Departmental Projects

Ceisteanna (32)

Marc MacSharry

Ceist:

32. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Taoiseach the status of capital projects within the remit of his Department; the amount spent on each project to date; and the anticipated completion date. [34209/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

My Department has no capital allocation for such projects.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Ceisteanna (33)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

33. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has requested to meet the new Prime Minister of the UK when selected. [34405/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

The new Prime Minister of the UK is expected to take office this Wednesday and I hope that we will meet as soon as it is possible to make the necessary arrangements.

I look forward to an early engagement on Brexit, Northern Ireland and bilateral relations.

Departmental Staff Training

Ceisteanna (34)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

34. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach the expenditure allocated to staff training in 2019 in his Department; and the amount drawn down to date. [34409/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

Expenditure incurred to date on staff training in my Department is approximately €80,000.

A comprehensive learning and development programme is implemented by my Department to ensure that staff at all levels have the required skills and knowledge to perform their individual roles and deliver the strategic objectives of the Department.

The training programme includes the provision of training courses by One Learning, the Civil Service Shared Learning and Development Centre which is responsible for the delivery of training that is common across the Civil Service.

Staff are also encouraged to avail of the Refund of Fees Scheme which facilitates them to undertake third level academic courses relevant to their roles. In addition, staff also attend a number of Conferences and Seminars on a range of different topics throughout the year.

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

Ceisteanna (35)

Micheál Martin

Ceist:

35. Deputy Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach if he has spoken to the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, since the last European Council meeting. [34411/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

I reported to the House on 10 July on the most recent European Council meetings, which took place on 20 and 21 June, and from 29 June to 2 July. In addition to the formal exchanges, I also engaged informally with Chancellor Merkel and other EU counterparts in the margins of these meetings, using the opportunity as always to promote Irish interests.

I have not spoken to the Chancellor since then but will continue to meet and speak regularly with her and other EU counterparts, both bilaterally and at formal and informal meetings of the European Council. Ongoing political engagement with our EU partners remains crucial, both in relation to Brexit and to other important issues on the agenda at EU level.

Departmental Advertising Expenditure

Ceisteanna (36)

Shane Cassells

Ceist:

36. Deputy Shane Cassells asked the Taoiseach the expenditure by his Department on social media advertising and promotional material within the past year in tabular form. [34620/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Taoiseach)

A decision was taken in 2017 to fund and run cross-Government public information programmes centrally. As a result of this, in the period between quarter 4 of 2017 and July 2018, a number of public information campaigns, aimed at improving citizens' lives, such as the Healthy Ireland campaign, the Project Ireland 2040 campaign and the Self-Employed Benefits campaign were run and funded from my Department. This was a departure in approach from previous years, when such campaigns would have been led and funded by the relevant line Department. Since July 2018, the Department has reverted to the previous model, though some expenditure from previous months was processed in quarters 3 and 4 of 2018.

Expenditure processed on digital and online space from July 2018 to July 2019 was as follows:

Social Media Advertising

2018

Healthy Ireland

€8,377.47

Self Employed Benefits

€2,453.83

Budget 2019

€10,549.68

National Digital Strategy

€1,232.46

Bliain na Gaeilge

€4,632.18

End of Dáil Term Legislation

€708.66

UN Disability Campaign

€1,232.46

25th Anniversary of Decriminalisation of Homosexuality

€704.80

Project Ireland 2040

€39,696.70

Health Measures

€1,230.06

Budget 2018

€6,520

Rugby World Cup Bid

€9,500

Back to School

€2,875

Changes to PRSI Benefits

€3,000

Global Ireland

€36,436.28

2019

Budget 2019

€1,355.46

It is important that Government communicates across a variety of platforms, including online and in social media, to ensure transparency and clarity for all citizens.

Air Corps Strength

Ceisteanna (37, 61, 62, 64)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

37. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if there are concerns regarding the manpower shortages in the Air Corps relating to the service level agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32125/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

61. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of flights per day per aircraft in the Air Corps for the first six months of 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32123/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

62. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of flights per aircraft in the Air Corps in each of the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32124/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

64. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if there are restrictions in air traffic control due to staff shortages; if this limits the Air Corps service level agreements with other State bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32127/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 37, 61, 62 and 64 together.

The Deputy will be aware that the Air Corps is experiencing a shortage of specialised personnel, including Air Traffic Control (ATC) personnel, which has necessitated a reduction in operating hours of the Air Traffic Control Service in Baldonnel.

Where a Service Level Agreement is in place with other Government Departments, those Departments have been kept informed of the situation in relation to impacts, if any, on service. Notwithstanding this, ATC is available outside operating hours when dealing with matters of State security. ATC is also activated for certain pre-planned out of hours operations on a case by case basis.

While it is not yet possible to state definitively when 24-hour operations will resume, actions are underway to return to previous levels of ATC services.

Operational outputs of the Air Corps including Aid to Civil Power, Aid to Civil Authority, Emergency Aeromedical Support Service, Ministerial Air Transport and Sea Fisheries Maritime Patrols are reported in the Defence Organisation's Annual Reports. The Air Corps also carries out a significant amount of flight training on a daily basis. The Deputy will appreciate that, for security reasons, it would not be appropriate to itemise the details or number of flights in the manner sought.

Naval Service Operations

Ceisteanna (38)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

38. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the plan for continued support for migrants in the Mediterranean Sea by the Naval Service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32352/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Between 2015 and 2017, the Irish Naval Service deployed a number of ships on rotation to participate in 'Operation Pontus', a humanitarian search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean which was conducted as part of a bilateral agreement with the Italian authorities. Irish naval vessels subsequently participated in the EU naval mission in the Mediterranean, EUNAVFOR MED, Operation Sophia, in 2017 and 2018.

Operation Sophia has played a decisive role in improving the overall maritime security in the Central Mediterranean. This EU mission is primarily a security operation, designed to disrupt the traffickers business model and counter oil and weapons smuggling.

A decision was adopted by the European Council on 29th March 2019 to extend the mandate of Operation Sophia for 6 months with a temporary suspension of its naval assets, while Member States continue working on a solution related to the disembarkation of any rescued migrants. The Operation mandate continues to be implemented through strengthening surveillance by air assets as well as reinforcing training support to the Libyan Coastguard and Navy.  As the suspension of naval assets under Operation Sophia remains in place, and there is no agreement on the locations for the disembarkation of any rescued migrants, there are no plans for the return of Naval Service vessels to the Mediterranean at this time.  Defence Forces personnel continue to occupy three posts in Operational Headquarters of the Operation Sophia mission in Rome.

It should be noted that although the deployment of EU Naval assets to Operation Sophia has been suspended, EU Member States have highlighted the importance of continuing to work closely with the relevant authorities and international organisations to improve the protection of refugees and migrants.

Pension Provisions

Ceisteanna (39)

Kevin O'Keeffe

Ceist:

39. Deputy Kevin O'Keeffe asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason the pension of a person (details supplied) is being abated. [34054/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The issue raised by the Deputy relates to the operation of Section 52 of the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and other Provisions) Act 2012.

This provides that where a retired public servant who is in receipt of a public service retirement pension resumes employment anywhere in the public service on or after 1 November 2012, their pension is liable to abatement, that is, cessation or reduction as appropriate. The measure applies across the public service, including the Defence Forces. However, it does not apply in relation to employment with the commercial semi-State bodies or where public service pensioners are employed outside the public service.

Pension abatement in the public service is structured to ensure that a pensioner's combined earnings from their current public service job plus their existing public service retirement pension, does not exceed the current equivalent of pensionable salary from their old public service job. Depending on those variables, the actual impact (if any) from the measure on a person’s public service pension will vary from person to person.  For example, where a person’s combined public service earnings from their current job plus pension are less than the current equivalent of their pensionable earnings from their old job e.g. in the Defence Forces, there is no reduction of pension.

I should point out that prior to 1 November 2012, this abatement principle / concept already operated as a standard feature of public service pension schemes generally.  However, this was only within individual sectors and bodies where a public service pensioner resumed working in his or her former occupation, e.g. Defence Forces, Garda, Civil Service etc. The 2012 Act extends the principle across and between all sectors without exception, thereby restoring the arrangements that were in place until 1965.

In relation to the person in question, the position is that he is in receipt of a pension as a retired member of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) and is also employed by my Department as a Civilian Employee and as such the provisions of Section 52 of the 2012 Act must be applied.  An abatement to his Defence Forces' pension only applies in a month when his monthly earnings as a Civilian Employee and his Defence Forces’ pension for that month exceed the current equivalent of the pensionable pay he received  when serving in the PDF. Any abatement applied is deducted from the gross pension amount.

The Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme and other Provisions) Act 2012 comes under the remit of my colleague the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and the question of any changes to that Act would therefore be a matter for him in the first instance.

Legislative Programme

Ceisteanna (40)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

40. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the primary legislation enacted since May 2016; and if in each case the legislation placed additional regulatory burdens on small and medium-sized enterprises. [31479/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

There has been no primary legislation initiated by my Department which has been enacted since May 2016.

Legislative Programme

Ceisteanna (41)

Tom Neville

Ceist:

41. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the secondary legislation enacted since 1 January 2018; and if in each case the legislation placed additional regulatory burdens on small and medium-sized enterprises. [31503/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The secondary legislation enacted since 1 January 2018 is set out in the following table.

In general, legislation emanating from the Department of Defence is focused on issues relating to the Defence Forces only and does not apply to the ordinary citizen or to business.  None of the items of secondary legislation listed in the table placed additional regulatory burdens on small and medium enterprises.

1.

Defence Force Regulations 1/2018 Promotion of an Officer of the Permanent Defence Force 2018.

2.

Defence Force Regulations 2/2018 Promotion of an Officer of the Permanent Defence Force (No.2) 2018.

3.

Defence Force Regulations 3/2018 Promotion of an Officer of the Permanent Defence Force (No.3) 2018.

4.

Defence Force Regulations 4/2018 Extension of Service of an Officer of the Permanent Defence Force 2018. 

5.

Defence Force Regulations 5/2018 Extension of Service and Promotion of an Officer of the Permanent Defence Force 2018 

6.

Defence Force Regulations 6/2018 Extension of Service of an Officer of the Permanent Defence Force (No.2) 2018.

7.

Defence Force Regulations 7/2018 Extension of Service of an Officer of the Permanent Defence Force (No.3) 2018.

8.

Defence Force Regulations 8/2018 Extension of Service of an Officer of the Reserve Defence Force 2018.

9.

Defence Force Regulations A.10 Enlistment, Promotions, Reductions, Transfers to the Reserve Defence Force and Discharge 1941 (Amendment) 2018.

10.

Defence Force Regulations A.11 (New Series) Leave 2011 (Amendment) 2018.

11.

Defence Force Regulations A.15 Officers (Appointments, Promotions, etc.) 1942 (Amendment) 2018.

12.

Defence Force Regulations C.S.4 Organisation of the Defence Forces 2013 (Amendment) 2018.

13.

Defence Force Regulations L.1 Barrack Services and Property Infrastructure Management 2018.

14.

Defence Force Regulations L.4 Transport 2018.

15.

Defence Force Regulations L.6 Equitation 2018.

16.

Defence Force Regulations S.3 Pay and Allowances (Permanent Defence Force) 1969 (Amendment) 2018.

17.

Defence Force Regulations S.3 Pay and Allowances (Permanent Defence Force) 1969 (Amendment) (No.2) 2018.

18.

Defence Force Regulations S.5 Civilian Employees 2016 (Amendment) 2018.

19.

Defence Force Regulations 1/2019 Retirement of an Officer of the Permanent Defence Force 2019.

20.

Defence Force Regulations 2/2019 Promotion of an Officer of the Permanent Defence Force 2019. 

21.

Defence Force Regulations 3/2019 Promotion of an Officer of the Permanent Defence Force (No.2) 2019. 

22.

Defence Force Regulations 4/2019 Secondment of an Officer of the Permanent Defence Force 2019.

23.

Defence Force Regulations A.3 (New Series) Cadets 2019.

24.

Defence Force Regulations A.10 Enlistment, Promotions, Reductions, Transfers to the Reserve Defence Force and Discharge 1941 (Amendment) 2019. 

25

Defence Force Regulations A.11 (New Series) Leave 2011 (Amendment) 2019.

26.

Defence Force Regulations A.12 Medical Treatment 1943 (Amendment) 2019.

27.

Defence Force Regulations A.14 Army Nursing Service 1992 (Amendment) 2019. 

28.

Defence Force Regulations C.S.3 Military, Educational and Recreational Training 1937 (Amendment) 2019.

29.

Defence Force Regulations Miscellaneous Provisions 2019. 

30.

Defence Force Regulations S.3 Pay and Allowances (Permanent Defence Force) 1969 (Amendment) 2019.

31.

Defence Force Regulations S.3 Pay and Allowances (Permanent Defence Force) 1969 (Amendment) (No.2) 2019.

32.

Defence Force Regulations S.3 Pay and Allowances (Permanent Defence Force) 1969 (Amendment) (No.3) 2019.

33.

Defence Force Regulations Q.11 Welfare Schemes and Canteens 1942 (Amendment) 2019. 

Legislative Reviews

Ceisteanna (42)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

42. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of reviews carried out by his Department pursuant to Standing Order 164A of Dáil Éireann; the legislation to which each review refers; the number and title of each piece of legislation in respect of which a review pursuant to Standing Order 164A has not been undertaken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31627/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Since the relevant Standing Order came into effect on 5 November 2013, the only primary legislation relating to my Department which has been enacted is the Defence (Amendment) Act 2015.  This is a technical and administrative piece of legislation with the sole purpose of creating an appropriate naval rank  for the position of Chief of Staff for the Defence Forces.   In view of the limited application of the legislation, no post-enactment review was carried out.

Naval Service Vessels

Ceisteanna (43, 57, 58, 59, 60, 85)

Seán Crowe

Ceist:

43. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason for the decision to send the LÉ Eithne and LÉ Orla to port; and the impact personnel shortages within the Naval Service had on the decision. [31737/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

57. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a senior official in his Department was briefed on the contents of the letter of the Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service before it was published; if so, the reason he then subsequently contradicted its contents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32117/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

58. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will clarify the details of a letter he stated he received from the general staff of the Defence Forces regarding the scheduled maintenance of Naval Service ships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32118/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

59. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason he has stated that there are no manpower issues with the docked Naval Service ships; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32119/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

60. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his comments regarding apparent inaccurate reports regarding Naval Service ships (details supplied) will be clarified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32120/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

85. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number and name of each Naval Service vessel available for use; the name and number of vessels under maintenance; the name and number of vessels unavailable due to staffing levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33817/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 43, 57 to 60, inclusive, and 85 together.

I can confirm that neither I nor any senior official was briefed in advance of circulation of the internal Defence Forces newsletter dated 27 June which issued to Naval Service personnel. Subsequently it was confirmed to my officials that both LÉ Eithne and LÉ Orla were in port for scheduled maintenance, including a period of dry dock.

The personnel challenges in the Naval Service are well known. There is no question of minimising them and my main focus is returning the Naval Service to its full capacity. There are recruitment and retention challenges in the Naval Service and difficult decisions have to be made to regenerate the Naval Service.

In general terms, the fleet is always managed to ensure maximum availability to meet operational requirements. In that context, there is a sub set of vessels on patrol within the Irish Exclusive Economic Zone at any one time. Extensive maintenance and dry-docking works are also carried out on an ongoing basis to ensure the operational capability of the Naval Service is maintained to the greatest extent possible so that they can carry out their roles as assigned by Government.

A joint civil and military team met recently to review the issues facing the Naval Service and to prepare options for my consideration. At that meeting consideration was given to proposals to put two ships on self-maintenance into operational reserve. Further analysis is being carried out on the basis of these discussions with a view to maximising the operational outputs of the Naval Service. I expect to receive recommendations from the civil military team shortly.

I can also confirm that a Mid-Life Extension Programme commenced for P51 LE Róisín last March. A Mid-Life Extension Programme for P52 LÉ Niamh will commence in 2020.

I can assure the Deputy that the Naval Service will continue to carry out its various roles using available resources.

Naval Service Vessels

Ceisteanna (44)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

44. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence when the Naval Service will take delivery as part of the fleet renewal programme of the replacement of the LÉ Eithne as flagship; the cost and the specifications of the proposed new multi-purpose vessel; and if the LÉ Eithne will be decommissioned. [31870/19]

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 Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is maintained to the greatest extent possible. This is primarily to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government as set out in the White Paper on Defence.  Equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are being considered in the context of the lifetime of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment planning process.

In this context the principal aim over the period of the White Paper is to replace and upgrade, as required, existing capabilities in order to retain a flexible response for a wide range of operational requirements at home and overseas. In accordance with the National Development Plan, the capital allocation for Defence has been increased to €106 million for 2019, an increase of €29 million. The Defence Capital envelope for the period 2018-2021 is €416m, and this will enable investment in major equipment platforms, including the continuing replacement and refurbishment of Naval Service Vessels.

The White Paper 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. It is the intention to hold a public tender competition in due course to cover the supply of the MRV and the detailed specification of requirements will part of that process. This procurement is subject to the availability of funding within the overall Defence capital funding envelope and the cost and timeframe for delivery of the MRV will only be known once the tender competition is concluded.

Future Naval Service capabilities are being planned as part of the White Paper project planning process which will determine the Defence Organisation’s maritime capability requirements informed by the operational status of individual vessels over time.

Naval Service Vessels

Ceisteanna (45)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

45. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the schedule of refitting or major maintenance works which would or did require any of the Naval Service fleet to be in dry dock or out of service for periods of a month or more in the next 12 months and in the past three years. [31871/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Naval Service ships are required to complete dry-dock maintenance, survey and inspection, twice during each ship five (5) year cycle.  An intermediate dry-dock is carried out between two and a half (2.5) and three (3) years.  A full dry-dock is carried out at five (5) years.

Naval Service ships which are beyond their originally projected 30-year asset life, are dry-docked for inspection every year, in order to manage ageing hull risk.

In addition to the planned maintenance (dry-docking and refits) carried out on all vessels, there is a requirement to upgrade and refurbish vessels having regard to emerging operational requirements and changes in technology. This is referred to as a Mid-Life Extension Programme and these works aim to extend the life of a vessel and address obsolescence. The Mid-Life Extension Programme of LÉ Róisín commenced in March 2019, with an initial dry-docking phase, followed by an extended period of equipment upgrade and refit works.  LÉ Niamh's extension programme is due to commence in 2020.

Notwithstanding this capital maintenance programme, Naval Service Ships are required to undertake planned routine and non-routine maintenance on plant and machinery every day, 365 days a year, regardless of whether the ship is on patrol, undertaking Maritime Defence and Security Operations or alongside the Naval Base off patrol.

These works are carried out to ensure the operational capability of the Naval Service is maintained to the greatest extent possible so that they can carry out their roles as assigned by the Government.

Detailed maintenance and dry-docking schedules have not been provided for operational defence and security reasons.

Naval Service Operations

Ceisteanna (46)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

46. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the cost of participation in Operation Sophia annually since involvement in terms of wages, fuel, ship maintenance and other costs; and if the costs are recoupable from the EU. [31872/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Operation Sophia is primarily a security operation which specifically seeks to counter human trafficking and smuggling in the Southern Central Mediterranean by taking action against the criminal networks and disrupting the smugglers business model.

In July 2017, Government and Dáil approval was secured for the deployment of an Irish Naval Service vessel as part of Operation Sophia.  The participation by L.É. Niamh in Operation Sophia over an 11-week period represented the first involvement by the Naval Service in a multilateral security operation under a UN mandate.

In February 2018, the Government approved a further Naval Service contribution to Operation Sophia for a period of approximately 8 months.  L.É. Samuel Beckett deployed from mid April to mid-July and was replaced thereafter in the area of operations by L.É. James Joyce.

The cost of participation in Operation Sophia in 2017 and 2018 is set out in the table below.  As the Deputy will appreciate, the pay costs for Naval Force Personnel would have been incurred in the normal course and do not represent an additional cost for the mission.

 

2017 (€m)

2018 (€m)

Pay 

 1.07

 2.6

Allowances

 0.35

 1.03

Fuel and other ancillary costs

 0.46

 1.44

All contributing countries to the EU-led Operation Sophia are responsible for their own costs and they are not recoupable from the EU. In addition, Ireland currently contributes to the common costs of this mission under the ATHENA mechanism.  ATHENA 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.  Ireland's contribution to the common costs of Operation Sophia as part of our commitments under the ATHENA mechanism amounted to approximately €47,278 in 2017 and €72,282 in 2018.

A decision was adopted by the European Council on 29th March 2019 to extend the mandate of Operation Sophia for six months with a temporary suspension of its naval assets while Member States continue working on a solution related to disembarkation.  As a result, no Irish Naval Service vessel has been deployed to this mission in 2019.

Defence Forces personnel continue to occupy three posts in the Operational Headquarters of this EU naval mission in Rome.

Naval Service Operations

Ceisteanna (47)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

47. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if there has been a request for Ireland to partake in maritime EU or NATO missions or naval exercises since 2011 other than Operation Pontus or Operation Sophia. [31873/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I would like to clarify that Operation Pontus was neither an EU nor a NATO maritime mission.  It was a humanitarian search and rescue mission undertaken as part of a bilateral arrangement with the Italian authorities.  Irish Naval vessels participated in this operation between 2015-2017.

Irish Naval ships were deployed in 2017 and 2018 as part of Operation Sophia which is the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy naval mission in the Mediterranean.

Rather than a specific request to a member State, the EU holds regular Force Generation Conferences for each of the EU-led missions and operations, where all member States are advised of current and future requirements in terms of personnel and assets.  At these conferences member States can also make offers of capabilities to a mission as Ireland did in the case of our participation in Operation Sophia. 

No invitations were received from NATO in the period referenced in relation to Ireland's participation in maritime operations and exercises.

Defence Forces Representative Organisations

Ceisteanna (48, 100)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

48. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence when organisations will be allowed to join and associate with a representative body (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31874/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

100. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the proposed timeframe for the affiliation of Defence Forces representative organisations with an organisation (details supplied); if he can guarantee that Defence Forces representative organisations will have a seat at the next round of public sector pay talks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34383/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 48 and 100 together.

The Defence (Amendment) Act 1990 and Defence Force Regulations S6 provided for the establishment of representative associations for members of the Permanent Defence Force. The associations that have been established are RACO (for commissioned officers) and PDFORRA (for enlisted personnel).

A Scheme of Conciliation and Arbitration for members of the Permanent Defence Force provides a formal mechanism for the Defence Forces representative associations to discuss a range of matters relating to the pay and allowances and conditions of service of their members.  An independent review of the C&A scheme was completed in 2018. A copy of the report of the review is available on the Department of Defence website.

The report of the review contains a number of recommendations aimed at improving the efficiency of the scheme.  All the parties to the Scheme, are in the process of developing a revised scheme implementing the recommendations in the report.

One of the recommendations in the Report is that the official side should, with the consent of the Minister, engage in discussions with the ICTU to explore the practicalities of a PDF representative association forming association/affiliation with the ICTU, while giving due consideration to any likely conflict that might arise between such an arrangement and the obligations of military service.

This matter is being progressed and there has been engagement between between the Department of Defence, military management and ICTU. Defence management (civil and military) have met the Representative Associations and will keep them informed of developments.

Public Service Pay policy comes within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Paschal Donohoe. The manner in which future public service pay negotiations are to be conducted will be determined by the Minister.

Defence Forces Medicinal Products

Ceisteanna (49)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

49. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the company supplying Lariam and other anti-malaria drugs to the Army; and the specifics of the supply contract. [31875/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Defence Forces do not have a contract in place with any one manufacturer or wholesaler to supply Lariam. The Defence Forces go to market on each occasion that the product is prescribed and sources it from a supplier that is authorised within the European Economic Area (EEA). This year, the Defence Forces have purchased Lariam from both Uniphar Wholesale and Ascot Pharma.

The Defence Forces procure other anti-malarial drugs on a demand basis, using the four-year Framework Agreement on the Supply and Pricing of Medicines to the Public Health Services. This agreement is between the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), the Department of Health, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and the HSE. These medications are supplied by either one of the two main authorised Irish wholesalers, namely Uniphar or United Drug.

Defence Forces Medicinal Products

Ceisteanna (50)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

50. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the stock of anti-malaria drugs (details supplied) in view of the recent decision to bolster the Army contingent in Mali, Africa with personnel from the Army Ranger Wing. [31876/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Details are set out in the following table, as requested:

Drug 

Stock (Capsules)

Mefloquine

32

Malarone

96

Doxycyline

411

With the exception of Mefloquine, further stocks of each drug may be obtained within one day, as required. I understand that Mefloquine is typically delivered within 5 days of placing an order.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Ceisteanna (51, 56)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

51. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the specific measures taken to increase recruitment into the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32111/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

56. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the steps he has taken to address the low levels of satisfaction with the recruitment process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32116/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 51 and 56 together.

The Government remains committed to maximising recruitment capacity in order to return to, and maintain, the agreed strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel.

In this context, the Defence Forces continue to implement a recruitment plan which targets General Service Recruits, Cadets and specialists for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service. In addition, a range of alternative recruitment approaches are being developed, aimed at addressing vacancies in specialist areas.

The current recruitment and induction process is kept under on-going review to ensure it continues to effectively determine suitability for entry to the Defence Forces.  For example, the application process for General Service recruitment now remains open throughout the year and so affords more opportunities for applicants to apply.

The conditions for entry to and service in the Permanent Defence Force, including the methodologies used for assessments and the sequencing of the individual components of the recruitment process, are subject to continuous review and modification having regard to the needs of the Organisation and the development of best practices.

The recent report of the Public Service Pay Commission on recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces also made recommendations to address the current recruitment challenges being experienced by the Permanent Defence Force and these are being progressed. This will include a review of recruitment methods.

Defence Forces

Ceisteanna (52)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

52. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the steps he has taken to further involve Defence Forces members in decision-making processes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32112/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

In accordance with constitutional and statutory provisions, military command of, and all executive and administrative powers in relation to, the Defence Forces, including the power to delegate command and authority, are exercised by the Government and through and by the Minister for Defence. By law, the Department of Defence has civil and military branches and, with the serving Minister as head, ensures civil control of the armed forces of the State.

The Secretary General heads the civil element of my Department while the Chief of Staff heads the military element, known as Defence Forces Headquarters, which has an establishment of 327 military personnel.  As such, the Secretary General is my principal policy adviser and the Chief of Staff is my principal military adviser.  Both elements of the Department provide supports to me, as Minister, in the management of defence and have decision making authority.  In this regard, as provided for in the Defence Acts 1954-2011, the Chief of Staff, as head of Defence Forces Headquarters, has a wide range of responsibilities which include the military effectiveness, efficiency, organisation, and economy of the Defence Forces.  As provided for in the Acts, the Chief of Staff has, in turn, delegated responsibility for certain duties to the Deputy Chief of Staff (Operations) and to the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support).  Moreover, all officers in the rank of Brigadier General or equivalent commanding the various brigades and formations have direct and independent access to the Minister for Defence in connection with their areas of command.

The Strategic Management Committee (SMC) is a joint civil-military committee.  As set out in the White Paper on Defence, it provides the central forum for management and oversight of civil and military matters and provides the means by which senior civil and military managers engage in policy development.  The SMC members are the Secretary General, the Chief of Staff, the Assistant Secretary Generals, the Director, the Deputy Chiefs of Staff and the Assistant Chief of Staff. The General Officer Commanding the Air Corps and the Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service also attend in respect of matters affecting their services. Close co-operation on all matters between civil and military elements are a priority and the SMC meets on a monthly basis.

Furthermore, a significant portion of the Defence budget, comprising the bulk of the non-pay element, is now delegated to the Chief of Staff to facilitate the exercise of his functions, particularly in the area of the procurement of goods and services. Where significant levels of expenditure are proposed, a joint civil-military High-Level Planning and Procurement Group is the sanctioning authority in accordance with the Public Spending Code and this meets on an almost monthly basis to progress equipment procurement and infrastructural development priorities.

The White Paper on Defence has established the policy framework out to 2025 and this was developed jointly by civil-military working groups and overseen by a joint Steering Group.  Since publication, a joint civil-military White Paper Implementation Facilitation Team was established to oversee implementation of the White Paper across a total of 95 projects. All project teams are led by either a military or civil project lead, or are jointly lead depending on the subject matter of the project, and all teams have both civil and military membership.  Furthermore, a White Paper Update is now very close to completion and this is also being led by a civil-military Steering Group and has involved participation by civil and military personnel from across the Defence Organisation.

The position, as described, provides just a summary of the wide range of on-going engagement in decision making processes that is undertaken on a daily basis by Defence Forces personnel.  Members of the Defence Forces have operational decision-making autonomy and responsibility for associated outcomes within the foregoing arrangements.

Defence Forces Reorganisation

Ceisteanna (53)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

53. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence when his Department will institute workforce planning initiatives; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32113/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The recently published Report of the Public Service Pay Commission on Recruitment and Retention in the Permanent Defence Force recommended a number of actions, inter alia, workforce planning initiatives. This complements work already underway in the Department and the Defence Forces.

The recommendations within the report have been distilled into specific actions, applying corresponding timeframes, within an approved High Level Implementation Plan.  Work has commenced in advancing the actions contained in this plan.

Air Corps Strength

Ceisteanna (54)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

54. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the efforts being made to retain pilots who are leaving to work for commercial airlines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32114/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

At its meeting held on 4 July 2019, the Government accepted in full the report of the Public Service Pay Commission on recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces. The Government also agreed an extensive implementation plan for the report. The Report recommended restoration of the Service Commitment Scheme for Pilots as a mechanism to encourage pilots to remain in the Air Corps.

The implementation plan is arranged around three broad themes of valuing members of the PDF, retaining the best people and attracting the best people. The plan, agreed by Government, sets out the actions to be taken and the timelines within which they will be taken, i.e. immediate, short term, medium term and long term. The implementation plan complements a range of actions that are already underway in the Department and the Defence Forces, to enhance recruitment and retention in the PDF. The restoration of the Service Commitment Scheme for Flying Officers is one of the matters provided for in the Plan.

The report of the Public Service Pay Commission is currently being considered by the Permanent Defence Force Representative Associations and there will be further meetings in the coming weeks to clarify any matters arising.

Air Corps Recruitment

Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 51.

Ceisteanna (55)

Jack Chambers

Ceist:

55. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the steps being taken to address the shortfall in the Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32115/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Government remains committed to maximising recruitment capacity in order to return to, and maintain, the agreed strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel.

In this context, applications for the following Air Corps specific recruitment campaigns are currently being progressed. In addition, a range of alternative recruitment approaches are being developed, aimed at addressing vacancies in specialist areas.

The recent report of the Public Service Pay Commission on recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces made recommendations that will impact on the Air Corps, for example the restoration of the Service Commitment Scheme for pilots and the review of technical pay arrangements have been prioritised for immediate action in the associated implementation plan.

Question No. 56 answered with Question No. 51.