136,488

€158,368

The amount is significant, but it covers a wide range of equipment and services. When the Minister referred to licence supports, did he mean licence fees? What percentage would be paid towards licences rather than the purchase of new equipment?

A large proportion of the allocation for office equipment and external IT services covers ongoing licence support costs, which the Deputy will see from the tabular statement are fairly static. They have not changed for a considerable time.

Are they on a contract basis and are we tied into contracts?

Yes, there are contracts. The tabular statement details the different companies. As there is a large number, I do not want to read out their names. It would probably be unnecessary. The statement provides the company names and the services they provide, for example, website support, call cost monitoring support, etc. It also outlines the costs in 2010 and 2011. The variations in costings are detailed. If the Deputy has further questions on any individual item, he is welcome to table a parliamentary question or to write to me about the matter. We will ensure he gets a response.

Defence Forces Equipment

Mary Lou McDonald

Question:

18Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Defence the amount of money spent in 2011 to acquire each of the following chemical detection equipment, bodily armour, force protection equipment, rifle enhancement and communication equipment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6834/12]

The purpose of defence equipment procurement is to acquire, maintain and manage equipment, weapons and ammunition for the Defence Forces at the appropriate level of operational readiness in a cost-effective manner. In the current economic situation, the acquisition of such equipment takes place on a strictly prioritised basis to ensure the Defence Forces are equipped to carry out their roles at home and overseas. A particular focus is maintained on ensuring that modern and effective equipment is available for overseas operations, as is the case with the current UNIFIL operation in Lebanon.

The provision for defensive equipment in 2011 allowed for the acquisition of a range of priority equipment, such as chemical detection equipment, personal body armour, force protection equipment, rifle enhancement equipment and communications equipment, including the supply and maintenance of all communication equipment and information technology equipment. The amount expended was €1,295,282 for chemical detection equipment, €269,304 for body armour, €1,524,186 for force protection equipment, €462,505 for rifle enhancement equipment and €11,478,755 for communication equipment.

Each of the supply subheads, including the main subhead associated with the acquisition of defensive equipment, will operate with reduced allocations in 2012. However, it is expected that further work will be carried out on a number of priority programmes, including the upgrade of the Steyr rifle.

Civil Defence Board

Catherine Murphy

Question:

19Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Defence if he will confirm that in the proposed abolition of the Civil Defence Board, sufficient plans exist to effectively manage the merger of staff into his Department; if he will outline any potential inefficiencies which may arise as a result of the merger and existing proposals to mitigate against these; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6828/12]

Staff assigned to the Civil Defence Board have always been part of the overall authorised and serving numbers in my Department. Following the enactment of the Civil Defence Act 2002, my Department continued to provide administrative support services in respect of human resources, payroll, training, information and communications technology and so on for the staff of the board. The ongoing provision of these services will not be affected by the abolition of the board.

It is not expected that inefficiencies will arise as a result of the abolition of the Civil Defence Board. On the contrary, in terms of the transfer of its functions back to my Department, it is estimated that the savings in running costs will be at least €60,000 per annum. In addition, there will be an increase in the amount of time staff assigned to civil defence can devote to its core functions.

When does the Minister expect to bring civil defence legislation before the House?

Work is under way on the legislation. I do not want to give an exact date for its introduction because I am conscious that it will have to be finalised not only by my Department but also by the Attorney General's office. The latter, I understand, is under substantial pressure as a consequence of all the legislation emerging from my own and other Departments. Taken together with the legislation we are obliged to publish within a defined timeframe under the EU-IMF agreement, it is difficult to predict a date of publication for the Bill, but the likelihood is that we will not see it until the autumn. It is very much subject to the pressures exerted by the demands of my own and other Departments.

Sail Training Scheme

Martin Ferris

Question:

20Deputy Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Defence if he has approached the Department of Finance to secure funding to re-establish an Irish sail training vessel. [6837/12]

As the Government has no plans to re-establish a national sail training scheme or to procure a ship to replace the Asgard II, I have made no approach for funding to the Department of Finance. In the context of settling the Estimates for the Department of Defence for 2010, the previous Government decided that the national sail training scheme, operated by Coiste an Asgard, would be discontinued, as recommended in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes.

Does the Minister agree that it would be a good idea to utilise the Jeanie Johnston, a vessel built at considerable expense to taxpayers, as an ideal replacement for the Asgard II for the purposes of sail training schemes? The vessel was built in my area and involved a cross-community initiative whereby young lads from both Protestant and Catholic communities in the Six Counties worked together. It is a beautiful ship with a fantastic historical record in terms of its travels across the Atlantic, during which no lives were lost. It should not be sitting idle in the Dublin docks.

My Department has been approached on numerous occasions with proposals to use the Jeanie Johnston for sail training purposes, but this was never considered a viable option for several reasons. The vessel has not sailed in all conditions, can reach a maximum speed of only 7 knots and is limited in its ability to sail upwind. The working area is not suitable for sail training as there are no side decks and too much open space. Trainees would have nothing to hold onto if they fell, potentially leading to injuries and subsequent legal action. Furthermore, as helmsmen cannot see the sails or where the ship is going, lookouts must stand on the boom to give directions, which is of no value in the context of sail training. In addition, operating and rigging maintenance costs would be high. Some 70% of ports visited by the Asgard II could not be visited by the Jeanie Johnston as it is too large to dock. It is understood little or no work has been carried out on the vessel since it was purchased by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority in 2005. The rigging is likely to be in a poor condition at this stage and would cost up to €1 million to replace. Unfortunately, having regard to the difficulties outlined and the associated cost factors, the Jeanie Johnston is not deemed to be a feasible alternative to the Asgard II. As such, the Government has no plans to utilise it for the purposes proposed by the Deputy.

I am disappointed at the brief the Minister has been given in regard to the Jeanie Johnston. The vessel has been tried and tested and only a minimal amount of tweaking would bring it into line with the criteria for sail training. It is a waste of money to have a vessel which cost €15 million to build sitting idle when it could be utilised as a national resource.

I have outlined all of the difficulties of which I have been advised. The appropriateness or otherwise of utilising the ship in the way the Deputy proposes was addressed in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes. In current circumstances, when there are substantial financial difficulties and limited funds, we do not have the luxury of spending money on refitting or re-rigging the ship. In the context of the safety issues to which I referred and its incapacity to dock at a variety of locations, the vessel is not a viable alternative in the manner proposed. Having a particular interest in this matter, I took the opportunity, only a short time after my appointment, to examine the feasibility of what the Deputy is suggesting. Unfortunately, the incompatibilities and associated costs make it inappropriate in the current economic climate.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.