Defence Forces Personnel Data

Ceisteanna (27)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

27. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if an exit snapshot survey or interview has been carried out by the Defence Forces on members leaving the force; if so, the findings of the survey; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20386/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Military life places unique physical and psychological demands on individuals and given the rigors of military life, there is understandably a relatively high level of turnover among Defence Forces personnel. This is not new and the Permanent Defence Force has always had a level of turnover that far exceeds other areas of the public service.

Exit questionnaires are given to personnel as part of the administrative processing of their departure. Completion of such questionnaires, which are anonymous and confidential, is voluntary but personnel are encouraged to do so. Additionally voluntary exit interviews are conducted on certain personnel.

While this information is analysed by the Defence Forces, any conclusions must take into account the voluntary nature of this information and gaps that may exist in providing a comprehensive account of the reasons for departure.

Naval Service Vessels

Question No. 29 answered with Question No. 20.

Ceisteanna (28)

Alan Farrell

Ceist:

28. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of the expected delivery of a fourth new ship, the LÉ George Bernard Shaw, to the Naval Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20293/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The White Paper on Defence underpins the ongoing replacement of the Naval Service fleet.

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 in recent years. 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 placed with Babcock International, a British company, 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 in mid-2018.

The White Paper also provides for the replacement of the current Naval Service flagship LÉ Eithne with a multi role vessel (MRV) which will be enabled for helicopter operations and will also have a freight carrying capacity. 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. This, of course, is 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.

The acquisition of these modern new vessels, combined with an ongoing maintenance regime for all vessels within the fleet, will ensure that the operational capabilities of the Naval Service, as the State’s principal seagoing agency, are maintained to the greatest extent.

Question No. 29 answered with Question No. 20.

Defence Forces Training

Ceisteanna (30)

Brendan Ryan

Ceist:

30. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to introduce technical apprenticeships for aircraft maintenance; the number of apprenticeships the Defence Forces offer across disciplines; his further plans to increase this number or introduce more in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20436/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Currently the only Apprenticeships within the Defence Forces are Apprentice Aircraft Technicians in the Air Corps. Aircraft Technicians provide the maintenance and servicing of Air Corps aircraft, their engines, systems, equipment and weapons. Aircraft Trainee Technicians hold the rank of Apprentice during their training.

Competitions for the Aircraft Trainee Technician Programme are generally run on an annual basis and successful applicants complete a programme of military and technical training in Casement Aerodrome and with the Dublin Institute of Technology culminating in a Bachelor Engineering Technology Degree in Military Aviation Technology.

While 22 apprentices were inducted in 2017, there is a requirement to fill further vacancies. A competition in this regard was launched on 2 March 2018 and will run until 25 May 2018. It is anticipated that some 28 apprentices will be inducted from the current competition which is the maximum capacity for apprentice training due to aviation regulations.

Defence Forces Operations

Question No. 32 answered with Question No. 25.

Ceisteanna (31)

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

31. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of times the Defence Forces engaged in aid to civil power duties with regard to US military aircraft present at Shannon Airport to date in 2018; the number of personnel involved; the cost of these engagements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20427/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána have primary responsibility for the internal security of the State. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces in the White Paper on Defence is the provision of Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) which, in practice, means to assist An Garda Síochána when requested to do so. On each occasion that the support of the Defence Forces is required, An Garda Síochána issues a form C70 to the Defence Forces to request their assistance.

Since 5 February 2003, the Gardaí have requested support from the Defence Forces at Shannon Airport on occasion. The cost of the presence of Defence Forces performing aid to civil power duties with regard to United States of America military aircraft landing at Shannon airport in 2018 is €59,162.24 for 82 deployments. The costs relate to security duty allowance paid to members of the Defence Forces, rations and fuel. The cost of ATCP operations are met entirely from the Defence Vote.

For security reasons it would not be appropriate to disclose the details regarding the number of personnel assigned to each deployment.

I am satisfied that there is ongoing and close liaison between both An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces, and between my Department and the Department of Justice and Equality regarding security matters generally, including the Defence Forces ATCP roles.

Question No. 32 answered with Question No. 25.

Defence Forces Personnel Data

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 25.

Ceisteanna (33, 37, 44, 45, 46)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

33. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the steps that have been taken or are being taken to address the difficulties in both recruiting and maintaining members of the Defence Forces, including the reintroduction of the service commitment scheme, in view of the loss of trained specialist Defence Forces personnel to the private sector and the restoration of the security duty allowance payable for weekend duties to 2010 levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20211/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

37. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the steps that have been taken to address difficulties regarding recruitment to the Defence Forces in respect of the Public Service Pay Commission report published in May 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20212/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Mick Wallace

Ceist:

44. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of personnel who have exited the Defence Forces, excluding mandatory retirements, to date in 2018; the overall number he anticipates for 2018, excluding mandatory retirements; his views on the fact that the current pay and conditions of the Defences Forces are forcing personnel to consider employment in other areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20426/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Clare Daly

Ceist:

45. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel who have left in each of the years 2000 to 2017 and to date 2018; the average length of the service; if an analysis has taken place to address the problems of retention; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20413/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

46. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of personnel serving in the Permanent Defence Forces to date; the projected enlistment by the end of 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20428/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 33, 37 and 44 to 46, inclusive, together.

The Defence Forces have a higher level of turnover than other areas of the public service and this is a feature of military organisations internationally.

Rates of pay and conditions of employment in the Permanent Defence Force have traditionally been set by, amongst other things, reference to levels of pay across the various sectors of the Irish public service. 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. 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 1% increase in annualised salaries due from 1 January 2018 has been paid to members of the Permanent Defence Force.

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. The Department of Defence brought the issue of certain specialists, including Air Corps pilots, to the attention of the Public Service Pay Commission in 2017. This matter is referenced in paragraph 6.29 of the Commission's report of May 2017. 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. My Department has forwarded an initial tranche of information to the Deaprtment of Public Expenditure and Reform. Further data and information in relation to the Defence sector will be forwarded in the coming weeks as the collation of data and information is completed. The Public Service Pay Commission is due to complete this work in the second half of 2018. The findings and proposals arising will be considered at that time.

There is also an ongoing programme of HR development within the Defence Organisation, of which part is aimed at ensuring that there is an appropriate work-life balance. The Chief of Staff is actively addressing certain matters in the Defence Forces to this end. I have also initiated a number of initiatives ranging from a review of the C&A scheme, a review of the criteria governing contracts for enlisted personnel and a comprehensive skills gap analysis across the Defence Forces. I am also bringing forward measures to allow former members of the Defence Forces with specialist skills, to re-enter the Defence Forces.

There are significant recruitment opportunities currently available in the Defence Forces, at both enlisted and officer level, for eligible individuals who wishes to have a rewarding and positive career in service to the State.

A General Service Recruitment campaign and the 2018 Officer Cadetships competition both closed last month and the applications are being progressed. A competition for Air Corps Apprentices is currently open. The Naval Service is currently recruiting Direct Entry Officers for Bridge Watch-keeping, Marine Engineering and Electrical Engineering roles. The Defence Forces are also accepting applications from qualified doctors for careers in the Medical Corps.

The measures I have set out address a range of factors and are aimed at ensuring that the Defence Forces remains a career of choice, and to ensuring that the Defence Forces retain the capabilities to undertake the roles assigned by Government.

In the context of discussions surrounding the proposals for Public Service Stability Agreement 2013-2016 (Haddington Road Agreement), the Defence sector was required to deliver savings of €10m per annum by 2015. This was to be achieved through the reduction in certain military allowances and the elimination of some other military allowances. As part of the agreement negotiated between civil and military management and the Permanent Defence Force Representative Associations, the Saturday and Sunday rates for Security Duty and related allowances were flat-rated, i.e. the standard Monday to Friday rate was to be payable for such duties carried out on a Saturday or a Sunday. Both PDFORRA and RACO have submitted claims for the restoration of the rates through the Conciliation & Arbitration (C&A) Scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force. As discussions under the C&A Scheme are confidential to the parties involved, it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter at this time.

The following table, provided by the Military Authorities, shows the average length of years of service, by rank.

Year

‘02

‘03

‘04

‘05

‘06

‘07

‘08

‘09

‘10

‘11

‘12

‘13

‘14

‘15

‘16

‘17

Private 3*

13

12

10

11

11

12

11

20

21

20

22

16

16

14

12

15

Corporal

21

21

22

19

22

23

23

29

26

26

27

27

24

22

24

22

Sergeant

25

27

28

28

28

26

27

31

31

30

32

28

29

27

30

30

CQMS

31

28

33

32

34

33

35

35

34

34

33

35

35

35

33

35

CS

31

32

32

34

31

32

33

36

31

33

35

37

38

34

35

34

BQMS

39

31

35

36

33

34

34

36

35

34

33

29

33

34

29

41

Sgt Major

40

39

35

38

35

37

41

40

35

35

38

0

40

43

41

41

Lieutenant

2

-

2

4

3

6

6

5

-

6

6

5

6

5

8

6

Captain

17

10

14

12

12

13

13

11

10

15

16

14

13

12

13

12

Commandant

26

26

26

24

26

30

28

34

33

29

31

27

27

24

23

21

Lt. Colonel

37

36

36

37

37

36

38

36

37

37

37

37

36

36

35

43

Colonel

41

41

42

39

41

40

41

39

40

40

40

40

39

40

40

37

Generals

41

42

44

43

43

44

41

42

40

42

43

42

42

43

42

43

The military authorities have provided the following table showing the numbers that exited each year.

Year

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Exited

732

579

544

528

589

649

543

509

Year

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Exited

499

641

763

445

469

556

655

707

According to the military authorities, as of 30th April 2018, 147 members of the Defence Forces exited on a voluntary basis. It is not possible to estimate such non-mandatory retirements for the remainder of 2018 with any accuracy.

As of the 31st March, the whole time equivalent strength of the Defence Forces was 8,993 personnel. As of 4th May, the Defence Forces have inducted 159 personnel consisting of 157 General Service Army and Naval Service recruits and two (2) Direct Entry Medical Officers. The projected inductions by the end of 2018, the military authorities advise me, is 800 personnel.

With the support of the Chief of Staff I am committed to ensuring that there is on-going recruitment to the Defence Forces and that the Permanent Defence Force can continue to operate effectively across all roles assigned by Government, both at home and overseas.

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 25.

Defence Forces Contracts

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 6.

Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 33.

Ceisteanna (35)

Gino Kenny

Ceist:

35. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will report on the contracts for purchase of arms by his Department, whether one-off or continual, to be used by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20434/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The primary focus for the procurement of defensive equipment, including weaponry and ammunition by the Department of Defence is to maintain the capability of the Defence Forces to fulfil the roles as assigned by Government. This includes undertaking overseas Peace Support Operations, and in this regard to afford the greatest possible force protection to Irish troops whilst on all missions. Equipment priorities for the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps continue to be considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment planning process.

The procurement of goods and services by the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces is carried out in accordance with public procurement policy and national and European Union law. Procurement procedures in the Defence Organisation are kept under constant review to ensure they are in line with best practice, guidance and the legal framework.

Public procurement rules are adapted to the specificities of defence procurements, which can be particularly complex and sensitive. Procurement of defence and security equipment such as weapons, ammunition types and other material for defence purposes is carried out in accordance with EU Directive 2009/81/EC. This is a specific Directive relating to the award of contracts dealing with the defence and security area which provides rules that enhance transparency and openness in defence markets while also ensuring that individual countries' security concerns are protected. This Directive was transposed into Irish law by way of implementing S.I. No. 62 of 2012.

Procedures are in place in the Defence Organisation to provide a forum for oversight and approval of expenditure proposals on equipment. In this regard a High Level Planning and Procurement Group (HLPPG) comprising of senior civil and military management of the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces, and an associated Working Group, meet on a monthly basis to discuss all relevant procurement matters.

I am advised that procurement procedures in the Defence Organisation are kept under constant review to support good procurement practice, project management and good corporate governance, and to ensure that tender processes for the award of contracts are carried out in an appropriate manner.

Question No. 36 answered with Question No. 6.
Question No. 37 answered with Question No. 33.

Overseas Missions

Ceisteanna (38)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

38. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will report on his recent visit to UNIFIL, UNDOF and UNTSO; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20414/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

During the period 13 to 20 March 2017, I visited the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) and also the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). The visit afforded an opportunity to see at first hand the tremendous work done overseas by the Irish Defence Forces in the Middle East and also by An Garda Síochaná in Cyprus. It was a privilege to spend time with Irish forces serving abroad on our national feast day.

The itinerary for the visit to Israel, from 14th to 15th March included meetings with the Israeli Head of Political Military Bureau Mr. Zohar Palti, in the Israeli Defence Ministry. We discussed the current political situation in the region. I also received briefings from the Deputy Chief of Staff of UNTSO, Colonel Tommi Paterri Kajanmaa, the Chief of Staff of UNDOF, Colonel Mick Dawson from Ireland and the UNDOF Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major General Francis Vib-Sanziri. I spent time with Irish troops serving as part of the UNDOF mission and concluded my visit with a reception at the Embassy of Ireland, Tel Aviv to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

A one day visit to Cyprus on 16th March was included as part of this regional visit for St. Patrick's Day. In the course of my short stay, I visited the UNFICYP HQ in the UN-controlled buffer zone and received a detailed briefing from Ms. Elizabeth Spehar, Special Representative of the Secretary General in Cyprus. I also met with members of An Garda Síochaná who are currently serving with UNFICYP and was briefed on the important liaison role being played by the Irish personnel. The visit also afforded me an opportunity to meet with the newly appointed Cypriot Minister for Defence, Mr. Savvas Angellides. My visit to Cyprus concluded with an address delivered at the Irish Embassy St Patrick’s Day reception which was attended by political, diplomatic, business and community contacts and members of the Irish community. From Cyprus I travelled to Lebanon.

On 17 March I met with Defence Forces personnel serving as part of a joint Irish/Finnish battalion with UNIFIL in south Lebanon. I presented medals to personnel serving with the 111th Infantry Battalion in UNIFIL. I received briefings on the current situation in the region and visited the Headquarters, United Nations Post 6-52 and United Nations Post 2-45 where Irish personnel are based. I also spoke at a Gala Dinner event in Beirut to celebrate St. Patricks day.

The following day there was a wreath laying ceremony at the Tibnin monument in honour of the 47 Irish personnel who lost their lives while serving in Lebanon. The structure is a permanent reflection of the Irish Defence Forces contribution and the sacrifice made by them to Tibnin and its people.

On 19th March, I attended a UN ceremony in Naqoura to mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of UNIFIL. It was an occasion to pay tribute to the tens of thousands of UN Peacekeepers, who have served together with local communities for peace in South Lebanon. The ceremony included a poignant and emotional tribute to fallen peacekeepers. It was a great honour to be present while a veteran Irish Peacekeeper delivered the tribute at the ceremony. Ex-Private John O'Mahony was injured and lost two of his colleagues - Private Derek Smallhorne and Private Thomas Barrett - in April 1980. During the course of the visit, I had the honour to lay a wreath alongside Pte O'Mahony, at the location of the murders of Private Derek Smallhorne and Private Thomas Barrett.

On the 20th March, I also met with the Lebanese Minister for National Defence for political consultations in relation to the security situation in Lebanon given the significant challenges in the region as a whole. In the course of my meeting with him, I also impressed on him the concerns of the Irish Government in relation to the ongoing trial of Mahmoud Bazzi, the alleged perpetrator of the murders of Private Derek Smallhorne and Private Thomas Barrett and the attempted murder of Private O'Mahony. Before my meeting, the Minister for National Defence honoured Privates Smallhorne and Barrett with military honours and the laying of a wreath at the Lebanese Army Martyrs Statue at the Ministry of Defence. I also met the Commander in Chief of the Lebanese Armed Forces. In the course of the visit I also had a meeting with our legal adviser and other contacts in relation to the Mahmoud Bazzi case.

A comprehensive range of issues in relation to peacekeeping was discussed with Mission Leaders and political leaders in the host countries during the visit. The respect and high regard held for the professionalism displayed by Irish Peacekeepers was clearly evident.

In my discussions with Defence Forces personnel serving in these missions I conveyed our deep appreciation for the outstanding manner in which they continue to perform their duties on overseas service.

Defence Forces Expenditure

Ceisteanna (39)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

39. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on Fine Gael MEPs who voted in favour of a European Parliament report requesting each member state to spend 2% of its GDP on defence; if such a proposal could be considered Government policy; the measures he has taken to ensure that the State's contribution to the Athena funding mechanism will not be required to increase as common costs of EU missions rise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20218/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

With regard to defence spending, Government policy is defined within the parameters of our national budgetary process and role of Dáil Éireann. Within the EU, it is accepted that defence and security is a national competence, including national spending on defence and security.

As part of Ireland's participation in Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO), Ireland has committed to regularly increase our defence budgets in real terms. It should be noted that regularly does not mean annually but rather over the medium term. The allocations for defence announced in the budget for 2018 mean that Ireland’s defence expenditure will increase in real terms over the coming three years.

The PESCO notification clearly states that PESCO does not prejudice the security and defence policy of the member states; that the member states remain sovereign; and that the commitments will be implemented fully in accordance with the Treaty, its protocols and the constitutional provisions of the Member States. This includes PESCO commitments made in relation to defence spending.

Under PESCO, Member States have also made commitments to collective benchmarks such as increasing defence investment expenditure to 20% of total defence spending and 2% of total defence spending allocated to research and technology. These shared commitments are for the EU as a whole rather than individual Member State Benchmarks. The commitments in the notification are political in nature and effect.

In relation to Athena, as the Deputy is aware, this is the mechanism which administers the financing of common costs of EU operations having military or defence implications, on behalf of EU Member States contributing to the financing of EU military operations. These costs can include transport, infrastructure, and medical services, as well as the Nation Borne Costs, such as lodging and fuel.

The rules on contributions to Athena are set out in article 41.2 of the Treaty on the European Union. Member States contribute an annual share based on their Gross National Income. Therefore if common costs rise or our GNI key increases, then our contribution will rise accordingly.

A Report from the Parliament titled 'The next MFF: Preparing the Parliament’s position on the MFF post-2020' which may be the report the Deputy is referring to, does not reference that 2% of GDP be allocated to defence spending. However, on 8 November 2016, the European Parliament passed a resolution on the European Defence Union where it was suggested that MS should devote 2% of GDP to defence. Such suggestions have no implications for Defence spending in Ireland which, as I stated above, is a national competency.

Army Barracks Closures

Ceisteanna (40)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

40. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will report on the planned future use of Columb Barracks, Mullingar. [20423/18]

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. Accordingly, my officials are proceeding with its disposal.

Defence Forces Representative Organisations

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 21.

Ceisteanna (41)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

41. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of the actions taken by his Department on foot of the decision of the European Committee of Social Rights to provide for the collective bargaining rights of Defence Forces personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20219/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

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.

It should be noted that the basis for the complaint pre-dates a number of Government initiatives. In relation to collective bargaining, the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) Representative Associations participated in the negotiations last year on the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, which were held under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission. The PDF Representative Associations were afforded parity of esteem with public sector trade unions and representative associations during the negotiations.

Both PDFORRA and RACO accepted the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 which provides for increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the agreement, with the focus on the lower paid.

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.

It is critically important that the Defence Forces can undertake operations, when required. The taking of any form of industrial action is irreconcilable with military service. In this regard, the right to affiliate with ICTU poses complex questions for the Defence Forces from a legal, operational and management perspective. A key concern is that such affiliation would carry obligations that would be incompatible with military operations and the roles assigned to the Defence Forces.

I have appointed Mr. Gerard Barry to conduct a review of the Conciliation and Arbitration scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force. While the focus of the review will be primarily on the operation of the 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 for the review.

I understand that Mr. Barry will be consulting with senior officials in ICTU in the course of the review. Mr. Barry is due to prepare a report for me by the end of August. I do not intend to pre-empt any conclusions arising from the review at this time.

Question No. 42 answered with Question No. 21.

Defence Forces Strength

Questions Nos. 44 to 46, inclusive, answered with Question No. 33.

Ceisteanna (43)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

43. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason the personnel strength of the Defence Forces was lower at the end of February 2018 than at the end of February 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20384/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I am advised by the Military Authorities that the strength of the Permanent Defence Force, as at:

- 28 February 2018 was 9,057 (Whole Time Equivalent) personnel.

- 28 February 2017 was 9,070 (Whole Time Equivalent) personnel.

The overall difference in strength in February 2017 and February 2018 is a reduction of 13 personnel. Variations in strength figures are not an unusual occurrence and, particularly in the short term, are influenced by factors relating to timings of recruit intake and how this coincides with normal retirement patterns.

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 Permanent Defence Force has always had a level of turnover that far exceeds other areas of the public service.

An analysis of data going back a number of years shows the overall numbers departing the Permanent Defence Force in recent years are broadly consistent with the long term trend, with some exceptions. It should be noted that within these figures, on average approximately 22% of General Service recruits do not complete their induction training.

The White Paper on Defence recognises that continuous recruitment is the lifeblood of the Defence Forces; providing young, motivated and enthusiastic personnel to replenish military formations for operational deployments. To achieve this there is significant on-going targeted recruitment to ensure that the Permanent Defence Force can deliver all operational outputs required by government both at home and overseas. The recruitment plan proposed by the Defence Forces envisages 800 new entrants being inducted across all services and competition streams in 2018.

I also continue to be aware of factors that can influence the retention of existing member of the Defence Forces and I remain dedicated to ensuring that the terms and conditions of service, while remaining appropriate to the needs of the organisation, are as favourable as they can be.

The pay of the Defence Forces is increasing in accordance with public sector pay agreements. The pay of a newly qualified 3 star Private has increased by 25% in the last twelve months and at €27,257 is very favourable when compared to entry rates across the public service. The starting rates for newly qualified Officers is €35,000 and for new graduate Officers is in excess of €40,000. These amounts are inclusive of Military Service Allowance. This compares favourably to the average starting pay for graduates across other sectors of employment.

As I have previously outlined, there are shortages of certain specialists in the Defence Forces. These include pilots, engineers and certain technicians. As the Deputy will be aware, under my direction, the Department brought the issue of recruitment and retention of specialists to the attention of the Public Service Pay Commission. My Department has forwarded an initial tranche of information to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Further data and information in relation to the Defence sector will be forwarded to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in the coming weeks as the collation of data and information is completed.

With the support of the Chief of Staff and within the resources available, the Government is committed to retaining the capacity of the Defence Forces to operate effectively across all roles and to undertake the tasks laid down by Government both at home and overseas.

Questions Nos. 44 to 46, inclusive, answered with Question No. 33.

EU Meetings

Ceisteanna (47)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

47. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will report on the recent informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20415/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Defence Ministerial Informal Ministerial was held in Sofia on the 4th and 5th of May. The meeting was hosted by Bulgaria who currently hold the Presidency of the EU.

There were two working sessions over the course of the meeting which was chaired by the High Representative, Ms Federica Mogherini. The two sessions dealt with a range of ongoing developments in relation to EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP); specifically aspects of PESCO and a discussion of Perspectives on Crisis Management.

The PESCO session involved a discussion on the implementation of PESCO and the governance rules for PESCO projects. It was clear at this session that the focus should and will be on positive outcomes for the people of Europe. The work ahead to implement PESCO focuses on two critical success factors. The first is the fulfilment by the participating Member States of the more binding commitments. This will be achieved through annual National Implementation Plans, underpinned by a credible assessment process. The second success factor is the quality and delivery of PESCO projects, both capability-related and operational.

The discussion on crisis management reflected on the current security challenges and the role of the EU in support of international peace and security. This session was attended by UN Under Secretary General for Peacekeeping and the NATO Deputy Secretary General. This facilitated a reflection on operational cooperation and mutual support between the EU, the UN and NATO both at the strategic level and also on the ground where operations from each may be deployed in the same theatre of operations.

I welcome the process under way to review the long-standing and important UN-EU Strategic Partnership on Peacekeeping and Crisis Management. I look forward to close engagement with my Ministerial colleagues in this space. Ireland is committed to the development of EU capabilities in the area of crisis management in support of the UN.

Ireland is an active participant in all aspects of CSDP, both civilian and military. We endorse the position that crisis management operations are most effective when part of a wider approach, linking up with diplomacy, development and internal security policies. Discussions during this session were constructive and inclusive.

While in Sofia, I also attended a meeting of the European Defence Agency (EDA) Steering Board.