Thursday, 11 April 2019

Ceisteanna (24)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

24. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on whether a commission should be established to examine defence matters in the same way as policing was reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16841/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Commission on the Future of Policing was established by the Government in May 2017 in order to carry out a fundamental examination of all aspects of policing in this State and to bring forward proposals to the Government for the  future of policing. The Commission reported in September 2018 and implementation is now being overseen by an Implementation Group on Policing Reform.

In terms of defence, the White Paper on Defence, which was approved by the Government in 2015, comprehensively deals with all aspects of defence policy and was informed by a lengthy and wide-ranging consultation process facilitated by my Department. This commenced in July 2013 when a Green Paper on Defence was published as part of a process that ultimately led to publication of the White Paper in August 2015.

The purpose of the Green Paper was to stimulate an open debate about future defence requirements and submissions were sought. In total, 122 written submissions were received from a wide variety of interested parties. Civil and military personnel of the Defence Organisation subsequently held follow-on meetings with selected groups and individuals and also met with other government departments and agencies, and international organisations as part of the consultation process. The then Minister for Defence also established an External Advisory Group to support him in his deliberations on the White Paper.

Furthermore, a symposium on the White Paper was held at Farmleigh House in May 2015 which provided a wide stakeholder group with the opportunity to hear alternative views, to learn from the experience of others and to debate the merits of differing courses of action.  The audience comprised cross-party political representation, Irish and international think tanks and academic institutions, international organisations including the EU, UN and NATO, along with top level civil and military staff of the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces, representatives from other government departments and agencies, Civil Defence, the Representative and official Veterans Associations of the Defence Forces, and other interested parties. 

There are no plans to establish a commission on defence but, significantly, the policy framework that is set out in the White Paper is designed to be flexible and responsive.  It is within this context that the Government made a commitment to establish a process of fixed cycle of reviews to give assurance that defence policy remains up to date and relevant to changing circumstances.  The White Paper specifically provides that these defence reviews are to have a three yearly cycle and that the first of these would be a White Paper Update, which is well underway in my Department and close to completion, while a more comprehensive Strategic Defence Review will commence in early 2021.

As part of the process of establishing these reviews as a permanent feature of our approach to defence policy, and to seek to do so on a consensual basis, I wrote to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence, in August 2018 to obtain their views and I met with the Committee last month in this regard.