Other Questions

Overseas Missions

Clare Daly

Question:

6. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel presently engaged in overseas operations; and the net cost to the Exchequer of each of these operations. [35791/13]

As of 30 June 2013, Ireland is contributing approximately 449 Defence Forces personnel to 13 different missions throughout the world. Full details of all personnel currently serving overseas are listed in the tabular statement together with details of the latest available costings which are in respect of 2012.

The main overseas missions in which Defence Forces personnel are currently deployed are the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, with 361 personnel, including the Deputy Force Commander; the EU Training Mission, EUTM, Somalia with 11 personnel, including the Mission Commander; the EU Training Mission in Mali, EUTM Mali, with eight personnel; the EUFOR mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina with seven personnel; the NATO-led international security presence, KFOR, in Kosovo with 12 personnel; and the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, in Afghanistan with seven personnel. Ireland also contributes 24 observers and staff to various United Nations and OSCE missions and 19 other personnel to staff appointments at UN, EU and OSCE headquarters. The current contribution of some 449 personnel to overseas missions reflects the Government’s continued commitment to our responsibilities in the area of international peace and security.

The costs in respect of Defence Forces participation in UN, EU and NATO-led peace support operations, which include allowances, together with travel and subsistence and transportation costs, for troops and freight, for 2012, amount to €15,755,554. The net cost, allowing for UN reimbursements amounts to €5,185,014.

The UN reimburses some personnel and contingent owned equipment costs in respect of contributions of personnel to UN-led operations. Rates of reimbursement, fixed in accordance with UN categories of equipment and personnel, are agreed in a memorandum of understanding between Ireland and the UN for each mission. The only mission for which Ireland is currently entitled to reimbursement of some troop and equipment costs, is the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Ireland is not entitled to any reimbursement in respect of Defence Forces participation in EU-led or NATO-led missions as all troop contributors to such missions are responsible for their own costs.

Members of the Permanent Defence Force Serving Overseas as of 1 July 2013

1. UN Missions

(i)

UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) HQ

UNIFIL 108 th Infantry Battalion

UNIFIL Sector West HQ

16

337

8

(ii)

UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation) – Israel and Syria

13

(iii)

MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara)

(iv)

MONUSCO (United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo)

3

(v)

UNOCI (United Nations Mission in Ivory Coast)

2

(vi)

UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in Syria)

3

TOTAL

385

UN Mandated Missions

(vii)

EUFOR (EU-led Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina)

7

(viii)

EUTM Somalia (EU-led Training Mission )

11

(ix)

EUTM Mali (EU-Led Training Mission)

8

(x)

KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) – HQ

12

(xi)

ISAF (International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan)

7

TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING WITH UN MISSIONS

430

2. Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

(i)

OSCE Mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina

2

(ii)

OSCE Mission in Belgrade - Serbia

1

(iii)

Staff Officer, High Level Planning Group, Vienna

1

TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING OSCE

4

3. EU Military Staff

Brussels

4

4. Military Representatives/Advisers/Staff

(i)

Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UN, New York - 1

(ii)

Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna - 1

(iii)

Military Representative to EU (Brussels) - 5

(iv)

Liaison Office of Ireland, NATO/PfP (Brussels) -2

(v)

EU OHQ Operation Althea, Mons, Belgium - 1

(vi)

European Defence Agency (EDA) Brussels -1

TOTAL NUMBER OF DEFENCE FORCES PERSONNEL SERVING OVERSEAS

449

Costs in respect of Defence Forces participation in UN, EU and NATO led peace support operations in 2012

Mission

Total Costs

UNIFIL – Lebanon

€13,545,947

KFOR – Kosovo

€473,338

EUFOR (Bosnia Herzegovina)

€332,548

EUTM Somalia

€341,657

ISAF – Afghanistan

€330,435

UNOCI – Ivory Coast

€71,915

MINURSO/UNTSO

€515,039

MONUC – Congo

€100,030

UNSMIS – Syria (finished 19/8/12)

€44,645

TOTAL

€15,755,554

Reimbursements Received from UN

€10,570,540

Net Cost

€5,185,014

There is a huge amount of information in the reply and it is hard to keep up with it. I believe that Irish people feel that we should have a neutral foreign policy and whatever about our Army being deployed on peacekeeping missions, the idea of participating in battle groups and the subsequent cost to the State of those ventures is something in which people are interested. Can the Minister of State explain if the reason the taxpayer has to pay out €5 million in terms of the costs of participation in missions is because they are not United Nations missions? Are they areas that come under EU battle groups which would be more covered under those costs? Are all UN operations refunded? Is there a change in that position in terms of the troops the Minister of State voted earlier today to send as observers to Syria? Is that a departure in terms of finances?

I think the figure in respect of reimbursement for this year is 75%. I will come back to the Deputy with the exact percentage of the return from the UN.

It is important for Ireland to be involved in these peacekeeping measures. We spoke about the importance of Irish missions before the Deputy came into House and the opportunities they present for members of our Defence Forces to participate in missions be it in UNIFIL or other missions. I am not sure if the Deputy was here for the debate this morning on the motion on the overseas mission which covers members of the Defence Forces going to the Golan Heights on peacekeeping duties as part of that mission. That motion was passed. It is a new mission for Ireland to be involved in.

The problem is that there is a creeping involvement of Irish Defence Forces operations in more NATO-led missions or under the guise of the EU rather than traditional UN peacekeeping measures and I wonder what the breakdown is in terms of costs. Is there a departure with the Syrian mission in terms of the amount of moneys being refunded to the State? Is it the position in this case that all of the money traditionally is refunded by the United Nations? I note that last year there was an allocation of more than €10 million in regard to the participation of Irish Defence Forces personnel in the EU battle groups. Was that money spent or where is that reflected in this information? While people feel proud about the role that our troops would play in peacekeeping missions there is a very fine line and there has been an elimination of our neutrality and more involvement with NATO forces.

Deputy Wallace had indicated that he wanted to ask a question but only a few seconds remain.

A few seconds.

Yes, because Deputy Daly has used the time.

I will give way to the Deputy.

On the last day of term and the Acting Chairman is strict as ever. You are a hard man. I thank the Minister for doing that. I want to make the same point that has been made. I would be a little concerned that we are going to get involved in areas where we could be perceived to be taking sides. I did not like the idea of us sending people to Mali. I am not keen on sending people to Syria. At this stage, the idea that we still have some people in Afghanistan is a bit frightening.

I think history will show that the time spent by the western forces in Afghanistan was probably the most futile and damaging use of resources by anyone. It is unfortunate that any of our troops were involved in it. We have agreed to leave them there until October of this year. I would like to know whether Ireland still intends to take its troops out in October.

I will respond to Deputy Clare Daly's question first. The Minister for Defence estimates that the additional cost of deploying troops to the Golan Heights in 2013 will be approximately €2 million and the additional cost for a full year will be approximately €5 million. Approximately three quarters of this will be recoverable from the UN. The Minister for Defence is satisfied that the costs of the mission will be absorbed for the balance of the current year. The costs for the 2014 mission will be addressed as part of the Estimates process.

I was also asked about the safety of our troops. Of course there are dangers involved in any mission. No one enters the Army as a cadet or a recruit in the expectation that no danger will be involved in any mission. Of course there are dangers. The Chief of Staff advised the Minister for Defence of the risks involved here. The Government decided, on the basis of that advice, that the Defence Forces will participate in this mission in Syria and the Golan Heights. Of course a decision had to be made by the Government, the UN and the Dáil. A motion to that effect was passed in this House this morning.

Cyber Security Policy

Billy Kelleher

Question:

7. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Defence if he will report on the recent Brussels seminar on cybersecurity, hosted by the Irish Presidency of the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35738/13]

As part of Ireland's Presidency of the Council of the European Union, this country, in association with the Estonian Ministry of Defence and the European Defence Agency, hosted a high level conference on cybersecurity co-operation in the European Union in Brussels on 20 June last. The conference was attended by representatives of EU member states, the External Action Service, the European Commission, EUROPOL and NATO, as well as non-governmental and private sector participants. The objective of the conference was to advance the debate on the preparedness of EU member states to face cybersecurity threats at national level and across the EU as a whole. In his address at the conference, the Minister, Deputy Shatter, said it was his ambition to ensure the work embarked on during the conference would help to set the parameters for the implementation of an effective framework of collaboration on cybersecurity and defence among EU member states. He also said he hoped it would support the implementation of the recently published EU cybersecurity strategy. The conference determined that a failure to co-operate in the area of cybersecurity would undermine our collective security and demonstrate a lack of understanding of the escalating threat we face. It was acknowledged that no one organisation or state has the capacity to address the cybersecurity issue on its own. As such, a co-ordinated approach involving the Commission and the justice and home affairs and Common Foreign and Security Policy bodies, working through the relevant Councils and the Council working group on a common and shared agenda, is essential if a comprehensive EU approach to cybersecurity and defence is to be pursued at national and EU levels. The conference concluded that the scale and complexity of cybersecurity threats demand a cohesive application of all the instruments available to the EU. Various sectors of society in the public and private spheres need to be engaged and responsible. The conference also concluded that there is a need to ensure there is co-operation and co-ordination between the relevant authorities of the member states.

I commend the Minister for Justice and Equality, the Estonian Ministry of Defence and the European Defence Agency on convening this conference. Clearly, the Minister's task during the Presidency was to try to adopt a pan-European approach to the cybersecurity threat. Can the Minister of State tell me whether the Minister achieved any success in that regard? I wish to ask a specific question about the local situation. How many members of our Defence Forces have been or will be trained to deal with cybersecurity issues? Is there a dedicated unit dealing with the matter within the defence organisation? Were any proposals made at the conference on how to develop increased information-sharing and early warning and crisis management systems? Is it intended to step up co-operation between the EU and NATO on these matters?

The Deputy has asked a number of questions. I was not in attendance at the conference. I do not have the exact details sought by the Deputy in some of his questions. It is important for everyone to take a collective view of collaboration. People need to work together. It was important for the Minister, Deputy Shatter, to attend the cybersecurity conference in his capacity as Minister for Defence and also in his capacity as Minister for Justice and Equality. Can the Deputy repeat his first question?

I was asking whether the Minister made progress in getting a pan-European approach to this problem.

I spoke to him about this issue when I learned that I would be answering questions on it. Progress was made at the conference. There will be follow-up interaction regarding this issue going along. Ireland's participation in cybersecurity matters will be reviewed on a continual basis.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe has been working on this area as well. I have been pursuing it at that organisation's parliamentary assembly. I have been surprised to learn that people do not realise Ireland is very strong in this area. There is an excellent Centre for Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Investigation at UCD, which is in the Acting Chairman's constituency. As the Minister, Deputy Shatter, travels around and speaks to his colleagues, he should promote that world-class centre, which needs to build links with other centres in other countries if EU member states are to address this threat together.

I remind the House that the conference aimed to advance the debate on the preparedness of member states to face cybersecurity threats at national level and across the EU as a whole. I am aware of Deputy Eoghan Murphy's work on the European committee he mentioned, which is doing a great deal of work on this issue. It is important for Ireland to make an input into this area. I assure the House that the fact that the Minister, Deputy Shatter, holds both the defence and justice portfolios gives this country a huge opportunity to make a major input into further policy in this area.

I am also conscious that UCD is in my constituency.

Overseas Missions

Micheál Martin

Question:

8. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide an update on the Defence Forces mission in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35732/13]

Mick Wallace

Question:

21. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 41 of 18 June 2013, if he will confirm if Irish Defence Forces personnel will return home in October 2013 when the current International Security Assistance Force mandate expires; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35792/13]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 21 together.

Ireland has participated in the NATO–led UN mandated mission in Afghanistan since 5 July 2002. On 25 June last, the Government agreed to continue to provide seven members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the International Security Assistance Force for a further period from July 2013, subject to ongoing review by the Minister for Defence. On 20 December 2001, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1386 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorising the establishment of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The UN mandate for this mission was most recently renewed on 9 October 2012 and will fall to be renewed again in October this year. The International Security Assistance Force has a current strength of approximately 97,920 personnel drawn from 47 countries.

In March 2011, the transition process whereby the Afghan security forces would gradually take on more security responsibility from the International Security Assistance Force was launched. As of 18 June 2013, the final phase of the transition was instigated. At present, 23 of the 34 Afghan provinces are fully in transition. This process is due to be completed at the end of 2014, when the International Security Assistance Force mission will end. NATO will then lead a follow-on mission to continue to support the development of Afghan national security capacity.

No date for the withdrawal of Irish personnel has been fixed at this stage. Planning for the drawdown of the International Security Assistance Force generally is ongoing. The withdrawal of the Defence Forces personnel will be co-ordinated within the context of the International Security Assistance Force drawdown plan. I expect a phased drawdown of the International Security Assistance Force headquarters, with Defence Forces personnel being withdrawn as the headquarters downsizes.

I will be brief. I would like to pay tribute again to our men and women who have served in Afghanistan. It has been a long and difficult mission. What is the nature of the roles that have been undertaken by our personnel there in recent years?

Are our forces based in Kabul or other parts of the country? Has there been rotation among personnel over the past number of years? Can the Minister of State give us some indication of the duration of the stay? Most importantly, what is it that we will point to over the past 11 years as being our main achievement in undertaking this mission?

I understand that our troops are based in headquarters and rotate in respect of different responsibilities. I commend the members of the Defence Forces who are out there because it is a very difficult and dangerous mission. Even though they are based in headquarters, they have a very difficult role to play that is very important to the entire mission. The Government and the Defence Forces are reviewing our future there. It is something the Minister is very aware of.

In my last question, I asked whether we would be taking the troops out in October. I did not realise that there would be a subsequent question on this matter. The Minister of State is saying that this is unlikely to happen at this stage.

We need to make things clearer regarding our neutrality. Having troops in Afghanistan does not necessarily do much for our neutral stance on these matters. I do not see much logic in having troops there at any time given that most of the western powers are already planning to pull out with their tails between their legs. I acknowledge the fact that their mission failed, that it was a serious waste of money and lives and that they have probably left the place worse than they found it, as the Russians did before them. It would be very positive if we did not let it go past October.

The current ISAF mission will end in December 2014 and NATO will then lead a follow-on mission to continue to support the development of the capacity of Afghan national security forces. It is envisaged that the NATO-led force post-2014 will be made up of military trainers and advisers from the US and other NATO partner countries. Any participation by Ireland in the follow-up mission would be considered in the context of what other participants in ISAF are planned. The Minister for Defence will revert to Government in this regard at the opportune juncture when that arises.

It is important for Irish troops to participate in peace support operations. This has greatly enhanced the professional capacity of our Defence Forces. As with any mission, the Minister for Defence will review all missions and take into account the safety of Irish troops wherever they are.

Foreign Conflicts

John McGuinness

Question:

9. Deputy John McGuinness asked the Minister for Defence if he will expand on his recent statement that the experience from the Mali mission would suggest that, while individual member states could respond rapidly, the decision-making process within the EU has been found wanting. [35726/13]

As part of Ireland's Presidency of the Council of the European Union, my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality and Defence addressed a seminar in May 2013 on the European Council on Defence meeting scheduled to take place in December. During his address, the Minister referred to events that had taken place in Mali. In the context of discussions that have taken place in respect of the forthcoming European Council on Defence meeting, the Minister said that a number of common themes have emerged. One of these included the need for the EU to significantly improve decision-making cycles so that the EU is in a position to respond where and when required and he went on to say that "the experience from the Mali mission would suggest that, while individual member states could respond rapidly, the decision making process within the EU had been found wanting".

The situation in Mali had been deteriorating since an attempted coup in March 2012 and the secession of much of the north of the country, which had become a safe haven for terrorists and criminals. The EU had been considering the potential for a CSDP mission to Mali to support capacity building of the Malian armed forces since then. However, a rapid deterioration in the security situation and a request from the Malian Government for assistance in January 2013 resulted in France deploying a military operation in Mali, Operation SERVAL, to help the Malian government to restore its territorial integrity.

What occurred in respect of Mali highlights the capacity of a member state, in this case France, with co-operation from a small number of other member states, to react and act with speed. It also highlights one of the difficulties in the European Union in the context of the existing structures and the willingness of member states to act and make speedy decisions. While the EU was discussing and moving to a decision on the EU training mission in Mali, if France had not intervened, the Malian state might not have survived and there would not have been a role for any EU training mission. That is something we need to address.

The European Union is currently reviewing its crisis management procedures with a view to streamlining them, reducing delays in launching missions and operations, and improving its decision-making processes.

This question was tabled for two reasons. The principal reason is because there seems to be a difference between what is being said by the Minister for Defence and what is being said by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Minister of State has effectively said that the EU has been found wanting in terms of its decision-making process around Mali. I know many Members of this House have very serious reservations about our participation there. During a recent Question Time with the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of State at the Department told Deputy Smith that the EU had implemented a comprehensive approach to the situation encompassing diplomatic support, development and humanitarian assistance, as well as support in the areas of security and peacekeeping. Clearly, the two Departments have very different approaches and perspectives on this issue. The Minister for Justice and Equality said that there must be increased potential for specialisation in delivering niche capabilities to be called on when the need arises. I wonder what are the niche capabilities that we might be able to undertake and whether the Minister has taken the Minister of State into his confidence. Could the Minister of State tell the House what are the niche capabilities?

The Dáil today took a very deliberate and major decision, as part of the triple lock process, to despatch troops to Syria. Given that this decision has been taken, can we take it that there is no prospect of large numbers of Irish troops being despatched to Mali at any stage in the near future?

I will get back to the Deputy. The EU training mission to Mali is a common security and defence policy mission focused on providing military training and advice to the Malian armed forces to improve their military capacity and effectiveness in guaranteeing the country's territorial integrity. Training is also being provided in international humanitarian law, the protection of civilians and human rights. The headquarters of the mission is in the Malian capital of Bamako where training is taking place in a dedicated training camp. A total of 22 member states are contributing over 500 troops. Personnel deployed to the mission are not involved in combat operations.

The EU's crisis management procedures date from 2003. The EU's Political and Security Committee exercises political control and strategic direction of all crisis management operations. The current crisis management procedures outline the steps to be followed in each of the phases as follows: to monitor and analyse the situation and advance planning; develop a crisis management concept; approve the crisis management concept; develop military and civilian strategic options; formally decide to take options developing planning documents, concept of operations and operational plan; implement the operational plan; review any action; and decide whether to refocus EU action or terminate the operation. This has been a successful mission for the Irish Defence Forces. I am not aware of what the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said here during Question Time recently.

When the French moved into Mali in January, their commander, Brigadier General François Lecointre, who has since become the commander of the EU mission, said at the time that it was a matter of weeks, not months.

Yesterday in Brussels, he stated he believed the mission should be expanded and should continue for at least a year longer than planned. We know the French moved in and decided to restore the previous Government, which had been thrown out by the rebels and which came to power through a military coup. It did not have much to do with democracy on the part of the French. They are certainly very keen to enhance their financial interest in what is a crucial area for them. We are now throwing in a few troops on a training mission. I fear it might end in tears. I am not sure it is a good idea for us to be out there.

On 26 February 2013, the Government approved the deployment of approximately eight members of the Permanent Defence Force to Mali. The Irish contribution to the mission comprises three officers and five non-commissioned officers, with one officer deployed to the mission headquarters in Bamako and another two to the training camp headquarters. The remaining six personnel are deployed in Koulikoro and form part of the joint infantry training team with the UK armed forces.

I am not aware of any comments made yesterday in Brussels, but I have no doubt they will come to the attention of the Department. The extension of time will be for the consideration of the Minister of the day.

Did the Minister of State indicate there are more than 12 personnel in Mali? He seemed to suggest-----

The responsibilities the Minister of State read out are those of the-----

There are three officers and five non-commissioned officers, with one officer deployed to mission headquarters.

Beyond 12 we need the triple lock arrangement.

I will get back to the Deputy with the exact figure.

The reply reads as though there are more than 12.

I am not sure. I will have to get back to the Deputy with the exact arrangement.

It will be important to clarify it to say the least, as we may need to reconvene the Dáil.

Defence Forces Personnel

Bernard Durkan

Question:

10. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of promotional opportunities that have arisen in the Defence Forces in each of the past three years to date; the number of such positions filled by women; the extent to which women are represented within the Defence Forces as a proportion of overall strength; the extent to which numerical representation is reflected in the course of promotions throughout the period in question; the extent to which similar opportunities are likely to be filled in the future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35715/13]

The number of promotions which were effected in the Permanent Defence Force in each of the past three years was 168 in 2010, 356 in 2011 and 538 in 2012. In the year to 31 May 2013, the latest date for which figures are available, 365 promotions have been completed. The military authorities have advised it is not possible to collate the detailed information requested on the gender breakdown of these promotions, but the information will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available. As of 30 June 2013 there are 561 women out of a total strength of 9,093 serving in the Permanent Defence Force, PDF. This represents 6.2% of the overall strength of the Defence Forces, of which 466 are serving in the Army, 28 in the Air Corps and 67 in the Naval Service. It also denotes a 23% increase of female representation in the PDF since 2002.

The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women throughout the Defence Forces and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities. Unlike many other national armed forces, the Defence Forces have no restrictions on the assignment of men or women to the full range of operational and administrative duties. All promotions and career courses are open on the basis of competence and capabilities and are not gender based.

The Defence Force prides itself on providing a gender-neutral working environment. Policies on equality are being constantly communicated to all ranks. The military authorities are alert and vigilant to this issue and are committed to addressing this matter in a continuing and proactive manner.

Defence Forces Properties

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

11. Deputy Jonathan O'Brien asked the Minister for Defence the security measures in place and their cost at closed Army bases. [35930/13]

At present the Department of Defence has security arrangements in place at two former military installations, namely, Columb Barracks in Mullingar and Rockhill House in Letterkenny. The amount paid in security costs at these installations varies from month to month, depending on security requirements. The average cost per month of Columb Barracks since its closure in 2012 is €5,187 and the average cost per month of Rockhill House, Donegal since its closure in 2009 is €5,353. The effectiveness of the security measures in place are continuously monitored and I am satisfied the arrangements are warranted.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I understood Rockhill House in Letterkenny was to be taken over by Donegal County Council or sold to it, which would be very welcome because it is very historical with considerable potential. I would like to know what the opportunities are. If the Minister of State does not have the answer now, perhaps he will come back to me with the information.

I am very much aware, because I checked yesterday, that the sale of Rockhill House to Donegal County Council by the Department of Defence is at an advanced stage. I will not say it will be completed in the very near future but it is at a very advanced stage. I understand Donegal County Council has plans to develop it into a visitor attraction. The project has been ongoing for quite some time. I believe it is situated just outside Letterkenny.

I am very much aware it is at a very advanced stage but I am not sure when it will conclude. As the Deputy understands, like all sales involving Departments, it will take time to be concluded.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Michael McGrath

Question:

12. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if the Permanent Defence Force will be recruiting during 2013; if he expects there to be 9,500 personnel strength at year end; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35742/13]

I am advised by the military authorities that the strength of the Permanent Defence Force, PDF, at 30 June 2013, the latest date for which details are available, was 9,093, which comprised 7,306 Army, 779 Air Corps and 1,008 Naval Service personnel. These figures do not include 70 members of the PDF who are on career breaks or on leave of absence. As the Permanent Defence Force is below the agreed serving cadre of 9,500, it is my intention that targeted recruitment will continue within the resource envelope allocated to the Department of Defence. Following on from the last general service recruitment campaign in 2012, a total of 539 general service recruits were enlisted in the Permanent Defence Force, of which 418 were enlisted in the Army and 121 in the Naval Service. It is intended that further general service recruitment will take place from the existing competition panels in the autumn. A decision on exact numbers to be taken in has not been made at this time and will depend on available resources, training capacity and vacancies.

A competition for the intake of cadets was recently advertised, the closing date for which was 26 May 2013. It is planned to take in 33 cadets from this cadetship competition in 2013. In addition, it is proposed to advertise competitions for the recruitment of apprentices for the Air Corps and engine room artificers for the Naval Service in the near future.

With the support of the Chief of Staff and within the resources available, it is intended to retain the capacity of the Defence Forces to operate effectively across all roles and to undertake the tasks laid down by the Government at home and overseas.

I welcome the intention to recruit, but I would like us to do our figures on this. Am I right to assume we are 407 members short of the commitment to maintain a force of 9,500?

Am I to expect, therefore, that the Minister will honour his commitment of maintaining the force at 9,500? The Minister of State has referred to financial constraints. Our understanding was that, notwithstanding the financial constraints, we had an agreement on the part of the Minister that the forces would stand at 9,500. One would expect therefore that the 400 plus personnel that are required to bring the number up to 9,500 would be recruited as soon as possible and that they would be recruited in the course of 2013.

Government approval has been received to maintain the strength of the Permanent Defence Force, PDF, at 9,500, the optimum level required to fill the roles assigned to it by Government. As the PDF is currently more than 300 below the agreed serving cadre, a general service recruitment will be undertaken in the autumn with the resource envelope allocated to the Department of Defence. It is our intention to maintain the floor at 9,500. Further recruitment will take place at the end of this year but the number to be recruited is dependent on the resource envelope available. We hope to be in a position to bring the force back up to the committed level of 9,500 personnel. It is our intention to do that.

As I indicated, a competition for cadets was advertised recently and it is intended that further general service recruitment will take place from existing competition panels in the autumn. The Deputy will understand that there was a significant level of interest following the advertisement for general enlistment. We will take people off the existing competition panels.

Has a figure been fixed or is there an indication of the number that will be recruited?

I cannot give Deputy Ó Fearghaíl an exact figure today. It will be known later in the year. Successful applicants will be taken off existing competition panels. They are ready to be enlisted.

Defence Forces Reserve Funding

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

13. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Defence the financial supports that will be available to members of the Reserve Defence Forces in the future. [35932/13]

The steering committee which undertook the value for money, VFM, review of the Reserve Defence Force recognised the importance of retaining an effective reserve capacity that can augment the Permanent Defence Force in times of need. The Government values the contribution made by all members of the Reserve Defence Force. Similar to many other voluntary organisations, members of the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve undertake unpaid activities on a voluntary basis. In addition, members of the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve are afforded the opportunity to avail of paid training.

In line with the recommendations of the VFM review of the Reserve Defence Force, which was published last November, the revised strength ceiling for the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve is 4,069 personnel. The budget relating to paid training activity for members of the reserve is €3.243 million for 2013. The VFM review of the reserve concluded that the previous allocation of 30,000 paid training man-days was insufficient to sustain a strength level of 4,069 personnel. In order to ensure appropriate training within the existing resource envelope, the VFM review recommended the withdrawal of gratuities from members of the reserve and the reallocation of this money to paid training. This measure has been implemented and has significantly boosted the number of paid training man-days available to members of the reserve, rising from 30,000 paid man-days in 2012 to 41,500 in 2013. This will ensure that all members of the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve are afforded the opportunity to participate in annual collective training and other specialised training and are financially supported while doing so.

These and other reforms being put in place are necessary to ensure the viability of the reserve into the future. I am convinced that such reforms will lead to a more streamlined, fit-for-purpose organisation with a more cohesive relationship between the PDF and the RDF and an overall enhanced defence capability. The enormous efforts being applied to the reform process by all personnel within the Defence Forces is commended and will, I have no doubt, be instrumental in achieving the required outcomes over the coming years.

I have had a number of exchanges with the Minister on the Reserve Defence Force, RDF, and the changes that have taken place in that regard. We had a presentation from the representative association of the RDF, which was very concerned about the changes that have taken place. It challenged the arguments on the number participating in training and on resources. I repeatedly asked the Minister to meet with the RDF representative association to see whether there is scope for improvement and if he can address its concerns. I thought the presentation was most compelling and that the suggestions made were constructive. Could the Minister of State confirm whether the Minister has met the representative association since my call for such a meeting to take place and if he has read the transcript of the presentation it made to the committee and, if not, whether he will read it? Will the Minister or the Minister of State meet the representative association?

The military authorities have advised that members of the reserve were briefed on an ongoing basis as the re-organisation progressed and as soon as relevant plans were finalised. In addition, there will continue to be full consultation with the representative associations on all matters that fall within the scope of representation. Regular bilateral meetings with the associations will continue over the coming months.

As I said in my original reply, following re-organisation the training days increased from 30,000 paid man-days in 2012 to 41,500 in 2013 as a result of the changes introduced by the Government. I commend the work of the reserve. I have no doubt Members opposite do so also. The work is done on a voluntary basis because members of the reserve enjoy the varied work they do, in particular work they carry out on a voluntary basis with the Permanent Defence Force. In the Naval Service members of the reserve do a brilliant job on the ships. They are to be commended on the manner in which they are able to work side by side with members of the Permanent Defence Force. I am not aware of the date of the last meeting the Minister, Deputy Shatter, had with the representative association of the RDF. I will try to find out and will revert to the Deputy.

Will the Minister of State give a commitment to meet with the representative association of the RDF during the recess or as soon as he possibly can to listen to their thoughts and ideas? Regardless of the reference to consultation and to bilateral meetings the members of the representative association do not feel they have been heard. While one cannot reverse everything that has been done, there may be scope for improvement. Such a meeting would be constructive. I urge the Minister of State to consider meeting with the association when the opportunity arises, hopefully during the recess.

I do not have a problem meeting with members of the reserve and the authorities involved. I have met them on previous occasions. I met members of the reserve in Wexford and listened to their concerns.

It only remains for me to thank Members for their questions, the Minister of State for his replies, and to wish everyone laethanta saoire sona daoibh go léir. Slán agus beannacht libh.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.30 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 18 September 2013.