Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Permanent Defence Force Strength.

Gerry O'Sullivan

Ceist:

8 Mr. G. O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence if he intends to reduce the FCA cadre of the Permanent Defence Force or whether reductions of 25 per cent or more are to take place as an overall strategy to reduce the strength of the Permanent Defence Force from its existing levels.

A study as to how the administration and training of the FCA might be carried out in a more cost effective manner has been underway for some time and is still ongoing. In that regard the report of the Commission on Remuneration and Conditions of Service in the Defence Forces clearly underlined the need to examine the whole question of the present deployment of the Defence Forces. There are some 900 members of the Permanent Defence Force employed full time with the FCA and their pay and allowances amount to approximately £16 million a year.

Is the Minister aware of the widespread concern in the PDF, the FCA and Slua Muirí that there is a deliberate policy of downgrading these forces so that they will become irrelevant? That concern has been expressed to me and probably to the Minister and his Department.

I would be disappointed if the forces which have been mentioned felt that their service was not appreciated. It is appreciated by me and my Department and, I venture to say, by the citizenry in general.

That appreciation is not reflected in the finance given to the services to enable them to do the job they are supposed to do. There has been a reluctance on the part of the Department to fund the forces properly over a number of years.

The numbers have been roughly the same since 1980, that is, over 13,000. I indicated in my reply that the PDF people who deal with the FCA, the Slua Muirí and so on are being funded at the rate of £16 million per annum. As our American cousins say, that is no small potatoes. The report of the Committee on Remuneration and Conditions of Service in the Defence Forces underlined the desirability of examining the whole question of the deployment of the Defence Forces. I appreciate what the FCA and the other auxiliary forces are doing and the service they are providing. There is no way I will neglect them.