Ministerial Meetings

Ceisteanna (54)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

54. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he has met or plans to meet with the whistleblower that produced the protected disclosure outlining the deaths of 56 members of the Defence Forces. [10203/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I appointed an independent third party to review allegations made in a number of protected disclosures relating to health and safety issues in the Air Corps which were received in late 2015 and early 2016.

I sent the report of the independent third party to those who had made disclosures for their views.  I have also received further correspondence from one of the individuals, setting out concerns in relation to a series of deaths.  I have previously met with this individual to listen to his concerns.  I am considering the next steps in the process having received the views of those who made disclosures and in the context of ongoing litigation. 

Given that context, I have requested further legal advice in relation to the matter.  Once I have received that legal advice and am in a position to decide on the next steps in the process, I would be open to meeting the individual at that point.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Ceisteanna (55, 69)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

55. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his recruitment plans for 2018; the extent to which it is planned to increase the strength of the Defence Forces in the course thereof; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10389/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

69. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the allocation to his Department for the purposes of recruitment of Defence Forces personnel in 2018; and if he has requested an additional allocation to meet the costs of recruitment in the Defence Forces. [10204/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 69 together.

It is anticipated that in the region of 800 personnel, comprising of General Service Recruits, Apprentices, Cadets and Direct Entry Officers will be recruited to the Permanent Defence Force in 2018. A competition for Air Corps Aircraft Technicians was launched on 2 March 2018 and plans for the initiation of further competitions are currently being finalised.

The White Paper on Defence sets out the roles assigned to the Defence Forces by the Government and the associated capability requirements. The Government is committed to maintaining the strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel, as set out in the White Paper on Defence, and has provided sufficient funding for this strength level.

Defence Forces Reports

Ceisteanna (56)

James Browne

Ceist:

56. Deputy James Browne asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the actions being taken in the Defence Forces to address the findings in the recent climate survey in relation to stress experienced by personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10195/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Defence Forces Climate Survey was commissioned on foot of a recommendation contained in the third and most recent Report of the Independent Monitoring Group (IMG), which was established to oversee implementation of recommendations relating to harassment, bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment in the Defence Forces. The issues highlighted in last year’s focus group report included a wide range of issues relating to human resource management such as pay (particularly for the lower paid), vacancies, recruitment and retention, promotion systems, performance management, leadership, culture, morale, stress and work-life balance.

The report pre-dated the significant improvements in pay that have taken place in the intervening period. The Defence Forces Representative Associations have also signed up to the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 which will see further pay increases ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the agreement.

While work to progress many of the other issues raised was already underway as part of the implementation of the White Paper on Defence, I directed that certain White Paper projects be brought forward and that work commence on these. I also initiated a review of the C&A scheme which is underway.

There are extensive support systems in place for members of the Defence Forces who may be experiencing stress. Personnel can avail of the Defence Forces Personnel Support Service (PSS) which provides psycho-educational skills training including: stress management, well-being, suicide and self-harm mitigation, and critical incident peer support. It also provides confidential services including Critical Incident Stress Management and psychosocial support, which is available to all Defence Forces personnel through its network of Barrack Personnel Support Service Officers (BPSSO) and occupational social workers (OSW) at formation, unit and barrack level. The PSS also supports contingents before, during and after overseas deployments.

A cohort of Designated Contact Persons (DCPs) provide a local advisory and referral service at barrack level to their colleagues with a particular focus on recruits and new entrants.

A confidential counselling service, provided by an independent service provider and funded by my Department, is available to all members who can access this service by calling a free phone number. A counsellor is available to talk, provide information, discuss needs and advise on follow up counselling. Face to face counselling can also be provided if required.

I am satisfied that these measures provide comprehensive supports to individuals in the Defence Forces who may require such supports.

Defence Forces Remuneration

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 35.

Ceisteanna (57, 67)

Lisa Chambers

Ceist:

57. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on the recent decision of the European Committee of Social Rights regarding the entitlement of Defence Forces members to better collective bargaining and negotiating rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10384/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

67. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on the implications of the ruling of the European Committee of Social Rights to allow the Defence Forces troops affiliate to a trade union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10197/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 67 together.

The European Committee of Social Rights has considered a complaint submitted by EUROMIL, a European umbrella body for military associations, on behalf of PDFORRA, concerning the lack of certain rights for military representative associations in Ireland.

In a non-binding ruling, the Committee has concluded that prohibiting military personnel from the right to strike was not in breach of the European Social Charter, but that the Charter was breached by prohibiting the representative associations from affiliating with a national employee organisation, such as ICTU, and in respect of the right to bargain collectively.

The Government welcomes the conclusion of the European Committee of Social Rights that the prohibition on the right to strike for members of the Defence Forces is not a violation of the European Social Charter.

The Government takes great pride in the dedication of the men and women of our Defence Forces and the enormous contribution which they make to domestic security, international peacekeeping and a broad range of supports to the civil authorities. The Defence Forces have provided valuable support on many occasions to the civil authorities in maintaining vital services. This was seen most recently in the response to the severe weather event. In this regard, I wish to record my thanks to members of the Defence Forces, Civil Defence volunteers, civil servants and civilian employees for their particular contribution.

It is critically important that the Defence Forces are fully operational at all times. A key concern is that such affiliation with a national organisation would carry obligations that would be incompatible with military operations and the roles assigned to the Defence Forces.

Members of the Defence Forces have a range of parallel complaint and adjudication mechanisms in law to compensate for the limitations on their access to the normal industrial relations machinery, which applies in wider society. This includes a redress of wrongs, a Defence Forces Ombudsman and a Conciliation and Arbitration scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force.

The C&A scheme, since its inception in the early 1990’s has provided the framework to progress many successful negotiated agreements between Defence management and the PDF Representative Associations. However, there have been many changes in the industrial relations landscape in the intervening period. In this regard I have initiated a fundamental review of the scheme to ensure that it remains efficient and effective for all parties.

I have appointed Mr. Gerard Barry to conduct the review. While the focus of the review will be primarily on the operation of the Permanent Defence Force C&A scheme, I have directed that the review considers the findings of the European Committee of Social Rights and this is incorporated into the terms of reference. It would not be appropriate at this stage to pre-empt any conclusions arising from the review.

Question No. 58 answered with Question No. 35.

Defence Forces Equipment

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 43.

Ceisteanna (59)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

59. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans for the acquisition of a multi-role vessel at a cost of approximately €200 million; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10208/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

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 so as to enable the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.

The most significant investment of recent years by the Defence Organisation has been on the procurement of the new Off-Shore Patrol Vessels for the Naval Service.  This programme has seen the delivery of three new naval Service vessels since 2014.  The LÉ Samuel Beckett was commissioned in May 2014, LÉ James Joyce was commissioned in September 2015 and LÉ William Butler Yeats was commissioned into service in October 2016. 

In June 2016, a contract for an additional sister ship was agreed, bringing investment in the new ships programme to some €250 million since 2010.  The fourth ship, to be named LÉ George Bernard Shaw, is scheduled for delivery later this year.

The requirement for this fourth ship is regarded as urgent and expedient given the age of the older remaining ships in the fleet, LÉ Orla, LÉ Ciara and LÉ Eithne all of which are over thirty years of age. 

This additional ship will allow the Naval Service meet its patrol day targets with due cognisance to the significant additional operational requirements for the Naval fleet in the Mediterranean Sea.

The White Paper provides for the replacement of the current Naval Service flagship LÉ Eithne with a multi role vessel (MRV). It is the Government’s intent that this new vessel will provide a flexible and adaptive capability for a wide range of maritime tasks, both at home and overseas.

The acquisition of a modern vessel will ensure that the operational capabilities of the Naval Service, as the State’s principal seagoing agency, are maintained to the greatest extent and takes account of the overall policy approach in the White Paper on Defence.

Planning has commenced on this project and it is intended to hold a public tender competition in due course to cover the supply of the MRV.  The design and configuration of the vessel, including the approach to helicopter flight operations, will be considered as part of the planning process.  This procurement is, of course, subject to the availability of funding within the overall Defence capital funding envelope. The cost of the MRV will only be known once the tender competition is concluded.

Question No. 60 answered with Question No. 43.

Commemorative Medals

Ceisteanna (61)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

61. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to award a commemorative medal for 1916 to all former members of the Defence Forces in recognition of their service to the State. [8131/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

As the Deputy will be aware, the Programme for Government provided for the award of a commemorative medal to all Defence Forces personnel, Permanent and Reserve, who were recorded as being in service in the course of 2016. This was a special acknowledgement from the Government to the members of Óglaigh na hÉireann, both Permanent and Reserve, who served during the centenary year of 2016. The 1916 Centenary Commemorative Medal was awarded as a commemorative medal, personal to an individual’s service in the Defence Forces in the course of 2016. 

There are no plans to award the 1916 Centenary Commemorative Medal to former members of the Defence Forces.  Since the foundation of the State many thousands of personnel have served in the Defence Forces.  It would not be administratively possible within the resources of the Department to identify and contact all of these persons, decide on eligibility and, in the case of infirm or deceased former members, resolve who should get the medal on their behalf.

At my request, however, discussions took place between the Department and the Veterans’ Associations; the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA), the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel (ONE), and the Association of Retired Commissioned Officers (ARCO), to explore alternative means of recognition of the contribution of veterans to the centenary commemorative events in 2016. 

Following these discussions, it was agreed that a single presentation would be made to each of the Veterans Associations of a framed medal with an accompanying citation in recognition of the significant contribution of members of the three organisations to the 1916 centenary commemorative events and their service to the State. The medal has a bar with the term Veteran inscribed on it.  I agreed that a plaque would be given to each of IUNVA’s 21 Posts and to each of O.N.E.’s 41 Branches.  I presented one plaque to each of the three Veterans’ Associations at the Defence Forces’ Veterans’ Day which took place in the Defence Forces Training Centre, the Curragh, on Sunday 8 October 2017. The other plaques were presented separately.

Civil Defence Training

Ceisteanna (62, 65)

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

62. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the policies in place to ensure that Civil Defence volunteers are given the correct training to effectively deal with extreme weather patterns across the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12622/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brian Stanley

Ceist:

65. Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if training will be provided to Civil Defence personnel to equip them to deal with extreme weather events such as the recent heavy snowfall; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12621/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 62 and 65 together.

On behalf of the government I want to acknowledge the excellent work undertaken by Civil Defence during Storm Emma and the recent heavy snowfall. Over 350 Civil Defence volunteers, using the range of assets available, provided support to the Principal Response Agencies during the course of the Storm and its aftermath.  Actions undertaken by Civil Defence included bringing patients and staff to and from hospitals; bringing nurses and home helps out to visit vulnerable people; delivering food, fuel and medicines to elderly people in their homes; transporting urgent medical supplies; assisting An Garda Síochána and assisting the transport services.

Under the Framework for Major Emergency Management, the local authorities have primary responsibility for dealing with severe weather and flooding. Civil Defence have provided great support to the local authorities in dealing with these type of emergencies not just during Storm Emma but also, for example, during last year’s flooding both in Mountmellick, Co Laois and in Inishowen, Co Donegal.

The 2015 White Paper on Defence sets out government policy in relation to Civil Defence. It states that the future of Civil Defence will continue to be developed around its central strategic objective of supporting the Principal Response Agencies in a number of emergency and non-emergency situations. This includes a wide range of emergencies at national and local level including severe weather, flooding and searches for missing persons.

The Department of Defence is charged with the management and development of Civil Defence at national level. The Department provides policy direction, centralised training through the Civil Defence College, administrative support and guidance and centralised procurement of major items of uniform and equipment in support of local authority Civil Defence efforts.

Civil Defence is funded by way of a grant from the Defence Vote. Funding for Civil Defence operations at local level is shared on a 70/30 basis between the Department of Defence and local authorities by way of an annual grant to each authority.

Civil Defence services are delivered through the Civil Defence Officer (CDO) of the relevant Local Authority for that area. The CDO is a full time employee of the local authority and is responsible for the day-to-day management of Civil Defence matters under the overall direction of the relevant Chief Executive. Volunteers join Civil Defence through the local authority for their area and undergo relevant training to deliver activities required by the local authority and the other principal response agencies.  A number of volunteers may progress and qualify as Civil Defence Instructors.

The Civil Defence College, which is part of my Department, is recognised as a training institution by regulatory bodies such as the Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (PHECC) and by Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI).  Training in a wide variety of programmes is provided by the College to the Civil Defence Volunteer Instructors.  When trained, Instructors return to their respective local authority areas and provide training to the Volunteers based there.

The wide range of roles undertaken is what makes Civil Defence unique among volunteer based emergency response organisations. For this reason, a very wide range of training is provided within Civil Defence. This includes training in first aid up to Emergency Medical Technician level, training in manual handling and people handling, search management training, swiftwater training, map reading, child protection, food preparation, radiation monitoring, pump operation, sandbagging, powerboat operation, use of drones, Critical Incident Stress Management, radio communications, setting up rest centres etc.

The training needs for Civil Defence are kept under review to ensure that the organisation can continue to provide effective support to the Principal Response Agencies in dealing with a variety of emergency and non-emergency situations. This includes assisting the local authorities in dealing with severe weather. My Department will be undertaking a review of Civil Defences response to the recent severe weather in conjunction with Civil Defence Officers from around the country. This review will help identify any needs for additional training or equipment arising from Storm Emma.

The government is committed to continuing to support Civil Defence both in the areas of training and equipment to ensure that Civil Defence can fulfil its important role.

Permanent Structured Co-operation

Ceisteanna (63)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

63. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the scale of Ireland's involvement in the European Union Training Mission Competence Centre and Upgrade of Maritime Surveillance to be developed under PESCO and which were formally adopted by the EU Council on 1 March 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12883/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

As the Deputy is aware PESCO is a mechanism provided for in the Treaty of the European Union to enable participating member States to come together and, on a project by project basis, jointly develop military crisis management capabilities for use in support of the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) operations and missions in support of international peace and security.

Ireland is a strong proponent of the important role the EU can play in support of international peace and security and the UN. It is important therefore to remain fully engaged in all CSDP processes. Fully participating in these developments ensures that we have a voice and that we can influence their evolution.

Since Ireland joined PESCO in December 2017 the focus has been to identify key PESCO projects which will enhance the capability and capacity of the Defence Forces to successfully undertake modern complex UN mandated missions, including CSDP operations and on supporting interoperability in this regard. With that in mind I have confirmed Ireland's participation in two PESCO projects - (1) The European Union Training Mission Competence Centre and (2) Upgrade of Maritime Surveillance.  The Council Decision of the 6th March reflected Ireland's participation in these projects.

The European Union Training Mission Competence Centre project is a 'train the trainers' initiative that aims to improve the availability, interoperability, specific skills and professionalism across participating Member States of personnel (trainers) for EU training missions. The project is being led by Germany and it will accelerate the provision for EU training missions due to a higher situational awareness regarding trained, educated and available personnel for current and future EU training missions.  This is a capability that the Irish Defence Forces continually develop and it is compatible with their efforts in this area.

The Upgrade of Maritime Surveillance project aims to integrate land-based surveillance systems, maritime and air platforms in order to distribute real-time information to Member States, so as to provide a timely and effective response in the international waters.  This project is being led by Greece and the main objective is to enhance the Maritime Surveillance, Situational Awareness and potential Response Effectiveness of the EU, by using the existing infrastructure, deploying assets and developing related capabilities in the future. It aims to address timely and effectively new and old threats and challenges (such as energy security, environmental challenges, security and defence aspects); thus ensuring accurate Awareness and Rapid Response, so as to contribute to the protection of the  EU and its citizens.  This is a capability development area that the Naval Service has already invested in through the MarSur project in the European Defence Agency and this project should develop this expertise further.

The project leads for both these projects are currently developing the full scope of the projects and accordingly the scale of participants involvement has as yet not been determined.  The inaugural meeting for the Upgrade of Maritime Surveillance project has been scheduled for the 29th March where further discussions will take place regarding Member States involvement.

The project on EU Training Missions Competence Centre is still at conceptual stage and as such no initial meetings have been scheduled yet.

To the extent that PESCO is designed to provide more effective delivery of enhanced military capability for CSDP crisis management operations at the highest level, I am confident that both projects will benefit the men and women of our Defence Forces.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Question No. 65 answered with Question No. 62.

Ceisteanna (64)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

64. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the recruitment targets for the 2018 intake in view of the opening of RDF recruitment to take place in April 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10196/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The White Paper on Defence (2015) provides for a Permanent Defence Force (PDF) strength of 9,500 personnel and the Government is committed to ensuring that the PDF reaches this strength level. In this context, the Government has ensured that there is sufficient funding in place to provide for a full strength of 9,500 PDF personnel.

The PDF has a higher turnover level than other elements of the Public Service and this is not a new trend. In 2017 there was recruitment at both enlisted and officer level which resulted in 751 personnel being recruited to the PDF during the year. This included general service recruits, apprentices, cadets and direct entry officers.

The strength of the Permanent Defence Force is currently 9,138 whole-time equivalents and recruitment will continue in 2018. It is anticipated that in the region of 800 personnel will be inducted to the PDF in 2018 and plans are currently being finalised for the various competitions, including General Service Recruits and Cadets.

The White Paper on Defence also provides for a combined establishment of 4,169 personnel for the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve. The current combined strength of the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve is 1,777 personnel. A total of 139 new recruits were inducted into the RDF in 2017 and there is on-going engagement with applicants from the 2017 recruitment campaign that should yield further inductions. In addition a new recruitment campaign will be launched in 2018.

As I have previously outlined, there are shortages of certain specialists in the PDF. These include pilots, engineers and certain technicians. Under my direction, the Department brought the issue of recruitment and retention of specialists to the attention of the Public Service Pay Commission. This issue is being further explored in the second tranche of the Public Service Pay Commission's work, which is currently underway. The Department of Defence in collaboration with the Defence Forces is preparing detailed information for the Commission on recruitment and retention trends and I anticipate that this will be submitted in the coming weeks. I have also directed civil and military management to examine alternative approaches to recruiting specialists. This includes options for the re-entry of former PDF personnel with certain specialist skills and consideration of the scope to expand direct entry to a broader range of specialities than currently targeted.

I remain committed to ensuring that the Defence Forces retain the capacity to operate effectively across all roles assigned by Government. I will continue to work closely with the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General to ensure that the Defence Forces are fully supported to enable them to achieve capability targets for personnel.

Question No. 65 answered with Question No. 62.

Defence Forces Remuneration

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 57.

Ceisteanna (66)

Clare Daly

Ceist:

66. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the fact that only 11 privates are left of the 29 that passed out of the 2015 class; and the steps he will take to improve Defences Forces pay and conditions to address the retention crisis. [12524/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Given the unique and demanding nature of military life, there is understandably a relatively high level of turnover among Defence Forces personnel. This is not new and the Defence Forces have always had a level of turnover that far exceeds other areas of the public service.

In order to balance personnel turnover there is ongoing recruitment at both enlisted and officer level. 751 personnel were inducted into the Permanent Defence Force during 2017. This includes general service recruits, apprentices, cadets and direct entry officers.

Rates of pay and conditions of employment in the Irish public service have traditionally been set by, amongst other things, reference to levels of pay across the various sectors of the Irish public service. The Government’s economic policy has led to economic recovery and a resumption of economic growth. This has provided the fiscal resources to provide for a sustainable and fair recovery in public service payscales.

Defence Forces pay is increasing in accordance with public sector pay agreements. The focus of these increases is weighted in favour of those on lower pay. Members of the Permanent Defence Force have received the pay increases due under the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

In addition, following negotiations with PDFORRA on behalf of their members, improved payscales for general service recruits and privates who joined the Permanent Defence Force post 1 January 2013, were backdated to 1 July 2016 and paid in August 2017.

The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 provides for further increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the Agreement with the focus of the agreement once again being on the lower paid. The first instalment of phased pay increases under the Agreement was a 1% increase in annualised salaries due from 1 January 2018. This has been paid to members of the Permanent Defence Force.

Following these revisions in pay, the starting pay for a newly qualified three star private, and their Naval Service equivalent, (inclusive of military service allowance) is €27,257, gross annual earnings, with scope for further income from duty allowances. This is a significant increase on the €21,800 per annum which was the annual amount prior to the implementation of the increases in pay received through recent pay agreements.

The starting pay for a Corporal, including Military Service Allowance, is over €37,000 per annum. The first point on the payscale for a Sergeant, including Military Service Allowance, is €40,000 per annum.

In 2017, under my direction, the Department of Defence raised recruitment and retention issues as part of the submission to the Public Service Pay Commission. In a further acknowledgement of these issues the Government tasked the Public Service Pay Commission with examining these challenges in the Defence Sector in more detail.

The Public Service Pay Commission has commenced this work and has requested detailed information from the Department of Defence. Defence management are preparing their submission which will be sent to the Commission in the coming weeks.  I understand that both PDFORRA and RACO have made submissions to the Commission.

The Public Service Pay Commission is due to complete this exercise in the second half of 2018. The findings and proposals arising will be considered at that time.

Question No. 67 answered with Question No. 57.

Army Barracks

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 55.

Ceisteanna (68)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

68. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if suitable consultants will be appointed with a view to carrying out a master plan outlining the future use of Columb Barracks, Mullingar, County Westmeath. [10378/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

As the Deputy is aware, since the closure of Columb Barracks in 2012, my Department has explored a number of avenues to try and secure its long term future for the benefit of the local community. Government Departments and other Public Bodies, including Westmeath County Council, have been invited to declare an interest in acquiring the property. However no interest has been expressed from any of these bodies.

In May 2016 officials from my Department attended a public meeting in Mullingar on the future use of the barracks. A local group was subsequently established in order to prepare a feasibility study on community use of the premises. No report from that group has been furnished to my Department.

In April 2017, the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, launched the online Rebuilding Ireland Housing Land Map as a key part of the Rebuilding Ireland initiative. Columb Barracks was included as one of the publicly owned sites having potential for housing development. However, to date there have been no formal approaches under this initiative.

As the Barracks is no longer required for military purposes, the current financial and administrative burden resulting from its retention cannot be sustained. As such, my Department has no plans to appoint consultants to carry out a master plan for its future use. Accordingly, my officials are proceeding with its disposal.

Question No. 69 answered with Question No. 55.

Departmental Reports

Ceisteanna (70)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

70. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on the publication of the North East Inner City 2017 Progress Report. [12792/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I recently launched the North East Inner City 2017 Progress Report when I visited the area with Minister Donohoe on Monday, 26 February.

The Report sets out the work of the Programme Implementation Board since it was established last June and outlines the progress made under the four priority areas of crime and drugs; education, training and employment opportunities; services for families and young people; and physical improvements.

The Report also sets out details of the spending on the North East Inner City initiative to date. A copy of the Report together with further information on the work can be found at www.neic.ie.

During my recent visit to the area I witnessed first hand the commitment and excellent work by a wide range of community projects working hard to develop opportunities for the people of the North East Inner City.

Cabinet Committee Meetings

Ceisteanna (71)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

71. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach when Cabinet committee B (Social Policy and Public Services) last met. [12805/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

Cabinet Committee B last met on 16 November and is scheduled to meet again next Monday, 26 March.

The Committee covers the areas of Social Policy and Public Service Reform including education, children, social inclusion, Irish, arts and culture, and continued improvements and reform of public services. This Committee seeks to coordinate the work across Government on planning and implementing policies that contribute to a more equal and socially inclusive society.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Ceisteanna (72)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

72. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on all of his meetings in the United States of America. [12803/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I visited the United States from 11-17 March for this year’s St Patrick’s Day programme. My visit included engagements in Austin Texas, Durant Oklahoma, Washington D.C. and New York.

The objective of my visit was to advance Ireland’s interests and deepen the bilateral relationship between Ireland and the US.

In Austin, I paid a courtesy call on Governor Abbott, met members of the Irish community in Texas, and spoke at the South by South West Festival, where I also met with Enterprise Ireland companies attending the convention.

In Durant, Oklahoma, I had a courtesy call with Governor Mary Fallin and met the Choctaw Nation of Native Americans, whom I thanked for their act of humanitarianism towards Ireland, during the height of the Great Famine in 1847.

In Washington D.C. I held high-level political meetings with President Trump, Vice President Pence, as well with senior members of Congress including Speaker Ryan, House Majority Leader McConnell, Senators Schumer, Leahy, Neal and King, and the Friends of Ireland Caucus. My priority in these discussions was to further develop the US - Ireland bilateral relationship, and to advance Ireland’s interests, including in relation to trade, and the status of undocumented Irish citizens in the US.

Also in Washington D.C. I had a number of economic engagements, including with the US Chamber of Commerce, and a series of meetings and engagements with the clients of Irish state agencies including Enterprise Ireland, IDA, SFI and Tourism Ireland. I also spoke at a number of events, including at the Brookings Institution, at an event hosted by Ireland Funds, at a Reception hosted by Ireland’s Ambassador to the US, and at an event marking the 20th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

In New York, I met a number of political leaders including Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Speaker Corey Johnson. I attended a lunch with business leaders, hosted by Michael Bloomberg. I attended an event at the site of the new Irish Arts Center, where I announced additional Government funding for the construction of the Arts Center’s new facility.

I also attended a Community Reception at the Irish Consulate in New York, where I met with the representatives of the Irish community, including the leadership of several Irish immigrant support centres.

Finally, I attended the traditional St. Patrick’s Day events in New York, including the Mayor’s Breakfast, St. Patrick’s Day Mass, and the New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which I walked in alongside Governor Cuomo and with the United Irish Counties.

Departmental Advertising Expenditure

Ceisteanna (73, 75, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 103, 104, 106, 112, 115, 120, 125, 126, 127, 129, 135, 136, 149)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

73. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the cinemas in which the strategic communications unit, SCU, booked advertisements for the NDP and NPF; and the cost of same. [10955/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

75. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach the budget for all publicity, advertising and promotional work associated with the national development plan, NDP, and the national planning framework, NPF. [11018/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

88. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the media buying agency secured by his Department's strategic communications unit; and the spend across national and regional local newspapers and or free sheets on the promoting or communicating the NDP and NPF before and since its launch date. [11026/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

89. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the media partnerships secured to communicate Project Ireland 2040; the way they are described; if they are the same with all media outlets; and the cost of each one. [11275/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

90. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the specific instructions that were issued to the media buyer by the SCU that all content should be identified as being in partnership with the Government of Ireland or in association with the Government of Ireland; if there were specific instructions or agreements to ensure that placements were similar to articles rather than advertorials; and the reason the phrase advertisement feature was not stated or made clear. [11276/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

91. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the person that had responsibility to sign off on communication pieces from the SCU on the NDP and NPF if he or his officials did not have same. [11277/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

92. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the media buyer had a sign off on the content of the communication pieces set in the local and national newspapers in regard to Project Ireland 2040. [11278/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

93. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach when media owners were briefed on Project Ireland 2040 and by whom in his Department and otherwise. [11279/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

94. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if a terms of reference, memo of understanding or contract was signed with a media agency or buyers in relation to Project Ireland 2040. [11280/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

95. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the budget given to the media agencies on the citizen engagement initiative on Project Ireland 2040 and the NDP and NPF. [11281/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

96. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the instructions the SCU gave the media buyers regarding ensuring that the content of Project Ireland 2040 articles would be aware it was paid content. [11282/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

97. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the way in which his officials and the SCU advised the media buyers regarding localising the content as they saw fit to fit the audience; the parameters which were given; the suggestions which were made; if it was suggested to include experts or local business persons; and the way in which they were approached. [11283/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

98. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the meetings or discussions the SCU would have had with the media buyers in relation to content and to confirm that, while they may not have had final sign off; and if they would have seen the suggestions made before final sign off was received elsewhere. [11284/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

99. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the amount of investment the SCU has applied to communicating the NDP and NPF up to now; the plan as agreed to date; and the amount allocated altogether. [11285/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

100. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the SCU has the citizen engagement campaign under constant review; and if changes will be made. [11286/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

101. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the details of the citizen communication engagement as it applies to cinema; and the cost of same. [11287/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

103. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the number of media agencies involved in the citizen communications engagement on the NDP and NPF. [11290/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

104. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the research his Department undertook through the SCU recently and which is due to be published at the end of Spring was utilised or fed into the citizen engagement initiative on the NDP and NPF; and if it is a totally separate initiative. [11291/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

106. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the SCU had meetings with officials in the Department of Finance in relation to the citizen engagement initiative on Project Ireland 2040. [11293/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

112. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Taoiseach the policy of his Department when contracting advertorial type content on the national planning framework or the national development plan regarding the inclusion of negative comment or criticism of the framework or plan in the advertorial type content that was contracted. [11392/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Joan Burton

Ceist:

115. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach the number of bus shelter advertisements that have been purchased to promote various elements of Project Ireland 2040; the location of these advertisements; the cost to date of these; the reason the advertisement at a location (details supplied) was removed; when it was removed; and the number of other such advertisements that were removed prior to their agreed termination time. [11777/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

120. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Taoiseach the amount spent on advertising the Project Ireland 2040 plans in cinemas. [11902/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

125. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the media buying agency secured by the SCU; and the amount spent on the promoting or communicating the NDP and NPF before and since its launch date in national, regional, local newspapers and or free sheets. [11986/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

126. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the amount spent by the SCU on promoting advertising and information campaigns on social media sites regarding the NDP and NPF; and the length of time this will continue. [11987/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

127. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the SCU targeted specific population groups on communicating the NDP and NPF. [11988/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

129. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if the SCU had particular discussions on the use of pictures of Government politicians or other types of pictures in the information campaign and articles in the national and regional newspapers. [11990/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Thomas Byrne

Ceist:

135. Deputy Thomas Byrne asked the Taoiseach if content partnership agreements were entered into with broadcast media or social media in respect of Project Ireland 2040 similar to content partnership agreements entered into with print media. [12007/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

136. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the costs of the launch of the NDP and NPF in County Sligo; if it included photography; and if this was extra or included. [12056/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

John Brady

Ceist:

149. Deputy John Brady asked the Taoiseach the publications, print media or otherwise in which advertisements were placed in relation to the Project Ireland 2040 plan; and the costs associated with each advertisement. [12545/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 73, 75, 88 to 101, inclusive, 103, 104, 106, 112, 115, 120, 125 to 127, inclusive, 129, 135, 136 and 149 together.

Budget

The campaign for Project Ireland 2040 has an indicative budget of €1.5 million. The cost of the launch in Sligo was €45,000, this figure is inclusive of photography costs as this service was provided in-house.

Media Partnerships

The media buying agency used by the Strategic Communications Unit (SCU) is PHD Media. This company was procured through an open procurement competition, which was overseen by the Office of Government Procurement (OGP).

As Project Ireland 2040 is a plan that will impact upon all citizens and future generations, a comprehensive multi-media campaign was put in place to ensure citizens are aware of, and informed about, the plan.

Media content partnerships were entered into with the following media outlets:

- Irish Times

- INM Group

- Examiner Group

- Journal media

- 30 Regional Newspapers

- 28 Local Radio Stations

The campaign is currently under review, with decisions about the implementation of the various elements of the campaign to follow. In that context, there are no current plans to run a radio campaign.

Cost incurred to date for advertorial content in regional and national titles is €312,498 ex vat.

- Specific instruction was issued to the media buyer by the SCU that all content should be identified as being 'In Partnership with the Government of Ireland' or 'In Partnership with Project Ireland 2040, an initiative of the Government of Ireland'. The use of the Government of Ireland logo was also requested by the SCU. This was to ensure that readers knew that the content was paid for.

- There were no instructions or agreements from the SCU to ensure that placements were similar to articles rather than advertorials.

- Each media organisation was provided with a link to the full Project Ireland 2040 plan as well as a pack of content relevant to their particular region.

- The content pack was compiled by the SCU, working with other relevant Government Departments. Nothing was given in the pack that was not otherwise in the overall Project Ireland 2040 plan. Meetings were held with a number of relevant Departments regarding Project Ireland 2040.

- The decision relating to editorial style was entirely a matter for each media organisation.

- The SCU had no input in selecting or contracting any external or third party interviewees. No political spokespeople or Government backbenchers were recommended for interview or for pictures to be included by the SCU.

- Decisions about what organisations and individuals would be asked for comment or pictured were entirely a matter for each media organisation.

- The SCU did not have sign off on the copy produced for the media.

- The media buyer did not have sign off on the copy produced for the media.

- Media owners were briefed on Project Ireland 2040 during the week beginning February 13 2018. The briefings were carried out by a cross Government Department team of Senior Officials.

- No contract was signed with a media agency or buyers in relation to Project Ireland 2040. Media buying was carried out by PHD, company with whom a contract was already in place, following an open procurement process.

Cinema

Cinema advertising relating to Project Ireland 2040 appeared in all screens across the country at a total cost of €80,113 ex vat.

The 60 second video was produced by the creative agency in conjunction with the SCU.

Social Media

Costs incurred to date on social media for Project Ireland 2040 across 3 platforms - Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and other digital spend on digital search and display is €75,660 ex Vat.

Bus Shelter Advertising

The National Transport Authority provided space, free of charge, across the Transport network - (Irish Rail, Dublin Bus and Luas) at various locations between 25 February and 26 March 2018.

My Department had no role in selecting locations or in the removal of any posters before their allocated time.

Research

The research referred to is not yet complete. Therefore, nothing from the Research could be fed into the citizen engagement initiative on Project Ireland 2040.

Behaviour and Attitudes research company were commissioned to conduct primary research to understand how best to communicate the work of Government to citizens, and in particular how to communicate the benefits, services, and entitlements relevant to them. This research will now inform appropriate, relevant and targeted citizen-focused communications to increase public engagement and feedback, and will be published when completed. The research methodology and design phase of the project is complete, and the fieldwork is now due to commence. Results will be published by early summer.

Departmental Advertising Data

Question No. 75 answered with Question No. 73.

Question No. 76 answered with Question No. 74.

Ceisteanna (74, 76, 84, 85, 86, 87, 109, 110)

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

74. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach the details of each instance of advertorial content commissioned by his Department and agencies under its remit in the past 12 months; the date this content was published; the purpose of this content; the cost of its publication; and the publication or platform on which it was published in tabular form [11019/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Róisín Shortall

Ceist:

76. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Taoiseach the details of each instance of advertorial content commissioned by the Strategic Communications Unit since its establishment; the date this content was published; the purpose of this content; the cost of its publication; and the publication or platform on which it was published in tabular form. [11020/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

84. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the advertisements or advertorials placed by his Department or the Strategic Communications Unit since 1 January 2018, by newspaper or other printed publication; the size of the advert; the cost of each advert; the person that wrote the copy and approved the final advert; if it was an outside agency; the person in his Department that approved the final advert; and the parameters and instructions provided to outside contractors on the placement of adverts. [11022/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

85. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the amount spent on all cinema and radio advertising placed by his Department or the Strategic Communications Unit since 1 January 2018; the number of adverts placed; the number of times the advert was shown; the radio stations on which it was broadcast; the cinemas in which it was shown; the person responsible for commissioning the content; the person that approved the content; the company that developed the content; the person responsible for booking the content; and the parameters and instructions provided to outside contractors on the placement of adverts. [11023/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

86. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach the amount spent on all social media advertising placed by his Department or the Strategic Communications Unit since 1 January 2018; the cost for each advert placed; the platform that was used; the amount committed in each campaign; the audience that was targeted; the way in which that audience was chosen; the characterisation of the audiences used for social media advertising; the person or body that created the audiences; the person or body that approved the content of the adverts; the person or body that approved the audiences; and the parameters and instructions provided to outside contractors on the placement of those adverts. [11024/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

87. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Taoiseach the amount that has been spent on newspaper advertisements and advertorials since July 2016; the publications these adverts appeared in; and the person that signed off on each advert. [11025/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Murphy

Ceist:

109. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach the expenditure to date on online content (details supplied) by the strategic communications unit in his Department. [11362/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Martin

Ceist:

110. Deputy Catherine Martin asked the Taoiseach the amount spent by his Department on advertorial type content since he entered office. [11390/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 74, 76, 84 to 87, inclusive, 109 and 110 together.

Advertorials

There were no advertorials commissioned by my Department in 2016 and 2017.

The costs relating to advertorial content commissioned by the SCU in my Department so far in 2018 are listed in the following table:

Media Outlet

Campaign

Costs incurred to date

Date published

Irish Independent

Healthy Ireland

€96,300 ex Vat

3rd February 2018 - Pullout supplement in Irish Independent Weekender magazine

13th/20th/27th January 2018 - Double page spread Irish Independent.

Irish Independent

Action Plan for Education

€8,600 ex Vat

14th February 2018

Irish Times, INM Group, Examiner Group, Journal Media, 30 Regional Papers

Project Ireland 2040

Regional spend €127,575 ex Vat

National spend: €184,923 ex Vat

TOTAL: €312,498 ex Vat

Advertorials appeared in national and regional titles from 23rd February to 28th February

Further detail on campaigns run to date in 2018 as follows:

Healthy Ireland

In order to communicate the aims of the Healthy Ireland 2018 programme, a content partnership was entered into with the Irish Independent - this consisted of three double page features in the Weekender magazine and a 48 page magazine in the Irish Independent.

The purpose of this content partnership was to communicate to as wide an audience as possible the importance of making healthy changes in peoples' lives, consistent with the aims of the Healthy Ireland campaign, which focussed on citizen engagement.

All content was clearly identified as being from 'Healthy Ireland an initiative of the Government of Ireland'.

The relevant editorial team from the Irish Independent produced the content in close consultation with the project team comprising staff from my Department and the Department of Health - the project team signed off on the final content.

Action Plan for Education

The Action Plan for Education was identified and approved as a priority campaign for the Department of Education and Skills. Content for the advertorial came from the Plan and was signed off by officials from the Department of Education and Skills in conjunction with the relevant editorial team from the Irish Independent. The advertorial was clearly identified as the Action Plan for Education in partnership with the Government of Ireland.

Project Ireland 2040

As Project Ireland 2040 is a plan which will impact on all citizens and on future generations, a comprehensive multi-media campaign was developed to ensure citizens are aware of, and informed about the Plan. One aspect of this campaign is a media content partnership with a number of National and Regional media organisations.

These content partnerships were handled through a third party media buyer. The SCU supplied the media buyer with key facts in relation to Project Ireland 2040.

Each media organisation was provided with a link to the full Project Ireland 2040 plan as well as a pack of content relevant to their particular region. The content pack was compiled by the SCU, working with other relevant Government Departments. Nothing was given in the pack that was not otherwise in the overall Project Ireland 2040 plan.

Specific instruction was issued to the media buyer by the SCU that all content should be identified as being 'In Partnership with the Government of Ireland' or 'In Partnership with Project Ireland 2040, an initiative of the Government of Ireland'. The use of the specific Government of Ireland logo was also requested by the SCU. This was to ensure that readers knew that the content was paid for.

The decision relating to editorial style was entirely a matter for each media organisation. The SCU had no input in selecting or contracting any external or third party interviewees. No political spokespeople or Government backbenchers were recommended for interview or for pictures to be included by the SCU in any of the partnerships with regional media organisations. Decisions about what organisations and individuals would be asked for comment or pictured were entirely a matter for each media organisation.

The SCU did not have sign off of the copy produced for the media.

Cinema and Radio Advertising

Cinema advertising relating to Project Ireland 2040 appeared in all screens across the country over a 4 week period, at a total cost of €80,113 ex Vat.

The 60 second video was produced by a creative agency in conjunction with the SCU.

The SCU managed two national radio campaigns since January 2018 - Healthy Ireland 2018 campaign, and the Self Employed Benefits radio campaign. The content for these adverts was produced by the SCU in conjunction with relevant officials from the Department of Health, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the creative agency. The advertising space was booked by the media buying agency and the finished content was supplied to the radio stations by the creative agency. These campaigns were broadcast on all national radio stations.

Costs for the two radio campaigns are as follows:

Healthy Ireland - €104,320.29 ex Vat

Self Employed - €56,132.14 ex Vat

The Project Ireland 2040 campaign is currently under review, with decisions about the implementation of the various elements of the campaign to follow. In that context, there are no current plans to run a radio campaign.

Social Media

The following table lists estimated costs for social media advertising by my Department since 1 January 2018 - advertisements appeared on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and were targeted to all citizens on these platforms:

Campaigns 2018

Social Media Spend (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube)

Other Digital Spend

(Digital Search/Display)

Total (ex Vat)

Education Action Plan 2018

€830.15

Nil

€830.15

Healthy Ireland

€5,989.36

€1,121.24

€7110.60

Irish Aid - Children’s Educational Video (charity abroad)

€1,940.87

Nil

€1,940.87

Self Employed

€2,496.98

Nil

€2,496.98

Project Ireland 2040

€37,583

€38,077

€75,660

Question No. 75 answered with Question No. 73.
Question No. 76 answered with Question No. 74.