Thursday, 5 February 2004

Ceisteanna (38, 39)

Brian O'Shea

Ceist:

35 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Defence if he will consider setting a target for female membership of the Defence Forces, in view of the continuing low level of female personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3305/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

60 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the number of women currently in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps; if this represents an increase or decrease over the past six years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3535/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 60 together.

The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women in the Defence Forces, including the Reserve Defence Force, and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities.

Women are eligible for service in the Army, Air Corps, Naval Service and in the Reserve Defence Force and to compete for promotion on an equal basis and under the same general conditions as those which apply to men. Female officers are generally being promoted at the same stage in their career as male officers. All female personnel undergo the same training and receive the same military education as their male counterparts.

The military authorities advise that the trend for general service recruitment has been that 9% of all applicants have been female and that on average 9% of enlistments have been female. It is obviously not possible to predict what the relevant percentages will be in any future intakes of recruits, but there is no reason to assume that this pattern will change to any great degree. Some 15.4% of applicants for the 2003 cadetship competition were female. Some 15.5% of successful candidates were female.

Under the terms of the Employment Equality Act, 1998, the Defence Forces is prohibited from introducing recruitment policies that discriminate on grounds of gender. In order to encourage increased participation by women in the Defence Forces I decided in March 1998 to reduce the height requirement for all female recruits to 5' 4" and this height requirement now also applies to male recruits.

The Defence Forces does however, take positive steps to encourage female applicants. Examples of these are: (a) advertising — where possible, all graphical advertisements and booklets produced for the Defence Forces show both male and female personnel and emphasise the fact that all applicants are assessed on an equal basis; (b) recruitment fairs — stands at recruiting fairs are generally staffed by male and female personnel; and (c) visits to schools — when the Defence Forces is invited to give talks at all female or mixed schools, every effort is made to have a female speaker.

Over the past six years, the strength of female personnel in the Defence Forces has grown from 244 at the end of 1997 to 484 at the end of 2003. In percentage terms this represents an increase from 2.11% to 4.61% of total strength.

The strength of females in the Defence Forces, as advised by the military authorities, is provided in the form of the following tabular statement.

Strength of Females in the Defence Forces

31 December 2003.

Lt Gen

Maj Gen

Brig Gen

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Capt

Lt

Total Offrs

Army

0

0

0

0

1

11

30

33

75

Air Corps

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

2

3

Naval Service

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

14

16

Sm

Bqms

Cs

Cqms

Sgts

Cpls

Total NCOs

Ptes

Cadets

Total

Army

0

0

3

1

10

87

101

206

15

397

Air Corps

0

0

1

0

0

7

8

9

1

21

Naval Service

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

44

5

66