Ministerial Advisers Remuneration

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

946. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide, in tabular form, the annual saving to the Exchequer if all his special advisers' pay was capped at the first point of the principal officer grade; if he will provide a list of all salaries, post-implementation of the Haddington Road agreement paid to his special advisers. [34622/13]

I have not appointed any special advisers in my role as Minister for Defence. I have engaged the services of a personal assistant who assists me in constituency matters. The annual salary attached to this post is €56,060.

Programme for Government Implementation

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

947. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Defence if he will outline, in tabular form, the commitments in the programme for Government within his remit; if the commitment has been met or is in the process of being met; the estimated time for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34677/13]

The commitments in the Programme for Government relating to Defence and the progress that has been made are set out in the following table:

Commitment

Status

The implementation of the Defence Forces Medical Services Review as resources allow.

In line with the recommendations of the Defence Forces Medical Service Review, the Central Medical Unit was formally established in 2012. Options for outsourcing Defence Forces medical services to a civilian medical services provider have been reviewed and consideration is now being given to outsourcing options on a per service basis e.g. annual medicals, sick parades etc. I expect that decisions will be made in this regard in the coming months.

The initiation of a detailed legal review of the basis, structures and governance of the Irish Red Cross

to improve its functioning in the light of changing circumstances.

The Department has commenced work on the review and has had discussions with the Secretary General of the Irish Red Cross on legislative proposals, which in the main relate to codification of the various legal instruments in effect since 1939.

I anticipate, subject to Government approval, that a Red Cross (Amendment) Bill will be published during the lifetime of this Government.

Consultancy Contracts Issues

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

948. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Defence if he will detail, in tabular form, the names of all external public relations, communications consultants and organisations used by organisations or agencies within the remit of his Department since 9 March 2011; the details of the services supplied by each; the expenditure on each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34693/13]

My Department has not incurred any expenditure on external public relations or communications consultants since I took office in March 2011. In this period, the Defence Forces engaged the services of one external communications company, The Communications Clinic, to provide training. The cost of the training was €1,900.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

949. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Defence his plans to engage in further recruitment campaigns for Army personnel. [34786/13]

Following on from the last General Service Recruitment campaign in 2012 a total of 539 General Service Recruits were enlisted in the Permanent Defence Force, of which 418 were enlisted in the Army and 121 in the Naval Service. I am advised by the Military Authorities that the strength of the Permanent Defence Force, at 30 June 2013, the latest date for which details are available, was 9,093, comprising 7,306 Army, 779 Air Corps and 1,008 Naval Service personnel. These figures do not include 70 members of the PDF who are currently on Career Breaks or Leave of Absence. This is against the stabilised strength for the Permanent Defence Force of 9,500. In the context of the current strength being below the agreed stabilised strength, it is my intention that targeted recruitment will take place, within the resource envelope allocated to Defence, from the existing 2012 General Service Recruitment panels in the autumn. No decisions have yet been made with regard to General Service recruitment in 2014.

A competition for the intake of Cadets was recently advertised, the closing date for which was 26 May 2013. It is planned to take in 33 Cadets from this Cadetship competition in 2013. In addition it is proposed to advertise competitions for the recruitment of Apprentices for the Air Corps and Engine Room Artificers for the Naval Service in the near future. Details of these competitions will be available on www.military.ie. With the support of the Chief of Staff and within the resources available, I intend to retain the capacity of the Defence Forces to operate effectively across all roles and to undertake the tasks laid down by Government both at home and overseas.

Departmental Legal Costs

Niall Collins

Ceist:

950. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Defence if he has sought and received legal advice outside the Office of the Attorney General; the number of times advice was sought per year in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013; the costs of outside legal advice per year in 2011, 2012 and to date in 2013; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34979/13]

The Chief State Solicitor's Office, Attorney General’s Office and the State Claims Agency deal with all legal matters on behalf of the Department. As such it would seldom arise that the Department procures the services of external solicitors and barristers directly. The following table only includes costs incurred by the Department in obtaining legal advices directly and does not include legal costs in relation to litigation cases which are mainly managed by the State Claims Agency and the Chief State Solicitor's Office.

Year

Name of Solicitors

Subject Matter of Advice Sought

Fee Paid

2011

AL Goodbody Solicitors

Legal advice in relation to a conciliation hearing between my Department and a building contractor.

€21,168.75, including VAT, was paid in 2011.

2012

Nil

Nil

Nil

2013 to date

Nil

Nil

Nil

While it possibly falls outside the terms of the question, for completeness, I would like to advise the Deputy that the independent selection committee for the Military Judge appointment sought legal advice arising from the 2010 Competition for the Military Judge. While the Committee is completely independent in its functions, the payment to senior counsel in respect of that advice in the amount of €9,075, including VAT, was paid in 2011 out of my Department’s Vote.

Air Ambulance Service Provision

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

951. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Defence his plans to expand the role of the Air Corps air ambulance service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35082/13]

There are no plans to expand the role of the Air Corps in the provision of Air Ambulance services. In 2005, the Department of Defence and the Department of Health completed a Service Level Agreement (SLA) which formalised arrangements for the provision of an inter hospital air ambulance service by the Air Corps. This SLA was renewed in October, 2011.

In addition to the inter-hospital agreement, a twelve-month pilot Emergency Aeromedical Support (EAS) service was established last year by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Defence and the Department of Health. The service commenced on 4 June 2012 and it is operated by the Air Corps out of Custume Barracks, Athlone. A full evaluation of the EAS service has been undertaken by an inter-service Audit and Evaluation Group and they have recently submitted a Report to my colleague, the Minister for Health. In order to give the Minister for Health an opportunity to consider the report and options for future delivery of a service, I have agreed to extend the Air Corps’ participation in the pilot for a period of up to three months.

Air Ambulance Service Provision

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

952. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Defence the number of aeromedical call-outs by the air ambulance based in Athlone since its inception; the number of patients transported for each category of emergency, including STMI patients; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35083/13]

From the commencement of the pilot Emergency Aeromedical Support (EAS) service on 4 June 2012 there were 299 EAS missions completed by the Air Corps up to 30 June 2013. These included cases of segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), trauma, medical, paediatric and other time-critical cases, as tasked by the HSE’s National Aero-Medical Coordination Centre. To date, STEMI and suspected STEMI related missions are estimated to have accounted for some 30% of completed EAS missions. A full evaluation of the pilot EAS service has been undertaken by an inter-service Audit and Evaluation Group and they have recently submitted a report to my colleague, the Minister for Health. I have agreed to extend the Air Corps’ participation in the initial twelve-month pilot for a further period of up to three months, in order to provide the Minister for Health with an opportunity to consider the report.

Naval Service Vessels

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

953. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Defence in view of the decommissioning of LE Emer in September 2013 and the LE Aoife in September 2014, if he will provide further details of the two replacement ships that are currently being built to replace them that are scheduled for delivery in early 2014 and early 2015, respectively; the persons building the new vessels and where they are being constructed; the length of time it will take for the crews to be fully trained in on the new vessels on delivery to Ireland; if the delivery of the two vessels is still on schedule to ensure the Irish Naval Service is not left for an extended period of time without use of replacement ships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35098/13]

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

954. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 216 of 22 May 2013, if he will outline in tabular form the qualified persons who will be assisting his Department and the Irish Naval Service in the sale of the LE Emer and LE Aoife vessels, including the methodology for the sale process, when the vessels are decommissioned in both September 2013 and September 2014 respectively; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35103/13]

Andrew Doyle

Ceist:

955. Deputy Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 439 of 9 July 2013, if he will provide the names of persons and their rank or position that assisted both his Department and the Irish Naval Service in the naming of the two replacement vessels to be commissioned in early 2014 and 2015, the LE Samuel Beckett and LE James Joyce; the reasons for a policy shift in the naming of Irish vessels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35104/13]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 953 to 955, inclusive, together.

A contract was signed in October 2010, with Babcock Marine, part of the Babcock International Group, in the United Kingdom for the provision of two new offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for the Naval Service. The cost of the two new ships is €108 million, exclusive of VAT. In addition, the cost of providing a weapons system for the ships, similar to the systems on LE Roisin and LE Niamh, is €7.8 million, exclusive of VAT. The two new ships are being built by Babcock Marine in Appledore, Devon in the United Kingdom, the same shipyard where both LE Roisin and LE Niamh were built. The build programme for the first ship is on schedule. The cutting of steel for the second ship has already commenced. The two new ships will be larger vessels than LE Roisin and LE Niamh with a length of 89.5 m. The ships will have a top speed of 23 knots and will have a crew of 44, plus the capacity to take 10 trainees.

The Naval Service will have a significant presence of experienced personnel in the Appledore Shipyard in the build up to the Harbour Acceptance Trials and the Sea Acceptance Trials on the ship scheduled to take place before the end of the year. This will allow the required time for personnel to build up familiarity with the workings of the new ship. As is the case with all new ships, the training process will continue when the ship arrives in the Naval Base in Cork and ongoing crew training will be part and parcel of normal patrolling.

On the issue of the decommissioning of Naval Service ships, the process for the selection of a qualified person-company to assist the Department and the Naval Service with the sale-disposal of LE Emer and LE Aoife is still ongoing and I am not in a position to give further details on the matter at this stage.

With regard to the change in naming policy for these new ships, I considered that the policy for naming Naval Service ships should be examined and I came to the view that the naming of the ships after world renowned Irish literary figures will facilitate greater recognition for our Naval Services when they are operating in the international maritime domain, particularly when they visit foreign ports. I am also of the view that the time is right for a change in our traditional approach of naming ships after Irish female mythological figures to an approach which reflects a more modern and inclusive Ireland.

Defence Forces Properties

Jack Wall

Ceist:

956. Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Defence his plans regarding development in the Curragh Camp, County Kildare; the position on unoccupied housing, housing stock, general buildings, barracks, and so on, in relation to repair, replacement or upgrade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35304/13]

My Department is engaged on an ongoing building programme designed to modernise and enhance the training, operational and accommodation facilities available to members of the Defence Forces. Under the building programme there has been considerable capital investment at the Curragh Camp in recent years. Between 2008 and 2012 my Department has spent in excess of €10.7 million on major building projects at the Camp with individual building projects costing in excess of €1 million as follows: New Armoured Vehicle Garaging; Refurbishment and Alterations to No. 4 Block, Plunkett Barracks; Refurbishment of Catering Centre, McDonagh Barracks; Refurbishment of Block 7, Connolly Barracks; Refurbishment of the Infantry School Building; Re-roofing of Military Medical Facility.

The Defence capital works provision has reduced over the last 5 years, from €25.6 million in 2008 to €6.24 million in 2013. The reduction in funding of 75.6% has significantly impacted on the number and scale of construction projects which it is now possible to undertake in any given year. Notwithstanding the constraints on the capital budget as outlined above, plans are presently being progressed for the provision of substantial additional facilities at the Camp as follows: the refurbishment of the ammunition depot so as to bring the complex into line with modern standards for such facilities. The conversion to natural gas consumption of the major energy consuming facilities in the camp. This is expected to generate significant savings when completed.

Expenditure on minor works, such as the resurfacing of roads and squares and refurbishment works, including the painting of buildings, is treated as current expenditure under the Building programme. Given the overall size of the Camp and the distribution and variety of buildings located within it, a significant portion of the budget for these works is expended on buildings located at the Camp. As with the building capital budget, the provision for such works has also been in decline in recent years, down from €14.95 million in 2008 to €7.460 million for 2013.

In relation to the married quarters housing stock, my Department has discontinued the practice of providing such accommodation as it has been found that over time the properties require a significant and disproportionate investment in order to ensure compliance with regulations regarding rental properties. Consequently in recent years there has been a sharp decline in the number of such properties in use with only 27 serving personnel currently occupying married quarters in the Curragh. Where such properties are located outside barracks, they are made available for purchase. Properties located within barracks are not for sale and are removed from the stock of available housing when they become vacant. There are no residential properties (former married quarters) vacant in the Curragh Camp which are currently habitable. From time to time the overall stock of housing within the barracks is reviewed and vacant uninhabitable properties are demolished where it is found to be necessary due to health and safety concerns, to make way for other facilities or in order to improve the layout of the camp generally.

Question No. 957 answered with Question No. 939.