Questions Nos. 1 to 35, inclusive, answered orally.

Questions Nos. 36 to 124, inclusive, resubmitted.

Questions Nos. 125 to 134, inclusive, answered orally.

Defence Forces Properties

Ceisteanna (135, 137)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

135. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Defence in view of the fact that the surveying, listing and ongoing monitoring of protected buildings in the Defence property portfolio falls within the remit of the local authority, the number of meetings and level of engagement that took place between the Defence Forces property section and Kildare County Council in relation to these matters over the past five years. [12969/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

137. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Defence the number of conservation architects and building surveyors employed by the Defence Forces property section; the person responsible for deciding when a building should be demolished; and the expertise that is relied on to support that decision, particularly in relation to protected buildings. [12933/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 135 and 137 together.

A small number of military buildings are included on the Record of Protected Structures of Kildare County Council. As there have been no plans to carry out material alterations to any of these protected structures my Department has not had the requirement to meet with the local authority in relation to these buildings within the last five years. I can confirm that as part of the ongoing process of managing the Defence property portfolio my Department monitors the Record of Protected Structures on an ongoing basis.

At present Conservation Architects are employed by my Department in relation to two projects, namely the restoration of the North Accommodation Block in McKee Barracks which is a protected structure, and the construction of a Military Archives Facility in Cathal Brugha Barracks. In most instances where external design teams are employed by my Department, the teams consists of an Architect (conservation qualified as necessary), a Structural Engineer, a Services Engineer and a Quantity Surveyor.

When it is proposed to demolish a building in a Defence Forces installation an application is submitted to my Department by the military authorities – each application is considered on its merits following consultation between officials in my Department and the Defence Forces Corps of Engineers before a final decision is made. To date no protected structures have been demolished by my Department or the Defence Forces.

Civil Defence

Question No. 137 answered with Question No. 135.

Question No. 138 answered with Question No. 131.

Ceisteanna (136)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

136. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself with the level of support available to the Civil Defence to deal with severe weather emergencies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12879/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Civil Defence has 4,500 active volunteers who are based across all local authority areas in the country. Civil Defence has a wide range of equipment available to the organisation to assist in responding to the effects of flooding and other forms of severe weather. This includes 88 Boats; 47 Fire Tenders; 9 Floating Pontoon Units; 130 Four Wheel Drive vehicles; 2 Tracked All-Terrain vehicles and specialist equipment such as portable pumps. At local level, under the Framework for Major Emergency Management, Civil Defence is very much integrated into the emergency response arrangements of local authorities, who have primary responsibility for severe weather response. In addition Civil Defence also provides supports to the Gardaí and HSE in their efforts to combat the effects of severe weather on communities.

At national level Civil Defence, along with the Defence Forces, is part of my Department’s representation on the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning.

Civil Defence training programmes, which include courses such as Water and Flood Awareness and Flood First Responder training, are intended to support the organisation’s ongoing involvement in severe weather response.

In that regard I want to compliment the over 500 Civil Defence volunteers who assisted the frontline emergency services in dealing with severe weather in many parts of the country in recent months. Civil Defence volunteers were engaged in a wide range of activities including evacuating people from flooded homes, water pumping, sandbagging, erecting flood barriers, monitoring water levels and transporting patients.

Since 2011, in spite of the overall budgetary situation, I have been successful in maintaining the allocation available for Civil Defence at more or less the same level. I have allocated €4.240 million for Civil Defence programmes in 2014. I will continue to ensure that an adequate level of funding is made available through the Civil Defence Branch of my Department to support Civil Defence efforts across the country.

Question No. 137 answered with Question No. 135.
Question No. 138 answered with Question No. 131.

White Paper on Defence

Ceisteanna (139, 828, 839)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Ceist:

139. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide an update on the White Paper on Defence; and if we can expect to see it published prior to the end of this Dáil session in July. [12873/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joe Higgins

Ceist:

828. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Defence the date on which the White Paper on Defence will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13482/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

839. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence when the White Paper on Defence will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13151/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 139, 828 and 839 together.

The development of a new White Paper on Defence is progressing well and I anticipate that a draft will be completed and submitted to Government for consideration in the latter half of 2014.

The publication of a Green Paper on Defence in July 2013 initiated a broad public consultation process, which was intended to inform the development of the new White Paper. This process generated 122 written submissions from members of the public and other interested parties.

As part of this consultative process, a number of people who made written submissions were invited to meet with civil and military staff of the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces. The purpose of these meetings was to provide an opportunity to certain individuals/organisations to elaborate further on their submission. It also allowed the representatives of the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces to explore aspects of these submissions. This part of the White Paper process has now been completed.

Discussions have also been held with other Government Departments on cross-cutting policy issues and likely future demands from Government bodies and State agencies. These discussions will continue, as required, throughout the White Paper process. The views of international organisations have also been sought with a particular focus on likely future trends in international peace support operations.

Working Groups comprising of civil and military representatives from the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces have been established. Having regard to the inputs received from a wide variety of stakeholders, they are considering future operational demands and the defence capabilities required to meet projected future operational requirements.

This ongoing work will underpin recommendations regarding defence provision for the next decade. It is necessary to ensure the development of an effective policy framework for defence and I am satisfied with the progress that has been made to date in this important work.

The new White Paper must have regard to potential challenges to our security as these may emerge into the future and it must ensure that Ireland has effective capabilities to deal with the range of defence roles required by Government.

Military Archives

Ceisteanna (140)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Ceist:

140. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Defence his plans to make changes to the military records regarding the death of a person (details supplied). [12875/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Firstly I would like to again extend my sympathies to the families of the deceased.There have been three separate official investigations into this tragic accident. The first of these was conducted by the Air Accident Investigation Unit of the Department of Transport. Their Final Report was published on 24 January 2012 which set out their findings. It found that the probable cause of the accident was the spatial disorientation of the instructor/pilot in conditions of poor visibility resulting in controlled flight into terrain. In May 2012 a Coroner’s Inquest was held into the deaths of the two crew members. The jury recorded an open verdict in relation to the instructor pilot and a verdict of accidental death in relation to the cadet.

The third investigation was a military Court of Inquiry which was convened by order of the Chief of Staff on 26 July 2012 and produced its report on 17 January 2013. The Court of Inquiry’s findings are consistent with the earlier investigations, namely that the probable cause of the accident was the spatial disorientation of the instructor who was piloting the aircraft in conditions of poor visibility at the time.

I received a series of correspondence from the family in which allegations were made in respect of a wide range of issues to do with the investigation of the tragic accident. I sought the advice of the Attorney General in this regard. I have fully considered the matter in the context of this legal advice and I am satisfied that a further investigation is not warranted into any issues relating to this tragic accident. I informed the family late last year of my decision in that regard. Officials from my Department also met with the family in early January to convey my decision and afford the family the opportunity to discuss their concerns. I have arranged to meet with the family again later this week.

I understand that the family feels that the content of the Court of Inquiry report introduces issues and opinions which, in their view raises questions concerning their son’s role in this tragic event. For the record, I would again like to reassure them that this line of argument is not supported in any report and has never been given any official credence. All of the reports agree that Cadet Jevens bore no responsibility of any kind for the accident. On 27 February 2014 a claim in respect of solatium and funeral expenses was heard before Judge Fullam in Galway Circuit Court.

Solatium refers to an amount of damages that can be awarded to the dependants of a deceased person. A Statement was read out in court on my behalf admitting the State’s liability for this tragic accident and an agreed sum in respect of solatium, headstone and funeral expenses was ruled.

There are 2 further cases in respect of this accident which relate to alleged negligence and personal injuries which have not yet been dealt with. As these matters are sub judice, it is not appropriate to make any comment at this time.

Ministerial Dialogue

Ceisteanna (141)

Pádraig MacLochlainn

Ceist:

141. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Defence when he last met with the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces. [12874/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I have met the current Ombudsman for the Defence Forces (ODF), Mr. Patrick Anthony McCourt, at a number of events over the recent past and generally discussed issues relating to his office. In the period since his appointment on 7 November 2012, a number of meetings have taken place involving Mr. McCourt and senior officials from the Department of Defence. In addition, there is ongoing contact between staff from the Office of the ODF, the Defence Forces and the Department to address issues as they arise. Meetings are arranged at official level on a regular basis to progress issues arising from cases investigated by the ODF.

Following the ODF’s most recent meeting with senior officials in my Department, I expect to meet him formally early next month. I have, of course, received a number of reports from the Ombudsman and appropriately addressed matters arising out of the reports received.

Army Personnel

Ceisteanna (142)

Mattie McGrath

Ceist:

142. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Defence if he will give a complete assessment of the future of Kickham Army Barracks, Clonmel, County Tipperary; if there are plans to relocate Clonmel Garda station to the barracks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13801/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Discussions are at an advanced stage for the sale of the former barracks in Clonmel to South Tipperary County Council and I expect that the sale will be finalised over the coming weeks. In that regard I would like to take this opportunity to thank Minister of State Tom Hayes for the constructive role he played in progressing the sale of the Barracks to the Council. In relation to the future of the Barracks, South Tipperary County Council are developing a Master Plan for the whole site in consultation with some other state bodies who have expressed an interest in the site. In this regard I understand that discussions have taken place with the Office of Public Works (OPW)/Garda Housing, Limerick IT and Tipperary Education and Training Board (formerly the VEC). I understand that the discussions with the OPW/Garda Housing relate to the possible provision of a District Headquarters Station on the site. Any future decision on the provision of this facility will of course be dependant on available funding from the OPW.

Proposed Legislation

Ceisteanna (143)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

143. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence when he proposes to update legislation on the Irish Red Cross; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13797/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Programme for Government provides for 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. To this end, my Department is continuing work on the review, in consultation with the Irish Red Cross Society. The review mainly relates to codification of the various legal instruments in effect since 1938. I anticipate, subject to Government approval, that a Red Cross (Amendment) Bill will be published during the lifetime of this Government.

EU Battle Groups

Ceisteanna (144)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

144. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No.12 of 6 February 2014, relating to Ireland's participation in EU battle groups, his views on whether the triple lock has been substantially weakened by the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006; and that if Irish troops are committed to take part in a war it is highly unlikely that they will only be involved for 120 days. [12967/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The statutory authority for the despatch of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force for service overseas as part of an International Force, is set out in Section 2 of the Defence (Amendment)(No. 2) Act, 1960 as amended by the Defence (Amendment) Act, 2006. is provision is commonly referred to as the “triple lock” and comprises three requirements namely:

- the authorisation of the operation by the Security Council or General Assembly of the United Nations;

- A formal Government decision; and

- the approval of Dáil Éireann.

There is no requirement for Dáil approval for the despatch of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force for service overseas as part of an International Force where that Force is unarmed or where the size of the Permanent Defence Force contingent does not exceed twelve members. Outside of such contingent deployments, members of the Permanent Defence Force may also be deployed outside the State on a range of other duties including training, humanitarian operations, fact finding missions, ceremonial duties etc under the authority of the Government in accordance with the provisions of the Defence (Amendment) Act, 2006, which formalised arrangements in this regard. e range of such duties are set out in Section 3 of the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006.

Deployment in the case of any Battlegroup operation will be for a period of 30 days extendable up to 120 days under the agreed EU concept under which Battlegroups operate.

Within the EU Battlegroup concept, the purpose of the Battlegroup, as a rapid response capability, includes the role of acting as an initial entry force to stabilise a situation pending the deployment of a follow-on force, to support an established peace support operation; and to respond to humanitarian crises. The Battlegroup is designed to respond to crisis management situations in support of international Peace and Security. Indeed, the United Nations strongly supports the development of the Battlegroups as a capability that could be made available by the Union in support of UN mandated missions.

As the Deputy will be aware, the EU does not have a common defence arrangement and as such there is no situation in which a Battlegroup could be committed to take part in any war, as is suggested by the Deputy. Moreover, in relation to Ireland’s participation in EU Battlegroups, the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006 has not in any way impacted on the triple lock mechanism. Any deployment of Defence Forces personnel to an overseas operation as part of a Battlegroup would be subject to the “Triple Lock” – UN Mandate, Government and Dáil Eireann approval in accordance with the Defence Acts 1954 – 2011.

EU Meetings

Ceisteanna (145)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

145. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence when the next meeting of EU Foreign and Defence Ministers will take place; the agenda for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13798/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Twice a year Defence Ministers attend the formal Foreign Affairs Council. The formal Council meetings are held in Brussels or Luxembourg at the invitation of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Catherine Ashton. Informal meetings of Defence Ministers are also held twice a year, one during each European Union Presidency. The next meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council with Ministers of Defence will take place in Luxembourg on Tuesday 15 April 2014. To date, we have not received the Agenda for this meeting, which will be issued by the European External Action Service in due course.

Defence Forces Properties

Ceisteanna (146, 809)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

146. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding the progress of the technical assessment of dwellings in the Curragh Camp; when the report is expected; if he will convene a multi-departmental meeting with representatives of the Departments of the Environment, Community and Local Government and Public Expenditure and Reform and Kildare County Council to discuss the way these houses can be used in the interests of both the Defence Forces and the Exchequer. [12968/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

809. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide an update on the technical assessment of the Curragh Camp dwellings; if he will consider organising a cross-departmental meeting to include the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, in addition to representatives from Kildare County Council, in order to discuss the future of these houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13083/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 146 and 809 together.

Again I am aware that this issue was discussed at the recent meeting Deputy Daly and yourself had with officials from my Department. As I have mentioned earlier an assessment of a select group of properties in the Curragh Camp is being completed. This assessment will inform the process of planning for the long term military use of these properties. These properties were formerly used as married quarters. The assessment will provide the Department with a cost per unit for the redevelopment of the properties for military use and will inform a decision on whether it is economically viable to restore and use the properties. The expectation is that given the currently unoccupied properties are for the most part uninhabitable with many in extremely poor condition the cost of refurbishment is likely to be significant.

As these properties are within the Curragh Camp the factors other than the cost of refurbishment per unit that will need to be considered in deciding whether or not to retain properties include:

- Proposals for the redevelopment of the Camp generally in order to improve the overall layout of the facilities.

- The requirements for Single Living In (SLI) accommodation within the camp both presently and into the future.

- Their potential for military use taking account of their configuration both internally and externally.

In addition, any restoration programme will be dependent on the prioritisation of capital projects generally across military barracks in line with available funding.

I will wait until I have received the results of the assessment before I make a decision on how to proceed. However, I must emphasise that any proposed development of former married quarters property at this key military location must in the first instance be considered from the military requirement perspective, therefore I do not at this time consider that it is appropriate to engage with other agencies regarding the future use of these properties.

Naval Service Vessels

Ceisteanna (147)

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

147. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Defence if he will provide an update on the commissioning of the new vessels for the Naval Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13469/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

A contract was signed in October, 2010 with Babcock International in the United Kingdom for the provision of two new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV’s) for the Naval Service. The first of the two ships to be called LE Samuel Beckett is a replacement for LE Emer which was decommissioned and sold late last year.The Sea Trials for LE Samuel Beckett are scheduled to take place in the UK shortly. Subject to the successful outcome of the Trials, the ship will be handed over to the Department of Defence and should arrive shortly thereafter. Details of the commissioning of LE Samuel Beckett into operational service will be finalised when the ship arrives in Ireland following handover. The second ship, LE James Joyce, a replacement for LE Aoife, is scheduled for delivery in the first quarter of 2015 and again details of the commissioning of the vessel into service will be made once the ship arrives in Ireland next year. LE Aoife will be decommissioned and sold later this year.

Defence Forces Operations

Ceisteanna (148, 821)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

148. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if he remains satisfied regarding the adequacy of training, equipment, supply and transport and communications throughout the Defence Forces in the Army, Navy and Air Corps with particular reference to their ability to respond in any emergency situation or natural disaster requiring heavy lifting equipment, air ambulance services and sea and air surveillance and rescue; the extent to which the command structure has been adequately identified to deal with such situations in consort with the civil authorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12936/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

821. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence the extent to which training for the Army, Navy and Air Corps continues to be upgraded in line with requirements in the event of a security incident or natural disaster; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13371/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 148 and 821 together.

My priority as Minister for Defence is to ensure that the operational capacity of the Defence Forces is maintained to the greatest extent possible.

Primary responsibility for the maintenance of law and order including the protection of the internal security of the State rests with An Garda Síochána. However, one of the roles assigned to the Defence Forces in the White Paper on Defence (2000) is to provide Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) which, in practice means to assist An Garda Síochána when requested to do so.

A wide variety of military training activities are specifically designed to counter or respond to possible security emergencies and the Defence Forces hold regular coordination and liaison meetings with An Garda Síochána in relation to ATCP issues.

In relation to non-security related emergencies, whilst the Defence Forces are not a Principal Response Agency as defined in the Framework for Major Emergency Management, they provide the fullest possible assistance to the appropriate Lead Department in the event of a natural disaster or emergency situation in its Aid to the Civil Authority (ATCA) role.

At National level, representation on the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning, by both my Department and the Defence Forces, ensures the fullest coordination and cooperation in the event of an emergency and that the command structure within the Defence Forces is compatible with the requirements in this area.

The Defence Forces are also represented on the eight Regional Working Groups that have been established under the Framework and, on an ongoing basis, designated members of the Defence Forces, based around the country, act as Liaison Officers to Local Authorities.

The full spectrum of Defence Forces personnel and equipment, commensurate with operational requirements, is available for deployments in response to emergencies and natural disasters.

In this regard, the Defence Forces hold a wide range of engineering and transport plant and equipment for military purposes. All such plant and equipment suitable for use in emergency situations is made available as the need arises.

In relation to the Naval Service, all vessels are multi-tasked in the sense that, in addition to their fishery protection role, they also undertake general surveillance, security, pollution monitoring, and Search and Rescue in support to the Irish Coast Guard, amongst other duties while on patrol. These activities assist in detecting and preventing emergency situations throughout Ireland’s maritime jurisdiction.

The role of the Air Corps includes the provision of an emergency inter-hospital Air Ambulance service in support of the HSE. It is also supporting the HSE in a pilot emergency aeromedical support service operating primarily in the West of Ireland. The Air Corps also has a maritime surveillance function undertaken by its maritime patrol aircraft and both it and the Naval Service provide support to the Irish Coast Guard in maritime Search and Rescue operations.

I am satisfied that Defence Forces personnel have a modern and effective range of equipment, including telecommunications and logistical equipment, needed to fulfill all roles that are assigned to them by Government in any emergency situations that may arise.

Naval Service Vessels

Ceisteanna (149)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

149. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Defence his policy on the naming of naval vessels; the reason for the change of policy in view of the commitments in the 20 year strategy for the Irish language; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12878/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I would like to assure the Deputy that the use of the Irish language by the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces is continually encouraged. In relation to the naming of the two new Naval Service ships, I considered that the policy for naming the ships should be examined. In doing so, I was of the view that the time was right for a change in our traditional approach in order to reflect a more modern and inclusive Ireland. I came to the view that the naming of the ships after world renowned Irish literary figures will facilitate greater recognition for our Naval Service when they are operating in the international maritime domain and when they visit foreign ports.

It is my view that the names LE Samuel Beckett and LE James Joyce portray a very strong sovereign link between the Irish State and the Naval Service and set the tone both domestically and abroad in reflecting on a more modern Ireland and Naval Service.

Army Equitation School

Ceisteanna (150)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl

Ceist:

150. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence his plans regarding the Army Equitation School; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13800/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The mission of the Army Equitation School is to promote the Irish horse through participation in international competition at the highest level. The Equitation School has discharged this task with considerable distinction down through the years and, through its participation and numerous successes in equitation events at home and abroad, it has successfully promoted the qualities of the Irish horse. Army riders competing on Irish bred horses provide an instantly recognisable symbol of Ireland at prestigious international events. In addition to its competition activity, the Equitation School continues to support the Irish horse industry and it encourages breeders and producers, who may have horses suitable for top-level competition, to have them assessed by the School with a view to their purchase or lease. I believe that the Army Equitation School is an emblematic feature of the Defence Forces and that it plays an important role in the promotion of Irish horses and the Irish horse industry. There are no plans to make changes to the operation of the Army Equitation School.

Defence Forces Reserve Strength

Ceisteanna (151)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

151. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Defence the number of members presently in the Reserve Defence Force; his policy on the reserve; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12877/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Reserve Defence Force is currently undergoing a period of reform following publication of the Value for Money Review of the Reserve Defence Force in November, 2012. Since then, there has been significant progress made in implementing its recommendations. New organisational structures for the Reserve were introduced at the end of March, 2013 and a large number of under-strength Units have been consolidated into a smaller number of full strength Units. In addition, the way in which Reserve Units are organised has fundamentally changed. Under the new structure, Army Units within the Defence Forces have both Permanent Defence Force (PDF) and Reserve Defence Force (RDF) components, as opposed to the separate parallel structures that previously existed. This revised structure has improved access to equipment, expertise and appropriate training for members of the Reserve. It has also allowed for a significant reduction in the number of PDF personnel required to administer and train the Reserve on a full time basis.

The Reserve budget has been rebalanced and funding previously allocated to gratuities has been redirected to increase the amount of paid training available to the Reserve. This will ensure that the revised organisational strength ceiling of 4,069 personnel is sustainable within the prevailing resource envelope. The Army Reserve now has an establishment of 3,869 personnel and the Naval Service Reserve has an establishment of 200 personnel. The implementation of other recommendations is ongoing and these changes will ensure the continued viability of the Reserve. These reforms will lead to a more streamlined, fit for purpose organisation with a more cohesive relationship between the PDF and the RDF. Ultimately, the recommendations of the VFM Review that are being implemented are intended to enhance the overall capacity of the Defence Forces to deal with a broad range of contingencies.

Information in relation to the numbers of effective members of the reserve are currently being compiled following the reorganisation. While this process is ongoing as records from units are updated and reconciled on the personnel management system, it is not possible to provide an up-to-date fully accurate figure for the current strength. The best estimate based on the returns reconciled to date is that the effective strength of the Reserve is in the order of about 2,500. The military authorities plan to induct up to 500 personnel to the Reserve (both Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve) in 2014. This will occur simultaneously with a recruitment campaign for the Permanent Defence Force and takes account of training capacity required to cater for these new personnel. I envisage that further recruitment to the Reserve will take place in 2015.

Commemorative Events

Ceisteanna (152)

Patrick O'Donovan

Ceist:

152. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Defence if there are plans for members of the Defence Forces to participate in upcoming events to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War at home and abroad; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13468/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The development of the commemorative programme for the centenary period, to include World War I, is being co-ordinated on behalf of the Government by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Mr. Jimmy Deenihan, T.D. I understand that these arrangements to mark the outbreak of the War are still under development.My Department and the Defence Forces are liaising closely with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in supporting commemorative events in Ireland and abroad to mark the centenary of World War I, where appropriate. In common with the many nations who share the history of World War I, it is appropriate that we acknowledge the service and loss of Irish soldiers in that conflict.

In this regard, the Defence Forces already play a central role in the annual commemorations at the National War Memorial Garden in Islandbridge and in the National Day of Commemoration ceremony in Kilmainham. Members of the Defence Forces have also participated in World War I events abroad, such as the Gallipoli commemorations in 2013 and the commemorative event held in Flanders last December with both the Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister in attendance.

In addition to the support and representation provided at national and international commemorations to mark World War I, requests for Defence Forces participation in events organised by local authorities and community groups are also received and considered, where appropriate. I am conscious however that the contribution made by the Defence Forces in providing ceremonial input should be limited to events of significant and national importance as to do otherwise would diminish the significance of their role in the more important State occasions.

Overseas Missions

Ceisteanna (153)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

153. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Defence the position regarding the withdrawal of the seven Army personnel remaining with the NATO ISAF forces in Afghanistan, in view of the fact that most other European countries have withdrawn their troops. [12965/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Ireland has participated in the NATO–led UN mandated mission in Afghanistan since 5 July 2002. On 25 June 2013, the Government agreed to continue to provide seven members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with ISAF for a further period from July 2013, subject to ongoing review by the Minister for Defence. On 20 December 2001, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1386 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorising the establishment of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The UN mandate for this mission was most recently renewed on 10 October 2013, and will fall to be renewed again on 31 December this year. As of the 20th February 2014, ISAF has a current strength of approximately 52,700 personnel drawn from 49 Countries. These include 21 non-NATO partner countries, including Sweden, Finland and Austria. In March 2011, the transition process whereby the Afghan security forces would gradually take on more security responsibility from ISAF was launched. On 18 June 2013, the final phase of the transition was instigated. This process is due to be completed at the end of 2014, when ISAF’s mission will end.

Ireland has participated in ISAF in Afghanistan since 5 July 2002, following the Government Decision of 2 July 2002, authorising the provision of seven (7) members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the force. Since then, the Government has reviewed and approved, on an annual basis, the continued participation by seven (7) members of the Permanent Defence Force in ISAF. The seven (7) personnel currently serving with the force are all located in ISAF HQ, Kabul and work in staff appointments in planning and administrative roles.

Defence Forces participation in all overseas missions is reviewed on an ongoing basis. The overall drawdown of ISAF personnel is currently underway and the withdrawal of the Defence Forces personnel will be coordinated in this context. While it is anticipated that Irish personnel will complete their service with the mission in September 2014, this will be kept under review in the context of the current proposed follow on training mission.

The current plan, post 2014, is that NATO will lead a follow on training advisory and assistance mission to support the development of Afghan National Security Forces capacity and provide sustained practical support for improving the country’s capacity to tackle security threats. This plan has yet to be finalised. The question of Ireland contributing to any follow on mission in Afghanistan will be considered in the context of what other contributing countries are planning. A key consideration in this regard will be the availability of adequate force protection assets and personnel to protect any such training elements.

Employment Data

Ceisteanna (154)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

154. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach the number and percentage of the workforce who are currently on zero hour contracts; and the number and percentage of workers on zero hour contracts in each of the main sectors of the economy. [13771/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) is the official source of estimates of employment in the State. Information on zero hour contracts is not collected in the survey.

Departmental Reports

Ceisteanna (155)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

155. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Taoiseach if he will provide in tabular form the reports-reviews-studies commissioned by him or his Department or agencies under the aegis of his Department since 9 March 2011; the date on which they were commissioned; the date on which they were completed; the date on which they were published; the cost of each; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12806/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The following table details the reports commissioned by my Department since March 2011.

Report

Date Commissioned

Date Completed

Cost

eCabinet Security Assessment (Not published - ICT security report for internal use only)

August 2011

November 2011

€11,495

Microsoft License Solution Analysis

(Not published - ICT security report for internal use only)

July 2013

September 2013

€2,560.37

In so far as the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) is concerned, since March 2011, two studies have been commissioned and published with the support of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government's Environmental Fund, details of which are provided in the following Table.

Title of Report

Date Commissioned

Date Completed

Date Published

Wind Energy in Ireland: The Challenge of Community Engagement and Social Support

July 2013

January 2014

This report will be published shortly

Ireland’s Environmental Data: Inventory, Assessment and Next Steps

November 2013

January 2014

This report will be published shortly

Departmental Reports

Ceisteanna (156, 157)

Niall Collins

Ceist:

156. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Taoiseach the number of external or internal policy reports currently that have been handed to him but not yet published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13038/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niall Collins

Ceist:

157. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Taoiseach when he will publish reports currently in his possession that have not been published to date; if he will outline in tabular form the reports involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13055/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 and 157 together.

The National Economic and Social Council's (NESC) role is to "...analyse and report to the Taoiseach on strategic issues relating to the efficient development of the economy and the achievement of social justice ..."Section 9(1), National Economic and Social Development Act 2006. NESC is independent in its work and analysis and reports are submitted to the Government for information before publication.

In this regard NESC Report No.136, Ireland’s Environmental Data: Inventory, Assessment and Next Steps was received in my Department last month and will be brought to Government shortly. The exact date for publication is a matter for NESC itself but generally this happens shortly afterwards.

Ministerial Staff

Ceisteanna (158)

Mary Lou McDonald

Ceist:

158. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach the number of civil servants engaged in constituency work on his behalf; and the salaries, accommodation costs and expenses involved or associated with these duties. [13691/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

There are two civil servants working in my Constituency Office.

The staff comprise one Executive Officer and one Clerical Officer and they are responsible for dealing with my constituency matters and correspondence.

The total of their annual salary cost is €76,304.

In 2013 the telephone costs for my Constituency Office was €6,335.

Undocumented Irish in the USA

Ceisteanna (159)

Tom Fleming

Ceist:

159. Deputy Tom Fleming asked the Taoiseach the progress that was made in his discussions with President Obama and senior American politicians regarding the plight of the undocumented Irish in the US, during his visit to Washington; the outcome of these discussions; the person who attended these meetings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13935/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I discussed immigration reform and the plight of our undocumented in many of my meetings and public engagements during my recent St Patrick’s Day visit to Washington DC. 

In addition to substantive discussion of the issues with President Obama and Vice President Biden, I also discussed the prospects for progress with a range of other members of Congress including Speaker John Boehner, Congressman Bob Goodlatte; Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee which has responsibility for immigration legislation in the House, Congressman Paul Ryan, the Congressional Friends of Ireland and Senator Patrick Leahy; the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that oversaw the passage of the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill last June. While in Washington I also called into a Republican Party St. Patrick's Day social gathering which provided me with a valuable opportunity to briefly talk to a number of Republican congressman about the issue and encourage progress.

I highlighted the need for progress on immigration reform in the speeches I made to influential audiences at the US Chamber of Commerce, the American-Ireland Fund Gala, the White House St Patrick’s Day reception, the Ambassador’s St Patrick’s Day reception and most importantly at the Speaker’s Lunch on Capitol Hill, where a large number of members of congress were present, in addition to the President, Vice President and Speaker Boehner, and where I called in the strongest possible terms for Congress to show leadership and deal with the immigration issue now. 

I was accompanied in these meetings by Ambassador Anderson and members of my delegation. Without under-estimating the political complexities that persist around the immigration reform discussion in the United States, I was encouraged to hear views from both Democrats and Republicans that there is now a growing consensus in favour of reform. I have instructed Ambassador Anderson and her team, working with the Irish American lobby groups who have already put in such a great effort, to continue their efforts to persuade members of Congress to seize this opportunity and make immigration reform a reality.

Programme for Government Implementation

Ceisteanna (160)

Billy Kelleher

Ceist:

160. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Taoiseach if he will provide an update in tabular form of the commitments in the programme for Government that relate to his Department; and the progress that has been made in the implementation of each commitment. [14121/14]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The full list of the Programme for Government commitments that come under the remit of the Department of the Taoiseach is set out in the Statement of Strategy 2011-2014 which is available on my Department's website.

Each year my Department, in conjunction with all Government Departments, publishes a report setting out progress made on the implementation of the Programme for Government. The third annual report was published just three weeks ago, on 4 March, and sets out in detail the substantial work carried out right across all of Government. A copy of this report can also be accessed on my Department's website.

The recent report sets out the progress made in implementing the commitments under my Departments remit including the introduction of a second set of Dáil reforms, the holding of a referendum on the Seanad, and the substantial work carried out by the Constitutional Convention.