Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Army Recruitment.


asked the Minister for Defence if he has any plans for the recruitment into the Permanent Defence Force of members of the FCA; if he will outline the basis, in respect of rank and pay, on which any such members will be recruited; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

(Limerick West): At present there are 140 members of the FCA employed on full-time security duties. A scheme has been drawn up which gives the personnel involved the option of transferring to the Permanent Defence Force under special favourable conditions, including the retention of their present ranks with appropriate pay rates. Alternatively they may opt for a gratuity and cease full-time service.

Is the Minister aware that there is considerable concern and anxiety in the Permanent Defence Force in regard to the proposal of transferring rank and other pay privileges to 140 members of the local Defence Force? Has he made his proposals known to the Permanent Defence Force and sought their views on the matter?

(Limerick West): The answer to both questions is yes.

At what level did the Minister make his intentions known when he advised the Permanent Defence Force of this manoeuvre? What reaction did he get in view of the impact it will have on promotion prospects for those who have waited so long and patiently within the Permanent Defence Force?

(Limerick West): I made my views known to the highest level. The decision was made in agreement with the military personnel and my Department.

I compliment the Minister on what he has done in this area because natural justice demanded that this opportunity should be given to those called up during the Emergency some years ago. At that time FCA personnel were called upon to take part in permanent duties and it is fair that they should now be offered an opportunity to transfer to the Permanent Defence Force.

A question, please.

What are the promotion prospects of these personnel? Will the Minister consider giving a similar opportunity to FCA personnel with broken service who acted in a temporary capacity over a long period?

(Limerick West): There is no reason for promotional opportunities not being the same for all personnel. I am not too clear on the Deputy's question. Is he referring to FCA personnel in other parts of the country who are doing temporary duty?

(Limerick West): I will consider that matter.

Is the Minister aware that there are FCA personnel who have done temprary duty for long periods of six months or so? They have given long service and should be given the same opportunities as others.

(Limerick West): At present the arrangements are in respect of the personnel referred to but I have taken note of the Deputy's points and will consider them.

At a time when there is a long waiting list for Army recruitment, will the Minister say whether active membership of the FCA will count when selection for such enlistment is being made?

(Limerick West): All details are taken into consideration when applicants are being interviewed for consideration.

There is a lot of dissatisfaction and annoyance at this proposal. Is the Minister aware that most of these men have served since 1969 when there were no regular troops, particularly in Border posts? It is a disgraceful way to treat men who have given loyal service because many of them are now at an age when they will be unable to perform normal routine duties undertaken by regular recruits. It is Hobson's choice, either join the Permanent Defence Force or leave. Will the Minister consider allowing the men at present serving to finish their present term of office as an alternative?

(Limerick West): That matter was considered but was not found feasible. The decision was also based on legal and technical reasons. Personnel who opt not to join the Permanent Defence Force and who are being released from full-time service will be paid a gratuity calculated at the rate of 30 days' pay per year of service subject to a maximum of one year's pay. An example of the average amount of a gratuity is as follows: a captain will receive about £12,160, a sergeant will receive £8,520 and a private will get about £7,309. The amounts payable may be higher or lower, depending on the length of service.

A final question, Deputy Bell.

This is a bad idea because the Minister is taking men out of full-time service with the Permanent Defence Force which means they will be in receipt of unemployment benefit. They will have a limited, small gratuity and pension and, therefore, it will cost the State as much to keep them on the dole as it would to have them serving with the Defence Forces.

We must proceed by way of questions.

(Limerick West): I would prefer to give them a choice and I am sure the Deputy agrees.