Humanitarian Assistance Scheme

Ceisteanna (157)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

157. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the case of a person (details supplied); and his plans to review the limits for the Donegal humanitarian scheme in this case. [13075/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

In early September, 2017 the Government established an emergency humanitarian support scheme to assist small businesses and community, sporting and voluntary bodies in County Donegal which through no fault of their own were unable to secure flood insurance and were flooded following the exceptionally heavy rainfall of August 22 and 23.  A similar scheme was successfully operated countrywide in 2015/16 following Storm Desmond and another one is currently ongoing following Storm Eleanor at the start of this year.

The purpose of the emergency scheme, which was administered by the Irish Red Cross, was to provide a mechanism whereby those small businesses and organisations could apply to receive a once-off ex-gratia contribution towards the costs of returning their premises to their pre-flood condition. The scheme applied to buildings, contents, fixtures and fittings.

The scheme had two stages and the total level of support available for both stages combined was capped at €20,000. The first stage provided a contribution of up to €5,000, depending on the scale of damage incurred and following a quick verification process. The outstanding balance of amounts up to a maximum of €20,000 was paid to applicants following a detailed assessment of the application.

I have made enquiries with the Irish Red Cross and they have confirmed that the Donegal business in question is a property owner/landlord and has received the maximum amount of €20,000 that was available under the scheme. 

The scheme was established to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to small business owners to allow them to resume operating as quickly as possible.  There are no plans to review the funding limits for the scheme at this stage.

Defence Forces Personnel

Ceisteanna (158)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

158. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of promotional positions waiting to be filled throughout the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13107/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Government is committed to maintaining a strength level of 9,500 personnel for the Permanent Defence Force (PDF). This comprises 7,520 Army, 886 Air Corps and 1,094 Naval Service personnel, as stated in the 2015 White Paper on Defence.

I am advised by the Military Authorities that the strength of the Permanent Defence Force as of 31 January 2018, was 9,138 (Whole Time Equivalent).

The table outlines the promotional posts vacant within the PDF, by Army, Air Corps and Naval Service as at 31 January 2018, the latest date for which such figures are available.

The manpower requirement of the Defence Forces is monitored on an ongoing basis in accordance with the operational requirements of each of the three services. In this regard, promotions are ongoing within the Officer ranks in order to fill rank vacancies. The interview stage of the competition, to fill vacancies to the ranks of Sergeants and above, has taken place over the last few months. Vacancies are currently being filled from this competition. It is my intention that targeted recruitment along with promotions will continue to be carried out within the resource envelope allocated to Defence.

PDF vacancies as at 31 January 2018

 

Col

Lt Col

Comdt

Captain

SM

BQMS

CS

CQMS

Sgt

Cpl

Army

-1

7

2

26

0

0

9

17

207

99

Air Corps

1

-1

 - 2

25

0

0

-1

0

25

48

Naval Service

1

0

-7

28

0

0

1

0

56

33

Total

1

6

-7

79

0

0

9

17

288

180

* There are currently 77 Army Cadets, 38 Air Corps Cadets and 24 Naval Service Cadets in training.

** Some overseas appointments are currently not filled.

Note:

Equivalent Naval Service Ranks

Lieutenant Colonel/Commander

Commandant/Lieutenant Commander

Captain/Lieutenant (NS)

Sergeant Major/Warrant Officer

Battalion Quartermaster

Sergeant/Senior Chief Petty Officer

Company Quartermaster Sergeant/Senior Petty Officer

Company Sergeant/Chief Petty Officer

Sergeant/Petty Officer

Corporal/Leading Seaman

Defence Forces Training

Ceisteanna (159, 162)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

159. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which Army, Naval Service and Air Corps training continues to be in line with modern and international best practice; if particular procedures are shown to be in need of updating; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13108/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

162. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the degree to which training of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps including Reserves is scheduled in the course of the next three years; the extent to which such ongoing training meets international best practice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13111/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 and 162 together.

The primary function of training and education in the Defence Forces is to develop and maintain the capabilities necessary to enable it to fulfil the roles laid down by Government.

The Defence Forces conduct training and education under four broad categories namely; Leadership, skills, career and collective training. Leadership training is the medium through which the Defence Forces ensure that personnel are prepared for exercising command authority across the full range of military functions both at home and overseas in International operations. Skills training is the medium through which the Defence Forces ensure that its personnel have the requisite individual, specialist, and crew skills. Career training and education provides the organisation with the necessary pool of leaders and commanders at all levels. Collective Training allows military personnel to use their individual, crew, specialist and career training together, to develop integrated and coherent combat forces.

The scheduling of training in the Defence Forces, including the Reserve, is underpinned by an analysis of training needed to meet operational output requirements and capability development needs. A long term strategy is adopted with current planning horizons out to 2021.

I am advised that the Defence Forces seek to constantly benchmark training across all three arms against best military and academic practice. Military best practice is ensured by implementing a policy of standardisation that is in line with EU and NATO/Partnership for Peace partners. Academic best practice is ensured by benchmarking courses through accreditation under the National Framework of Qualifications which is validated by Quality and Qualifications Ireland.

The Defence Forces deliver military programmes and modules meeting national and international standards. The Defence Forces also engage with external educational institutions in order to facilitate organisational learning. This engagement with national and international educational institutions, military and civilian, aims to ensure that the Defence Forces retain currency with regards to best international practice and employ all relevant modern training methods.

I am committed to ensuring that the personnel of the Defence Forces continue to be trained to appropriate standards.

Defence Forces Personnel Data

Ceisteanna (160)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

160. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of women in each branch of the Defence Forces at all ranks; the extent to which these numbers have fluctuated in each of the past five years to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13109/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The number of female personnel (Whole Time Equivalent) serving at all ranks in the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service over the last five years is set out in the table below, together with the current strength as of 31 January 2018:

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Army

450

464

458

476

496

482

Air Corps

31

35

33

33

34

35

Naval Service

65

64

61

59

70

70

Total

546

563

552

568

600

587

The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women throughout the Defence Forces and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities. This is underlined by a commitment in the Programme for Government to increase the level of female participation in the Defence Forces.

The Defence Forces have no restrictions with regard to the assignment of men or women to the full range of operational and administrative duties, and all promotions and career courses are open to both sexes on merit.

Departmental Budgets

Question No. 162 answered with Question No. 159.

Ceisteanna (161)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

161. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which the budget available to his Department remains sufficient to meet requirements in the course of 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13110/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The total gross budget allocation for the Defence and Army Pensions Votes in 2018 is over €946 million. This allocation provides for the pay and allowances of members of the Defence Forces as well as Civil Servants and Civilian Employees of the Department, ongoing Defence Forces standing and operational costs and also facilitates investment in essential equipment and infrastructure. It also provides for the payment of pension entitlements to former members of the Defence Forces.

The budget allocation allows the Defence Forces to deliver on all their assigned roles, both at home and overseas, as set out in the White Paper on Defence.

Question No. 162 answered with Question No. 159.

Defence Forces Equipment

Ceisteanna (163, 164)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

163. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which the Defence Forces are adequately equipped to deal with emergencies in respect of which they might be called upon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13112/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

164. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which specialist skills in dealing with security threats remain available to the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13113/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 163 and 164 together.

My priority as Minister with Responsibility for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Defence Forces is maintained to the greatest extent possible to enable the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.

At National level, representation on the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning by both the Department of Defence 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.

In accordance with the Framework for Major Emergency Management, primary responsibility for responding to emergencies such as severe weather events or terrorist attacks rests with the three designated principal response agencies, namely, the relevant Local Authority, An Garda Síochána, and the Health Service Executive. The Defence Forces provide the fullest possible assistance to the appropriate Lead Department in the event of a natural disaster or an emergency situation in its Aid to the Civil Authority and Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) roles. Major Emergency Plans have been developed by local and regional authorities and these Plans identify the procedures for requesting assistance from the Defence Forces.

I also wish to assure you that the Defence Forces retain a wide range of specialist skills and equipment. The full spectrum of Defence Forces personnel and equipment are available for deployment in response to any emergencies that may arise. The Operations Directorate in Defence Forces Headquarters manages the necessary cross-service coordination in responding to requests for support.  In this context, the security environment is kept under constant review.  An Garda Síochána can request a broad range of specialist supports from the Defence Forces including Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams and the Army Ranger Wing.  These arrangements have proved effective in all emergencies encountered to date.

The acquisition of new equipment for the Defence Forces remains a clear focus for me. Future equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment priorities planning process and I wish to assure you that significant investment in equipment is taking place in the coming years in this context.

I am committed to ensuring that the personnel of the Defence Forces continue to be equipped and trained to best international standards and I can confirm that the Defence Forces keep their operational plans and response capabilities for dealing with a wide range of threats under constant review. I am satisfied that the Defence Forces are equipped and resourced to respond, as appropriate, to any such events were they to occur in this State.

Search and Rescue Service Provision

Ceisteanna (165)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

165. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which the Air Corps and Naval Service continue to cooperate in air and sea rescue missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13114/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Defence Organisation provides a broad range of services in accordance with its primary security role while it also undertakes a diverse range of non-security-related tasks.

With reference to Search and Rescue, since 2004 the Irish Coast Guard has overall responsibility for the provision of Search and Rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue region. Both the Naval Service and the Air Corps provide support to the Irish Coast Guard in maritime Search and Rescue operations on an “as available” basis. A Service Level Agreement is in place setting out their roles and responsibilities in this regard.

The Defence Organisation will continue to provide support, as available, to the Irish Coast Guard in respect of Coast Guard Search and Rescue operations.

Defence Forces Deployment

Ceisteanna (166)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

166. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to participate with other European countries engaged in peace keeping and or peace enforcement throughout the EU and other countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13115/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

As of 1 March 2018, Ireland is contributing 586 personnel to 9 different missions throughout the world. The main overseas missions in which Defence Forces personnel are currently deployed are the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with 377 personnel and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Syria with 135 personnel.

Other missions in which Defence Forces personnel are currently deployed are the EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) with twenty (20) personnel; the EUFOR mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina with five (5) personnel; the NATO-led international security presence (KFOR) in Kosovo with twelve (12) personnel and the EU Common Security and Defence Policy naval mission in the Mediterranean, Operation Sophia with four (4) personnel.  Ireland also has observers and staff in several United Nations, EU and OSCE posts.

In February 2018, I secured Government approval for the deployment of a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force to serve once again as part of Operation Sophia.  Arrangements are currently being made for two Irish naval vessels to deploy consecutively under rotation for a period of approximately 30 weeks in total.  

With regard to any future deployments of Defence Forces personnel overseas, Ireland receives requests from time to time in relation to participation in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis.  In addition at both Ministerial and official level, there is continual engagement relating to current peacekeeping missions particularly with other EU countries.

Due to Ireland's current level of commitment in overseas peacekeeping operations, notably to UNDOF and UNIFIL, we are not in a position to make any significant commitment to other missions at this time.

The current contribution of some 586 personnel to overseas missions reflects the Government’s continued commitment to our responsibilities in the area of international peace and security.