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Thursday, 20 Sep 2012

Priority Questions

Defence Forces Reorganisation

Questions (1, 2, 5)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

1. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence further to his recent announcement to outline his decision to disband the Western Brigade reducing the number of brigades from three to two, the number of personnel that will be transferred; the criteria used for identifying transfers; if the transfers are to be undertaken on a voluntary or mandatory basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39664/12]

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Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

2. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide an update on reorganisation of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39666/12]

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Pádraig MacLochlainn

Question:

5. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Defence his plans for the transfer of McKee Barracks staff, Dublin, to Cathal Burgha Barracks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39499/12]

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Oral answers (15 contributions) (Question to Defence)

Deputy Minister of State at the Department of Defence Paul Kehoe

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1, 2 and 5 together.

I apologise for the absence of the Minister for Defence, Deputy Shatter, who is indisposed today and will be indisposed for a short while. He sends his apologies. As Minister of State in the Department of Defence, I am taking questions on his behalf.

The Government is committed to maintaining the capacity and capability of the Defence Forces to undertake the roles assigned by Government within an establishment of 9,500 serving personnel. Against that background, the Minister tasked the Secretary General of the Department and the Chief of Staff to bring forward proposals for a reorganisation of the Defence Forces. Those proposals recommended that the Army component of the Defence Forces be reduced from a three brigade to a two brigade structure. A three brigade structure, which had originally been designed for a force of 11,500, could not be sustained in the context of maintaining numbers at 9,500 without impacting on the capacity of the Defence Forces to deliver the services required by Government. The Minister, having considered the matter in detail, accepted the proposals of the Secretary General and the chief of staff for the reorganisation of the Army into a two brigade structure. A reorganisation of the Air Corps and Naval Service within their reduced strengths as set out in the employment-control framework is also being finalised as part of the reorganisation.

The implementation of the current reorganisation is being overseen by a high level implementation group comprising senior civil and military management of the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces. The group has been meeting weekly since the announcement of the reorganisation. They are planning the detailed implementation of the reorganisation in a manner which best addresses the future organisational needs and capability requirements of the Defence Forces while facilitating as far as possible the circumstances and expressed preferences of individual members. The representative associations in the Defence Forces, RACO and PDFORRA have been closely engaged in the implementation planning process as part of the Croke Park agreement and have had significant input into the planning of the implementation process.

The reorganisation under way is a major change in the organisation and structure of the Defence Forces. The extent of it should not be underestimated. It will impact on the lives and future careers of serving and future members of the Defence Forces right across the organisation. This reorganisation has been extensively facilitated by the Croke Park agreement and the commitments given by the representative associations under that agreement to co-operate with major reorganisation and change. The current initiatives being brought forward by defence management for the reorganisation of the Defence Forces, taken with the earlier barracks closures, are far-reaching and challenging.

Under the reorganisation, 118 officer promotion posts in the Army across all ranks up to brigadier general are being eliminated while NCO appointments are also being reduced by 225. In addition, units are being relocated throughout the country while other units, such as the brigade headquarters in Athlone, are being disestablished.

In implementing the reorganisation we must be conscious of the personal impact these changes will have on the lives and future careers of individual members of the Defence Forces. To that end and contrary to much media speculation, there is no question of mandatorily requiring all the personnel serving in units changing location to move with their unit. The Minister for Defence would like to allay concerns in that regard.

The implementation plan, which has been designed by the high level implementation group, is designed to limit as far as possible the dislocation of personnel. The reorganisation also generally maintains existing serving staff numbers in all the existing locations. In so far as is practicable, serving members in the Defence Forces whose units are being moved or disbanded will have the opportunity either to move with their unit or to take up new appointments within or close to their existing locations as part of the reassignment process. That said, it is inevitable that some personnel will have to change location or will be mandatorily relocated to fill out the appointments in the new organisation. This is part and parcel of the employment conditions of members of the Defence Forces.

It is not possible at this stage in the process to state how many personnel will be transferred across the Defence Forces on the basis of the current reorganisation. The specific requirements in this regard will only become apparent as the implementation process proceeds and personnel indicate their particular preferences as to whether to move location or take up alternative appointments in their existing locations. Obviously, this also applies to the transfer of the McKee Barracks staff and the choices they make on transfer or taking up alternative appointments in McKee Barracks.

All personnel in the Defence Forces have been extensively briefed on the reorganisation proposals. They will receive further briefings and information on the many options available to them as the implementation stage progresses. As there are extensive vacancies in the organisation, many serving personnel will also benefit by moving to new roles and promotional opportunities to fill vacancies in the organisation. The detailed administrative order setting out the implementation plan, which has been the subject of extensive consultation with the representative associations, has now been finalised and issued to formation commanders and made available to all members of the Defence Forces.

This current radical reorganisation of the Defence Forces depends for its success on two elements. First is the continued proactive engagement and leadership of civil and military management in the Department of Defence in modernising and restructuring the organisation to meet the new security challenges of today. Second is the robust, positive and constructive engagement of the representative associations, on behalf of their members, under the provisions of the Croke Park agreement.

I must ask the Minister of State to leave it there.

I have only two paragraphs to go and I think it is important.

The country is facing serious challenges in managing our current economic and fiscal situation. In line with the situation in most EU member states, the Department of Defence faces cuts that must be managed in a manner which ensures we continue to maintain the capacity and capability of our armed forces to meet the requirements set by Government.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The current reorganisation being led by senior military and civil management in the Department is designed to ensure we do that. The Government also recognises the very demanding requirements we are placing on members of the Defence Forces and welcomes their positive engagement in the reorganisation process. It is planned that the reorganisation will be largely completed by the end of November 2012 in line with the ambitious deadlines set by the Minister.

I send my best wishes to the Minister who is not with us and I hope he makes a quick recovery. I am happy to have the opportunity to raise this matter again.

The issue of reorganisation was raised as a Topical Issue prior to the summer recess. I am sure the Minister of State will agree that what we are dealing with today is the fall-out from that reorganisation process. The Minister of State's response is something of a curate's egg in that it is good in parts but somewhat contradictory. I welcome that there has been engagement with RACO and PDFORRA. Does the Minister of State regret that this engagement did not occur prior to the decisions being made and would he agree that it was somewhat perverse to announce that major reorganisation in advance of work being undertaken on the Green Paper?

The Minister of State appeared to intimate in the earlier part of his response that relocation would be voluntary, that people would be consulted and given an opportunity to decide where they might go. He then went on to speak about the inevitability of mandatory relocations. Can the Minister of State indicate what quantum of personnel will have to move against their wishes to other locations? The Minister of State also referred to career paths and stated that there would be new promotional opportunities. However, he also, in the earlier part of his response, listed a plethora of promotional posts that would be done away with. Perhaps he will clarify that point for us and will confirm what percentage of those to be relocated will be mandatorily relocated and the timescale for the changes envisaged. This is a major problem in the area of the western brigade and the environs of Athlone, with many members who have huge mortgages and under real financial pressure concerned about the impact on them and their families of a forced move to a barracks at a considerable distance from where they are based and the ensuing costs.

I fully understand from where the Deputy is coming. I have spoken with members of the Permanent Defence Forces about barrack closures and the effects on them and their families of reorganisation. The implementation group, which includes officials from the Department of Defence and members of the Defence Forces, is working with RACO and PDFORRA to ensure smooth implementation of the reorganisation process. Nobody likes reorganisation. However, we are forced to reorganise. While some years ago we had a force of 11,500, we now have a force of 9,500. One must change with the times. We do not have the level of resources previously available to invest in the Defence Forces.

I can assure the Deputy that the implementation group is engaged in talks with RACO and PDFORRA. I believe RACO and PDFORRA are happy with the talks thus far. The most recent meeting of the implementation group with RACO and PDFORRA was held a number of days ago. Deputy Ó Fearghaíl asked why PDFORRA and RACO were not consulted about the reorganisation. The Government makes the policy for the Army. Once agreed, that policy must be implemented by Government, the Army and the Department of Defence in a professional manner. This is being done. The implementation group is working well.

Deputy Ó Fearghaíl also asked about voluntary and mandatory relocation. As I stated in my reply, in so far as possible relocation will be on a voluntary basis. Every member of the Permanent Defence Force will be consulted about what suits him or her. I acknowledge that many members have mortgages and families. We do not like to have to tell personnel where they have to go. However, that is what will have to happen. The Deputy will understand that in any reorganisation of a Department and so on some people will be happy and others will not. The implementation group will try in so far as possible to ensure everyone is happy.

The Minister of State will be aware of the view of PDFORRA and the Defence Forces that they more than other sectors of the public service have been co-operating with downsizing since 1990. The closure of the barracks in Mullingar, Castlebar, Cavan, Longford and Lifford and Letterkenny comes to mind. This resulted in the relocation of the Army in North Donegal to Finner which presented huge challenges logistically for serving Defence Forces members. Nevertheless, they co-operated. They now believe they are being punished rather than rewarded for their approach and that they are being taken for granted because of their position in society. It would be deeply unfair to force more of these involuntary relocations onto them. We are all aware of the huge issues that will arise around Cork and Limerick, Dublin and Athlone and vice versa. This relocation presents considerable challenges for members of the Defence Forces and their families.

We would like a reassurance that where possible further dislocation of Defence Forces members will be avoided. I also ask the Minister of State to make clear today that they are not being taken for granted and that the Government is not pushing the weakest point of resistance in terms of cutbacks. I would welcome the Minister of State's response to those points.

I can assure Deputy Mac Lochlainn that members of the PDF are not being taken for granted. My colleague, the Minister for Defence, Deputy Shatter, has praised them for their work, enthusiasm and commitment. I can assure the Deputy that nobody is being taken for granted.

We are in the middle of a reorganisation which involves the relocation of more than 9,000 Defence Forces personnel. The implementation group has and will continue to work closely with RACO and PDFORRA in this regard. I assure the Deputy that those talks will continue. The implementation group is, and has been, happy to sit down with the two representative organisations to discuss and allay their fears or concerns.

The reorganisation process will be difficult. There is no doubt that while some members will be happy, others will not. Some members will want to move and others will want to continue to do the same job they are currently doing but may have to move to a different barracks in order to do so. In so far as possible everybody will be facilitated. PDFORRA and RACO have been and will continue to be briefed by the implementation group.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. The Minister of State has stated that the Government must govern and that it is a matter for the Minister to make decisions. Our criticism is voiced against the background of the Government's decision to enter into a Green Paper process, followed by a White Paper process, in advance of which it has decided to carry out a fundamental reform without any consultation with the parties who are subsequently expected to engage on a positive basis with the Green Paper and White Paper processes. It is deeply disappointing that the Department went down that road.

Does the Minister of State agree that we now find ourselves in a position where he has to admit that there will be mandatory relocation of serving members of the Permanent Defence Force, that there will be reduced promotional opportunities within the Defence Forces arising out of these changes and that it is regrettable that change is coming about without proper consultation and in advance of a process the Government had embarked upon that was to provide a new model for the Defence Forces that would make it fit for purpose for the next decade?

I outlined in my reply the promotional opportunities that are restricted now that we have moved to a two brigade structure from a three brigade structure. I assure the Deputy that the Minister's decision to initiate the reorganisation was made following a detailed assessment of the Defence Forces, the security environment and consideration of associated Defence Forces capability requirements both as part of the comprehensive review of expenditure and the Department of Defence's strategy statement, both of which documents were published previously.

The Minister is currently preparing a Green Paper on defence and when published at the end on 2012 it will inform a broad discussion on Ireland's defence policy. This will culminate in the publication of a new White Paper on defence at the end of 2013. This White Paper will encompass a longer timeframe than that of the strategy statement and will inform long-term capability requirements for implementation over an extended timeframe, typically ten or more years. I look forward to the publication of both the White Paper and the Green Paper. Some people might agree and some might disagree with this but we are going forward with a two brigade structure.

The cart is being put before the horse.

I do not agree with that. The Green Paper and the White Paper will be published and we will know exactly the structures and the reorganisation of the Defence Forces as we move forward. We can work on a ten year policy and on what changes will be made within the organisation once the Green Paper and the White Paper are published.

I have three brief supplementaries. There are concerns around reskilling. Those concerned want to examine it in terms of the Croke Park agreement. How will it be ensured that the personnel who will be relocated will be reskilled if need be?

There are concerns around the Minister's estimate of the savings that will be made from barrack closures. The Government has said it is €5 million based on an average wage of €50,000 per annum but the average wage in the Defence Forces is €37,000 per annum.

The Minister of State might not be able to give me an answer to this question now but I would like an answer to it. I understand that the Minister, Deputy Shatter, had issued some correspondence to his constituents welcoming the new incoming posts to Cathal Brugha Barracks from McKee Barracks. There were big questions over the closure of McKee Barracks and it is felt by Army personnel that it is a much more accessible point in terms of any logisticial operations they would have to carry out than Cathal Brugha Barracks. The Minister of State can come back to me on this if he does not have information to hand. Did the Minister issue soft-copy e-mail or hard-copy newsletters or correspondence to his constituents welcoming new posts to Cathal Brugha Barracks and has he been politically trying to benefit from the restructuring of the Defence Forces for his own electoral gain in his constituency?

I am not aware of any newsletter going out with any news on Defence Forces from the Minister. I do not work in his constituency office or run his re-election campaign.

Deputy Ross would know about that.

I can come back to Deputy Mac Lochlainn on that.

The Deputy spoke about re-skilling. If any organisation is professional in the manner in which it carries out reskilling and retraining, it is the Defence Forces. It cannot be questioned in any way about its capabilities and professionalism in the way it carries out that. I can assure the Deputy that if there is any moves of personnel within the Permanent Defence Force to different areas, they will be reskilled in a professional manner. I feel very strongly about that and I commend the Defence Forces on their capability in that area.

The Deputy spoke about the savings that can be achieved through the reorganisation of the structures. Monetary savings have been delivered through the reduction in personnel strength and the re-organisation will absorb the reduction in numbers and improve operational effectiveness. The reduction in the number of brigades from a three brigade structure to a two brigade structure will free up military personnel from administrative and support functions.

The Deputy also asked about the plans to transfer personnel from McKee Barracks to Cathal Brugha Barracks. With regard to the projected strength of McKee Barracks and Cathal Brugha Barracks arising out of the re-assignment due to the re-organisation, the comparative strength as per the end of March 2012 was 663 for McKee Barracks while it was 760 for Cathal Brugha Barracks. With a ceiling of 9,000, McKee Barracks will be involved in transfers amounting to 346 personnel while with a ceiling of 9,500 Cathal Brugha Barracks will receive 1,045 personnel. It is inevitable that some personnel will have to change location to fill other appointments.

Overseas Missions

Questions (3)

Finian McGrath

Question:

3. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide an update on the Irish peace keeping mission in Lebanon and the number of personnel involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39667/12]

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Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Defence)

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, mission is the main overseas mission in which Defence Forces personnel are currently deployed with a total of 356 personnel. Brigadier General Patrick Phelan was appointed deputy force commander UNIFIL in April 2012.

The 106th infantry battalion, comprising some 332 personnel, deployed to UNIFIL in May 2012. The Irish battalion has been working alongside a contingent of 170 personnel of the Finnish armed forces as part of a joint Irish-Finnish battalion with effect from 1 June 2012. Both Ireland and Finland previously served together in the Lebanon mission in 2006-07 and more recently in the UN operation in Chad. A further 16 personnel are deployed to the force headquarters in Naquora and eight personnel at the UNIFIL sector west headquarters in Shama.

The joint Irish-Finnish Battalion is based in a sector west of UNIFIL’s area of operations, currently centred on the major towns of Tibnin and Bint Jubayl, and with two posts on the "Blue Line", which separates Lebanon and Israel. The battalion is tasked primarily with patrolling and occupying static posts while operating in close co-ordination and co-operation with the Lebanese armed forces in sector west of UNIFIL’s area of operations. The battalion’s mission is progressing well.

Following a review of the UNIFIL mission deployment by the force commander, the battalion is currently in the process of moving the Irish-Finnish battalion headquarters from current UN post 6-5 to UN post 2-45. UN post 2-45 is located south of Tibnin close to At Tiri in the centre of the Irish-Finnish battalion’s area of operations and closer to the observation posts manned by Ireland and Finland on the Blue Line. With this relocation, the battalion will be able to provide a more rapid response capacity to reinforce these posts should that be required. The move is expected to be fully completed during October 2012.

The security situation in the area in which the Irish-Finnish battalion operates remains calm but tense. The battalion implements force protection measures appropriate to the prevailing operational and security developments in the region. The security situation in Lebanon will continue to be kept under review by the Defence Forces.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I ask him to join me in thanking and commending our troops in the Lebanon for their peacekeeping role, particularly the 356 soldiers there. They are doing excellent work.

Is the relationship between the Irish troops and the local community there still as strong as it was ten years ago? Does the Minister of State share my concerns that not enough has been done about the peace on the borders of Lebanon and in the Middle East in general? That region seems to have gone off the political agenda from a European and an Irish perspective. Does he accept that the more political instability there is, the more at risk our troops are in the Lebanon? Does he accept that politicians in Ireland and in the EU in particular have got to get off the fence on this issue and support in a practical way UN resolutions?

Does the Minister of State accept that the elephant in the room is violence, mayhem and the lack of movement in the EU and US in resolving the Palestinian issue? Their need for a state is hindering the development of peace in the Lebanon area. Does the Minister of State agree with the PLO envoy to the United States when he said yesterday that Palestinians have repeatedly recognised Israel's right to exist? Does the Minister of State accept that an end to military occupation of Palestine will lead to peace and security in the Lebanon and the Middle East and more safety for our troops?

I am not aware of the last statement made by the Deputy. I will not comment on it without seeing it for myself. I commend the troops out there. I visited Lebanon on St. Patrick's Day and I assure the Deputy of the strong relationship with the local community. It has always been there and remains strong. When I was there, I was told the good relationship with the local community goes back 20 years, as long as the Irish troops have been visiting Lebanon. I assure Deputy McGrath that it still exists. I visited the mayor and met local community leaders. The security along the blue line is extremely strong thanks to the Irish Defence Forces. I visited the two outposts. Political instability is of great concern to the Irish Government and the Defence Forces in Lebanon. It is closely monitored by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, and the political implications of any operations are also taken into account.

Does the Minister of State accept the strong relationship with local communities in Lebanon and the Middle East is due to Ireland impartial history of not being involved in military alliances? Does the Minister of State accept my concern that 11 foreign ministers want to remove the national veto on security matters and are talking again about a European army? Why is there no outcry in the West and in Europe when innocent civilians, Palestinians, Arabs or eight Afghan women, are killed in NATO bombings? There was not a squeak out of anyone in the West. Are they second class citizens? I ask the Minister of State to speak out against this. It is unacceptable that eight Afghan women, who were out picking pines, can be blown to smithereens and no one says a word.

No one is a second class citizen and everyone is treated in a fair manner. It is not right or just to see what is happening at this point. The close relationship with the local community exists because of peacekeeping measures carried out by the Irish Defence Forces. The job of the Irish Defence Forces is to undertake peacekeeping in the area. The personnel have a connection with the local community through visiting local markets and working with voluntary organisations. They are involved with the homeless community and a children's care centre. The Irish Defence Forces regularly raise much-needed money on a voluntary basis for the local community. I commend the Irish Defence Forces. We cannot forget the families of the troops left at home. The troops go on a six month stint and some may not come home. The families and relatives of those who are serving must be commended.

The first three questions were so important that I let time run a little.

Defence Forces Reserve Strength

Question No. 5 answered with Question No. 1.

Questions (4)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Question:

4. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence the current status of the review into the Reserve Defence Force, the vision he has for the future of the RDF; the time line of the value for money review; if he sees it as an integral part of the Defence Forces; his views on recent media speculation regarding its future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39665/12]

View answer

Oral answers (12 contributions) (Question to Defence)

The steering committee, established to oversee the value for money review of the reserve, met most recently on the 19 September and is working towards completing the review by the end of this month. The steering committee commenced its work in February 2010, and in the intervening period other priorities, such as undertaking the comprehensive review of expenditure, diverted analytical resources away from the value for money review. In this context, the review has taken longer than anticipated. However, in practical terms, the development of proposals for the reserve would have been premature in advance of the outcome of the comprehensive review of expenditure. Arising from the comprehensive review of expenditure, the Government stabilised the strength ceiling of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel and a major re-organisation of the Permanent Defence Force was initiated. This encompasses a reduction in the number of army brigades from the current three to two. As part of the re-organisation, Permanent Defence Force personnel are being re-deployed from administrative and support tasks to operational units. As part of this process, the number of Permanent Defence Force personnel available to work full time with the Army reserve, known as the Permanent Defence Force cadre, is being reduced to 24 in each Army brigade - 48 in total - and additional support will be available to the reserve from within Permanent Defence Force units.

The steering committee undertaking the value for money review of the reserve must have due regard to the revised Permanent Defence Force organisational structures and available resource envelope when framing its recommendations. Any recommendations regarding the reserve organisation must dovetail with the new Permanent Defence Force organisational structures.

Recently there has been speculation that the reserve was being disbanded. This is unhelpful and unwarranted as there have been repeated assurances that no decisions have been made regarding the future development of the reserve pending the completion of the value for money report. I confirm that this remains the position.

I ask the Minister of State to finish up. The final paragraph can appear in the Official Report.

It is very important to read out the last paragraph.

Could the last paragraph not have been the first paragraph?

The Minister of State must build up to it.

The Minister is looking forward to receiving the value for money report and considering its recommendations. Any further comments at this point, including possible options for the future development of the Reserve Defence Force, would be pre-empting the final report, and the Minister is anxious to allow the steering committee to complete its work.

I had hoped my question might put people's mind at rest in respect of the future of the Reserve Defence Force but I fear it will have the opposite effect in light of the comments of the Minister of State. I reflect considerable disappointment at the fact the value for money review has been ongoing for two years in respect of an area that spends 1% of the overall defence budget. That figure was cut by 50% in 2010. Perhaps more enthusiasm and energy could be injected into the review process. It is to be hoped the Minister can give us an absolute assurance that the proposal will come forward before the end of September. We spoke earlier about the fact that the Defence Forces have been to the fore in public service reform and have accepted major reform. We saw the reserve go from 13,000 in 2004 to 6,000 members at present. I would like to hear an assurance from the Minister of State, given that he is directly responsible for the area, that he is committed to the future of the Reserve Defence Force, that he has an optimum figure in his mind for the personnel that should form its membership, and that he will do his best to ensure many young people, who are more than willing to participate in training and other opportunities offered by the Reserve Defence Force, will have the opportunity to participate now and in the future.

I will repeat the second last paragraph of my reply.

As I stated, there was speculation recently that the Defence Force Reserve is to be disbanded. This is unhelpful and unwarranted. There have been repeated assurances that no decision was made regarding the future development of the Defence Force Reserve pending the completion of the value for money report. I very much look forward to the report. When it is published, we can determine the future of the force.

I visited members of the Defence Force Reserve recently at a training exercise in the Glen of Imaal. I commended them on their enthusiasm and commitment to the force and on their work. Some have been in the reserve force for years. It is great to see new members showing enthusiasm. Having spoken to some members, I understand they, too, are seeking reform. They very much look forward to the publication of the value for money report. They are willing to co-operate and have an input into the review. The report is expected shortly.

The Deputy has a personal interest in the Defence Force Reserve. We are very much looking forward to working closely with it as soon as the value for money report is published.

I respect the Minister of State's personal interest in this matter and his commitment but the members of the Defence Force Reserve want from him an assurance that he, as Minister of State, is committed to the future development of the force. He has not made that commitment today. The members also expect him to say he is bewildered at the fact that it has taken two years to consider a review of the expenditure of 1% of the Department's overall budget.

It was actually a Fianna Fáil Government that instigated the value for money review very early in 2010.

The Minister of State has been in power for the past 18 months.

We came into office in 2011. I explained in my reply the position on reorganisation and the comprehensive review of expenditure, and on the role of the people working on the review. We are anxious for progress but I will not pre-empt the content of any report to be published. I assure the Deputy that as soon as the value for money report is published, there will be questions on defence in the Dáil the next day. I look forward to allaying any fears of the members of the Defence Force Reserve. Last Saturday week, I addressed a group of members in the Curragh. The Defence Forces, Department and Government very much appreciate the great work of the reserves and their training and commitment. Nobody wants to see the Defence Force Reserve come to an end. However, I will not pre-empt the content of the value for money review. I will await its publication, after which we will have a conversation on the content.

Question No. 5 answered with Question No. 1.
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