I join the Deputy in offering my condolences to the family of Colonel Frank Lawless on their recent bereavement. I had the opportunity to sympathise with his wife and two children recently. He is a huge loss to the Defence Forces, particularly the training college at the Curragh where he played a very important role as director.
The independent monitoring group was established in May 2002 to oversee implementation of recommendations arising from a report on interpersonal relationships within the Defence Forces. Both the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers, RACO, and the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association, PDFORRA, are represented on the group.
The third and most recent report of the group was published in September 2014. Among its recommendations was that a climate survey be conducted within 12 months and subsequently at reasonable intervals. A similar survey was conducted in 2008. The aim of the survey which was conducted by the University of Limerick was to identify trends to inform best practice in human resources management and training and education within the Defence Forces. As with the 2008 survey, approximately 11% of the workforce, in this instance, 1,055 personnel, were sampled. The key findings of the survey are grouped under topics such as work-life balance, peer support, organisational justice within the organisation, procedural justice, organisational fairness, Defence Forces integrity and supervisory justice. The researchers who undertook the project point out that the findings of the report and its recommendations are interconnected and that caution should apply to reading or responding to any one finding in isolation.
I have reviewed the report in detail. I have also received a briefing on the findings from the University of Limerick. The survey findings clearly point to challenges for the Defence Forces, particularly in the areas of leadership, communication, organisational culture, the working environment and active management of personnel expectations. However, many positives also emanated from the survey, especially regarding the commitment of personnel to the values and mission of the organisation, high levels of work satisfaction, pride in the organisation and positive views on culture and work support.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The response to the issues raised in the report on the climate survey will be led by the Chief of Staff by way of an action plan which involves the engagement of all levels of management within the organisation.
Both RACO and PDFORRA were recently briefed by the University of Limerick researchers on their findings and conclusions. Following that briefing, I recently met the representative associations to hear their views and listen to their concerns about the report. At the meeting we agreed that they would be fully engaged in the response to the report and the proposed action plan through the implementation monitoring group framework, whereby they could put forward their views on appropriate responses. The group provides a collaborative environment in which issues can be surfaced and addressed jointly by management and staff representatives. It was also agreed that there would be a further meeting with the University of Limerick and the implementation monitoring group to further consider the findings and get behind the quantitative data contained in the report. The associations will also attend planned focus groups, to be facilitated by the University of Limerick, to further explore the issues raised in the climate survey report.