Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Public Service Pay Commission Reports

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

1. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of the implementation of the recommendations of the Public Service Pay Commission's report on the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45895/19]

I am seeking an update from the Minister of State on the implementation of the recommendations of the Public Service Pay Commission's report on the Defence Forces. He will be aware that we have passed quarter 1 post-publication of the report. We need a detailed assessment regarding the Government's commitments under the report and the timelines in that regard. There is concern among the representative associations that while the report was published with great fanfare on the part of the Minister of State, he is not living up to his side of the bargain in terms of commitments. I ask him to set out the detail of what has happened and if all of the timelines have been met.

I have heard that language before from another party.

The Public Service Pay Commission, PSPC, report on recruitment and retention in the Permanent Defence Force, PDF, was accepted in full by Government. A comprehensive implementation plan entitled, Strengthening our Defence Forces - Phase One, was also published by Government.

The PSPC report recommended a range of measures that will result in immediate and future benefits for members of the PDF. The measures include: a 10% increase in military service allowance; the restoration to pre-Haddington Road levels of certain specific Defence Forces allowances; the restoration of premium rates for certain weekend duties; and the restoration of a service commitment scheme for Air Corps pilots.

These measures are currently being implemented following their acceptance by the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers, RACO, and the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association, PDFORRA, which is welcomed. These measures, which will cost, €10 million per annum are in addition to increases in pay which members of the PDF are receiving under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, the most recent being a 1.75% increase in annualised salaries from 1 September 2019.

The Government's plan also provides for further measures in the short, medium and longer term. It sets out timelines to deliver on the PSPC recommendations. This work, under my direction, is being prioritised by civil and military management and includes a review of pay structures in the PDF, led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the identification of pay-related retention measures, which is within my remit.  Both of these measures will be progressed within the framework of the public service stability agreement and future public sector pay negotiations.  A range of other pay and non-pay related actions are also being progressed.

Of the ten projects being led by my Department, civil and military, eight are up and running and are broadly on track.

These projects include a review of technical pay, which will affect enlisted personnel who are specialists. The review is well advanced, with an initial priority focus on technical specialists in the Air Corps, Naval Service and Communications and Information Services, CIS, Corps.

Options for incentivising longer service for certain non-commissioned officer, NCO, and officer ranks, in particular those with specialist skills undergoing a significant loss of experience, are being developed and this will feed into future pay negotiations.

There is also a range of non-pay projects, on which work is under way or due to commence. These include a review of recruitment methods, enhanced workforce planning, enhanced professional military education, bespoke leadership training, development of a mental health and well-being strategy, a review of barriers to extended participation in the PDF, the development of further non-pay retention measures and consideration of the provision of additional specialist posts in certain areas.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

I am confident that all of the measures contained in the plan, coupled with pay benefits being delivered by the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, will address the recruitment and retention challenges being experienced by the PDF.

However, it should be noted that as the Government's plan contains short, medium and long term measures, the full impact of these measures will take time to determine. There are also a range of external variables which impact on recruitment and retention, and which can change.

The capacity of the Defence Forces to undertake the tasks assigned by Government will continue to be carefully monitored having regard to the implementation of the recommendations of the pay commission and other actions which are under way.

I thank the Minister of State. The question relates to the outcomes of these measures. For example, what are the outcomes in the context of the incentivised long-term arrangement for NCOs and officers, the assessment of barriers to extended participation in the PDF, the examination of bespoke management training for leaders and management, the review of the well-being audit that was supposed to be have been conducted by 4 October 2019, the examination of additional specialists posts in certain areas and the review on tech pay, a matter about which PDFORRA is concerned? These outcomes are the measurement of the PSPC report. There is no point listing the general detail without giving the outcome of the measures which the Government committed to have completed by quarter 1 following publication of the report. The Minister of State has not provided outcomes. Rather, he has provided headline details. That is of serious concern because if he is failing in quarter 1, this whole process will collapse and he will lose the buy-in from the representative associations.

RACO and PDFORRA have accepted the independent pay commission's report.

I presume Deputy Jack Chambers would have preferred if they had not accepted it. Then he would have something to give out about. I am delighted they accepted it. I understand that the Deputy was not expecting it himself. Broadly speaking, for the majority of projects the times are currently being met. Of the 15 projects, five are being led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, of which four projects were dependent on acceptance of the pay agreement and of associated recommendations of the Public Service Pay Commission, which has now occurred. The fifth project, the review of pay structures, is a medium-term project being led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The remaining ten projects are being led by my Department, of which eight are up and running as follows. The review of technical pay, R2, is well advanced with an initial priority for the Air Corps, the Naval Service and the Communications and Information Services Corps, CIS. This was to be focused on one group but I insisted that we prioritise the three areas in which we have the most challenges, namely the Air Corps, the Naval Service and the CIS. Maybe if the Deputy thinks I should take one of them out, he will tell me which one. The project on the incentivised long service pay arrangement is progressing well. A draft report has been prepared and is currently under consideration with the Department of Defence and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Project R5 is nearing completion. Project R6 is progressing well and is on target for completion next year. Project R7 is on target and significant research is ongoing through the Defence Forces mental health and well-being working group. Project R8, the review of current retention strategies, is complete and research into the retention measures within the Permanent Defence Force, PDF, is nearing finalisation. The focus of the project has now moved to proposing further non-pay measures.

I have been speaking to representative associations. Of course they accepted the miserly increase the Minister of State gave them. However, we also have to look at the research from the pay commission which said that three in five will leave the PDF in the next two years. If the Minister of State and his team are not meeting the outcomes around retention initiatives that are listed in the specific timelines referenced in the pay commission process, the delays will result in bigger retention difficulties for our Naval Service, Army and Air Corps. The concern is that their answers are not being received for PDFORRA and RACO from the Minister of State's side of the House when it comes to the outcomes of these recommendations. The Minister of State can say that the reviews are ongoing and things are broadly on track but that is just nebulous nonsense. People are still leaving. The rate of attrition and the exodus are still ongoing and we have collapsing structures that have not changed since the outcome of the pay commission report. If the Minister of State wants a bit of praise about it, fine, but the outcome is that we are heading towards 8,000, which is far away from the target of 9,500. The failure and legacy of the Minister of State will be around how he has allowed the Defence Forces to collapse on his watch and also how he did not provide a pressing brief on his Department so that he matched the outcomes that are referenced in the pay commission structures.

The Deputy is totally incorrect. I would not call the public service pay allowances miserly. The military service allowance has increased by 10%. This constitutes a benefit to any individual of up to €675 per annum. Then we have the reversal of the cuts under Haddington Road, the security duty allowance, the patrol duty allowance, the weekend duty allowances, the explosive ordnance disposal, EOD, allowances, the Army Ranger Wing allowance and the peacekeepers' allowance. I do not believe any of these allowances are miserly. The Deputy has been in here for the last years talking about the duty allowance yet now that we have restored those allowances, he has never once welcomed their restoration. I know it does not suit his narrative, that is the way it is. He does not do good news.

The Minister of State does fake news.

He wants negativity and I presume that is what Opposition is all about. I am not going to deal in negativity this morning. I am not going to kowtow to the Deputy's sentiments. I will look at the positives of the Defence Forces and of being a member of the Defence Forces. The Public Service Pay Commission is a start and I have stated that. I know the Deputy does not want to hear the updates on the implementation plan.

I want the updates.

There are good updates. I asked the Deputy which one of the technical pay groups he would take out and he has not answered that question. I insisted instead of going for one that we would go for three, with the Naval Service, the Air Corps and the CIS. If we had gone for one it might be completed by now but I insisted that we go with three because we had three challenging areas. If the Deputy wants to take one out, he has failed to answer that question.

Defence Forces Personnel

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

2. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the situation within sections of the Defence Forces is so bad that the viability of those units is at risk due to the failure to address the exodus from the Defence Forces; and the immediate steps he will take to stem the tide of resignations of commissions and other ranks leaving the Defence Forces in large numbers. [45672/19]

The Minister of State is in charge eight and a half years now. If he is not aware of the dire circumstances within the Defence Forces he should be. It is so bad now that the viability of certain units is at risk because of the retention crisis.

The Government has acknowledged that there are recruitment and retention difficulties in the Defence Forces. As at end September 2019, the strength of the PDF was 8,654 personnel. As the establishment is for 9,500 personnel this means that there are vacancies in units. The Defence Forces are fully funded for 9,500 personnel. This has led to reduced operational availability in certain areas. This continues to be closely monitored and managed and safety remains a key priority for me.

The report of the Public Service Pay Commission on retention and recruitment in the Permanent Defence Force has been accepted by Government. It contains a broad range of recommendations to address recruitment and retention difficulties, some of which will provide immediate benefits to members of the Defence Forces. Immediate measures include a 10% increase in military service allowance, the restoration to pre-Haddington Road levels of certain specific Defence Forces allowances, the restoration of premium rates for certain weekend duties and the return of an incentive scheme to address pilot retention issues in the Air Corps. These measures, which will cost approximately €10 million per annum, have been accepted by the Permanent Defence Force representative associations and are in the course of being implemented. In addition, the report provides for an examination of pay structures in the PDF and the identification of other retention measures, which will be progressed within the framework of the public service stability agreement and future public sector pay negotiations. The report also contains a range of other recommendations aimed at improving workforce planning, recruitment and conditions of service in the PDF.

The Government has prepared a detailed implementation plan setting out timelines and objectives to deliver on the pay commission’s recommendations. Under my direction, this work is being prioritised by civil and military management. The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 provides for increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the agreement. The increases due to date under the agreement have been paid to members of the Defence Forces, the most recent being a 1.75% increase on annualised salaries from 1 September 2019. Further increases in pay are scheduled in 2020. I am satisfied that the range of measures being progressed, which provide immediate, short term and longer term actions, are an appropriate response to the current difficulties. It should be noted that it will take time to reap the full benefit of these measures. There are also a range of external variables which impact on recruitment and retention and which can change.

Like many others, I welcome the decision by PDFORRA to accept the miserly offer that was on the table. They had no choice but to accept it but that is not going to stem the tide that has occurred under the Minister of State's watch of those who are leaving the Defence Forces in droves, especially those with specific skills. I have asked on a number of occasions about the explosive ordnance disposal units and the Minister of State has said it is "inappropriate for [him] to comment on the disposition and specifics" of it. I am not trying to gain a State secret in questions I have put to the Minister of State about capacity. That capacity is so low now that men within the section are having duties of nearly 80 hours on a regular basis. What specific actions are being taken to ensure that the navy, the Air Corps, the likes of the military police and in particular the specialist units which require immediate support can be retained? What specific actions is the Minister of State going to take to ensure there are no more losses of men and women from those sections to the private sector, which is very glad of the expertise that is being offered because people cannot sustain their employment?

I would be the first to recognise that we have challenges within the Defence Forces, specifically when we have full employment. This is not the first time we have had challenges in the Defence Forces when there is full employment in the country because there are many more opportunities out there for people.

These are highly-skilled, well-trained and educated people who have been afforded fantastic opportunities within the Defence Forces. The private sector is seeking and targeting members of the Defence Forces. The Deputy will understand that when it comes to public sector pay, we cannot take one part of the public sector and increase salaries by 25% or 30%. I would love to be able to do that but public sector pay does not work that way. There is broad agreement on pay throughout the public sector. I was delighted that the Public Service Pay Commission recommended an increase in the military service allowance and the reversal of cuts implemented prior to the pre-Haddington Road agreement regarding specific duties. The peacekeepers' allowance was increased, the pilot retention scheme was restored and we are reviewing technical pay. The Department and the Defence Forces are looking at other non-pay issues around workforce planning, recruitment and longer service.

Everybody in the public service would, I believe, accept that there is a special case to be made for the Defence Forces because of the type of work they do, the hours they must work and their loyalty. The exodus from the Defence Forces does not have anything to do with full employment because members were leaving in droves even during the recession. It is a pity the Minister of State does not realise that. Members of the Defence Forces are leaving because they are not appreciated in the wages they receive and because of extra duties. I have still not heard anything from the Minister of State or the Government which would stem this tide. The Minister in charge of the Defence Forces is not the Minister of State but the Taoiseach and the ball falls in his court. I ask again what specific steps are being taken to prevent the further loss of men and women working in specialised areas on which the Defence Forces depend and full members of the Defence Forces and to ensure these members do not drift towards employment in Facebook, as military policemen have done, or on cruise liners, as some in the Naval Service have done, and into other areas of the private sector. How can society retain the Defence Forces in any shape or form or will numbers be further reduced as time goes on? RACO reckon that by 2030 Defence Forces strength will be down to 7,500 members.

I listed some of the issues in the Public Service Pay Commission. We have the pilot service commitment scheme, which is a response to one of the commission's recommendations. There is the review of technical pay. Measures in non-pay areas include hot-desking, family-friendly overseas appointments, measures for couples, career breaks, a shorter working year, coaching and mentoring, promotions, which are ongoing, overseas service, provision of professional military education, PME, for trainee technicians, external education and training, and overseas training. There is a range of opportunities for people who join Defence Forces.

I am the first to recognise that the Defence Forces is a very unique organisation. The Deputy is fully aware that the Public Service Pay Commission could not look at core pay. If it had recommended an increase in core pay, the Deputy would be the first man in this House jumping up and down looking for more money for everybody else.

That is Sinn Féin and Opposition politics.

Someone working for 100 hours should be paid for 100 hours but that does not happen in the Army.

I allowed the Deputy to speak and I ask him to allow me to reply to his question.

The Minister of State should not put words in my mouth.

I am not putting words in anybody's mouth.

He was and I responded.

There are to be no bilaterals, please.

The Deputy understands how public service pay works. That is one of the reasons we are preparing a strong case for the next round of the public service pay talks. That is important and unique because it is the first time we have done.

Pay should not have been cut the last time.

That is one of the reasons that I agreed to do this when I was appointed in 2016. I have been absolutely consistent on that for the past number of years.

Army Bomb Disposals Data

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

3. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will provide a report on the work of the Army bomb disposal unit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45896/19]

Will the Minister of State provide a report on the work of the Army bomb disposal unit and make a statement on the matter? Information has been given to me in recent days regarding serious concerns on staffing levels in the bomb disposal unit. Is the Minister of State aware of concerns about the capability of the Army bomb disposal unit? Is this an example of the collapsing structures we are seeing take place under his watch?

The Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána have primary responsibility for the internal security of the State. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces in the White Paper on Defence is the provision of aid to the civil power, ATCP, which, in practice, means to assist An Garda Síochána when requested to do so. The Defence Forces Ordnance Corps provides the explosive ordnance disposal, EOD, service within the State in support of An Garda Síochána in an ATCP role. The Defence Forces EOD teams respond when a request for assistance is made by An Garda Síochána in dealing with a suspect device.

Pursuant to their role in rendering aid to the civil power, the Defence Forces have a number of EOD teams on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to respond to requests received from An Garda Síochána for assistance in dealing with a suspect device or for the removal of old ordnance. The military authorities have assured me that they have responded to all requests for EOD support made by An Garda Síochána. The operational role of the Ordnance Corps is responsible for the removal and the destruction, at the request of the Garda authorities, of smoke floats, flares, explosives, landmines and other such explosive devices, which may have been washed ashore or otherwise discovered on State territories. The Defence Forces explosive ordnance disposal teams also deal with other types of call-outs, including the destruction of old grenades found by members of the public, unstable chemicals and suspected devices that are found to be hoaxes.

For reasons of operational security, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the disposition and specifics of the explosive ordnance disposal capabilities of the Defence Forces but I assure the Deputy that ongoing training takes place on a constant basis and there are also ongoing upgrades to equipment. For example, work to upgrade the explosive ordnance disposal robot is due to be completed before the end of 2019. The Ordnance Corps also provides the Defence Forces with EOD capability across its full spectrum of operations. This has included briefings and training of personnel deploying overseas and, recently, all personnel on career courses.

I am satisfied that the Defence Forces are equipped and resourced to respond, as appropriate, to any EOD call-outs.

I asked the Minister of State a very specific question on whether he was aware of any concerns about staffing levels in the Army bomb disposal unit and he failed to answer it. As he stated, the unit has operational and logistical responsibility for bomb disposal. The Minister of State lauded investment in explosive robotic technology. It seems he will have to look for more robots to replace personnel leaving the organisation as part of the exodus taking place under his watch. I have been informed that a number of members of the Army bomb disposal unit are on pre-discharge leave at present. This will create a vacuum as regards their specialties in the Army bomb disposal unit and they are not being replaced in sufficient numbers because there are no personnel with their specialist skillset coming through the ranks to replace them. Is the Minister of State aware of this? If so, what is he doing to address it? Have there been internal discussions about plugging the gap? While the Minister of State indicated he had met all his responsibilities regarding aid to the civil power, what about the specific difficulties the exodus from the Army bomb disposal unit will create in future?

For reasons of operational security, it would be totally inappropriate for me to comment on the disposition and specifics of the Defence Forces explosive ordnance disposal capabilities. I assure the Deputy, however, that any retention and recruitment challenges are prioritised and addressed so that the Defence Forces EOD teams can respond when requests for assistance are made by An Garda Síochána to deal with suspect devices.

As I stated, the explosive ordnance disposal service continues to train personnel. I would be the first person to say we have challenges in the area. These are highly-skilled and sought after personnel but we have regular training and we are introducing new members to the explosive ordnance team. It is only right and proper that we continue to do that.

The EOD service is available 24-7 to respond to requests from An Garda Síochána for assistance in dealing with suspect devices and the removal of old ordnance, which I addressed in my original question.

I am glad the Minister of State admitted there is a challenge and that he is aware of the serious skills shortage in the Army bomb disposal unit. While he is maintaining the headline that the unit is available 24-7, he has admitted it is below strength. The personnel are underpaid. The pay commission report does nothing to prevent from leaving those who should be staying. That is the real outcome of the report. There is now a vacuum in training and the skill set. While personnel are being trained, the experienced personnel in place will never be replaced.

There is a clear example from the coalface of the real outcome of the pay commission report. There are large numbers leaving the Army bomb disposal unit because they are being paid less than they would receive in the private sector. The Minister of State has not addressed the retention difficulties. The personnel are on pre-discharge leave. The Army bomb disposal unit will face a serious challenge if the exodus continues. The Minister of State needs to do more than simply read out the same waffle we have heard for years. It is the same White Paper waffle we have heard for years when it comes to the pay commission report. The reality on the ground is that the exodus is continuing. Specialist supports are diminishing and the capability of the Army bomb disposal unit to respond will be undermined if the Minister of State continues to keep his head in the sand.

The Deputy is totally incorrect. I never said anything to that effect. I said we have challenges. I realise the Deputy is in opposition and wants to expand on the meaning of challenges. While we have challenges, we are able to respond to all call-outs we are requested to make by An Garda Síochána in respect of giving aid to the civil power. If the Deputy is aware of an incident to which we were not able to respond, maybe he will tell me about it. He sits in silence.

The Minister of State should respond to the retention crisis.

He sits in silence.

Members of the Opposition should ask questions and the Minister of State should answer.

He will not respond to the questions.

The Deputy has absolutely answered my question. He sits in silence. That is all he can do.

Is the Minister of State denying the exodus?

I am saying we have challenges.

He is denying the exodus.

We are consistently and continuously training personnel. They are well equipped.

It is collapsing.

We are investing more in equipment than the Fianna Fáil Government ever did.

When I came into this job, the personnel were totally ill-equipped. One of my priorities was to re-equip them.

Robots over personnel.

Robots are very much part and parcel of that area. It is very important that we continue to invest in equipment.

Robots over personnel. That is the Minister of State's legacy.

European Defence Capabilities

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

4. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the relationship between Ireland and the Future Combat Air System, FCAS, and the European defence union. [45509/19]

I wish to ask the Minister of State about the relationship between Ireland and the Future Combat Air System, FCAS, and the European defence union.

I thank the Deputy for the question. Ireland does not have any relationship with the FCAS programme, which I understand is a programme operating outside the EU. Ireland does have a relationship with other EU member states in regard to the development of defence capabilities within the treaties as part of the European Defence Agency, EDA, and permanent structured co-operation, PESCO, which we signed up to recently. The EDA is focused on assisting member states in improving defence capabilities through European co-operation. The EDA affords EU member states the opportunity to keep track of best practice in modern technology in the development of capabilities, and supports greater efficiency and competition in the European defence equipment market. The primary reason for Ireland's participation is to support the development of Defence Forces capabilities for peacekeeping and international crisis management operations.

Ireland is involved in a number of EDA projects, including maritime surveillance, cyber, counter-IED, satellite communications and military search. Participation in all of these projects was approved by Dáil Eireann. Ireland is also involved in the EDA Smart Blue Water Camps project. This is a water management project that aims to address environmental concerns with regard to water usage on military bases.

Ireland is participating in two PESCO projects, namely, the European Union Training Mission Competence Centre and the upgrade of maritime surveillance. These projects relate to the ongoing development of Defence Forces capabilities for peace support and crisis management operations.

The establishment of PESCO represents a further development in EU co-operation in support of international peace and security under the Common Security and Defence Policy. Under PESCO, member states come together in different groups to develop and make available additional capabilities and enablers for peacekeeping and crisis management operations. Joint projects should also drive down the costs of developing and procuring capabilities.

Within the EU, it is accepted that defence and security comprise a national competence and that any decisions, including any deepening of EU co-operation, require unanimity. Through our participation in initiatives such as the EDA and PESCO, Ireland continues to have a strong and equal voice on defence issues within the EU institutions.

I thank the Minister of State for the reply. Ireland is not involved in the project. It is signed by Germany, France and Spain. It will be the largest arms project in Europe. I am asking my question in the context of some very disturbing speeches by the new President of the European Commission, Ms Ursula von der Leyen. She stated, "For us it is important that over time it becomes a real common European fighter jet system”. She also said, "It was not for nothing that we launched the European Defence Union and the European Defence Fund." Moreover, she stated, "We will have to develop a common European attitude, since we will harmonise our armed forces together in the European Defence Union", and, "I am firmly convinced that we will have an army of Europeans in the foreseeable future”. This is all in the context of a growing European militarisation agenda. Ireland's neutrality is being undermined. It is very much under threat. In the middle of all the speeches, we do not hear Ireland saying it is not part of this because it is committed to neutrality.

The Irish Government has never interpreted neutrality as meaning Ireland stands aside from international engagement. Rather, it is based on participation and strengthening our ability to make an effective contribution to the promotion of global peace, security and development. Whether through the United Nations, EU or its own bilateral actions, Ireland acts in an objective, even-handed way in accordance with international norms and the rule of law in international relations and is seen as both an impartial and effective actor in its international relations and in its support of international peace and security.

At every given opportunity, including at European Council meetings, I have continually highlighted Ireland's policy on neutrality. I have spoken to the Deputy about this at committee level. It is important that we highlight Ireland's policy on neutrality. Every country is different. Ireland changed the PESCO criteria to suit its traditional neutrality policy.

The reality is that there are genuine fears that the EU wishes to become a major military power. The air combat system has very significant funding. I saw a figure of €8 billion initially, but it could rise to €100 billion by 2040. I have had the opportunity, through the committee, to attend some of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Common Security and Defence Policy meetings. At the most recent one, in Helsinki in September, the final statement mentioned that EU defence co-operation should continue to be co-ordinated with NATO and to create synergies for both the EU and NATO. We are in a very alarming time, with increased militarisation and the push for the EU to be a major military power. The Minister of State says he is making statements, but they need to be very strong. Any statements coming out of these committees should refer to neutrality.

It is up to member states, including Ireland, to decide, in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements and the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon, whether to adopt a common defence policy. Any decision to move to common defence will require a unanimous decision of the European Council in the first instance, as provided for in the EU treaties. It would then be a matter for member states, including Ireland, to decide, in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements and the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon, whether to adopt a common defence policy.

Ireland remains constitutionally debarred from participation in any such EU common defence in light of the constitutional provisions in the Lisbon treaty protocols, which provide significant protection. Any decision to participate in a defence arrangement would require a decision of the people in a referendum. The protections provided in the protocols to the Lisbon treaty clearly state that Ireland must have a referendum and that the citizens of Ireland would decide the issue. The matter would not be decided by the Government.

People make statements for different reasons. That does not mean we agree with their statements.