I propose to take Questions Nos. 46, 50, 73, 78 and 83 together.
As outlined already in my earlier response on the commission, the position is that establishment of an independent commission on the Defence Forces is an important commitment made in the programme for Government. The programme for Government states that the commission will be tasked with undertaking a comprehensive review, which will include the following matters: arrangements for the effective defence of the State at land, air and sea; structures for governance, joint command, and control structures; the brigade structure; pay and allowances and composition of the Defence Forces; recruitment, retention and career progression; and the contribution of the Reserve Defence Force, RDF, including its legislation and Defence Forces regulations governing it, and whether specialists from the RDF should be able to serve overseas.
The programme for Government also provides that the commission is be established before the end of the year, with a mandate to report within 12 months, and as I indicated earlier, I am working with officials in my Department in order to ensure we are well ahead of the timeline.
My immediate priority concerns the commission's terms of reference. In accordance with a commitment made in the programme for Government, I have consulted widely on the terms of reference and analysis of all of the various submissions received is still ongoing.
In this regard, I expect to finalise draft terms of reference for the commission shortly and to bring proposals to Government for approval in the coming weeks.
Regarding membership of the commission, the programme for Government states that the commission will contain a wide variety of expertise such as management, human resources, academia, law and public service, as well as members with external military experience from countries similar in size to Ireland and also from states which, like Ireland, are non-aligned militarily. While consideration of these criteria is under way and various names are in discussion, no decisions have yet been made on membership of the commission. Ultimately, this and the commission's terms of reference will both be matters for decision by Government shortly.
The impact of climate change will of course be of relevance to the work of the commission. In this regard one of the roles assigned to the Defence Forces by Government, in the White Paper on defence, is to contribute to national resilience through the provision of aid to the civil authority supports to lead agencies in response to major emergencies and in the maintenance of essential services. The White Paper also provides that, under the framework for major emergency management, the Defence Forces have a support role to the lead agency in major national and local emergencies. In a major emergency, such as a severe weather event, all the available resources and capabilities of the Defence Forces are made available to the national co-ordination group for the purpose of providing assistance. Unfortunately, that is becoming a more frequent experience now.
Regarding future investment, the White Paper update, which was approved by Government last December, recognises that demands on future capability will need to take account of climate change objectives. The update notes that the effects of climate change are continuing to lead to changes in weather patterns and an increased probability that severe weather events such as flooding could become more commonplace in Ireland.
Climate change and issues arising from it for the Defence Forces are already clearly signposted in existing key Government policy documents on defence. I will ensure that the commission gives due regard in its deliberations to the impacts of climate change for the Defence Forces.