As the Deputy will be aware, the Defence Forces are excluded from the provisions of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. The Government has committed to amend the Act to encompass the Defence Forces.
The uniqueness of certain military activities must be provided for in the regulatory framework, having regard to the specifics of the directive. Work is under way in this regard and my Department will continue to progress the legislative changes required with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Equality. In this context, significant work has been undertaken and an internal Defence Forces working group is further considering issues and will report on its findings shortly. Consultation with the Defence Forces representative associations has been initiated and will be undertaken as the current work evolves.
There is ongoing litigation in respect of the applicability of certain elements of the directive to members of the Defence Forces in specific circumstances. This constrains my ability to discuss the nature of the ongoing work. It would also be inappropriate to comment in respect of any individual case or the legal strategy with regard to same.
As the Deputy will appreciate, the issues being considered are complex and there is a requirement to ensure that the Defence Forces retain operational effectiveness. In this context, it is difficult to be precise with timelines. However, I assure him that this is a priority for the Department and the Defence Forces.