Defence Forces Contracts

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 68.

Ceisteanna (72)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

72. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No. 27 of 7 November 2019, if the question of arms being purchased and sold to countries that violate international law and deny human rights has been raised at EU level; his views on whether the EU should reconsider its policy on competitive tenders with an emphasis on human rights; and if he will consider a unilateral position on purchasing equipment whether it be defensive or offensive in nature. [53013/19]

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 to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government, including overseas deployments.

As I outlined to the House in response to Parliamentary Question No. 27 of 7 November 2019, the principle of competitive tendering for Government contracts is used by the Department of Defence for the acquisition of defensive equipment for the Defence Forces. Central to those procedures is the requirement to allow fair competition between suppliers through the submission of tenders following advertising of the tender competition on the e-tenders site and on the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), where appropriate, in line with the EU Procurement Directives, including the Defence and Security Directive.

Such tender competitions are open to any company or country in accordance with the terms of all UN, OSCE and EU arms embargos or restrictions.

In following these guidelines and codes, the Department of Defence must deal impartially with all bidders that are entitled to enter procurement competitions and must evaluate tenders on the basis of objective criteria.

With regard to engagement at EU level regarding policy governing the purchase, sale or tendering for defensive equipment from countries that may violate international law or human rights, these matters remain the responsibility of my colleagues the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Trade policy and market access are largely EU competencies and any restriction or ban on imports from any particular country would have to be concerted at EU level.

The manner in which the Department of Defence procures both goods and services remains consistent with international best practice and is in line with EU and UN decisions on trade embargos. I am satisfied that this is an appropriate way in which to continue, rather than Ireland taking any unilateral decision to target individual companies or countries in that respect. In the absence of a general trade embargo, the Department of Defence cannot unilaterally preclude companies from participating in tender competitions for military equipment or any other type of goods.

Question No. 73 answered with Question No. 68.

European Defence Capabilities

Ceisteanna (74)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

74. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the expenditure to date on the European Defence Fund by Ireland; the status of the integration into the European Defence Fund by Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52907/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The European Defence Fund is a new financial mechanism designed to enable and accelerate cooperation among Member States to better coordinate, supplement and amplify national investments in defence. Through the co-funded European Defence Fund, Member States will be able to achieve greater output and develop defence technology and equipment that may not be feasible on their own, by pooling national resources. The Fund will also foster innovation and allow economies of scale, which will enhance the competitiveness of the EU defence industry. The Fund will have two strands or windows, which are complementary - the Research Window and the Capability Window.

From 2018 to 2020, the EU Commission has allocated €590 million from within existing resources to the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), which is a precursor programme to the EDF. In terms of objectives, the EDIDP and the EDF are broadly similar.

The EDF, which will only come into effect post-2020, will be financed under the next Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027. The current level of funding proposed is in the region of €6 billion - which will come from the EU Budget - but this will depend on the outcome of negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework. These are currently underway and the proposed funding is subject to further revision. There has been no expenditure to date on the EDF. No funding will flow through the EDF until 2021.

The EDF is an industrial sectoral programme, providing funding for research and capability development, which supports the European Defence and Industrial Technology Base in delivering capabilities for CSDP. In that regard, it is similar to other EU industry and research support programmes, such as ICT, biotech, space etc, funded from the MFF.

My Department continues to work closely with colleagues in the Department of Business, Enterprise and innovation to ensure that Irish interests, particularly in the area of opportunities for SMEs are strongly represented in the work programmes under these funding sources.

Permanent Structured Co-operation

Ceisteanna (75)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Ceist:

75. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on whether many aspects of PESCO are at odds with the centrality of peace and conflict resolution as set out in A Better World, which is the position of Ireland on international development; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53012/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Ireland's Policy for international development 'A Better World' is a whole of government policy which was launched by the Tánaiste in February, 2019. It provides the framework for Ireland’s expanding development cooperation programme, outlining Ireland’s vision of a more equal, peaceful and sustainable world. Ireland's policy on international security and defence operates in a complimentary manner to this. Peacekeeping and conflict resolution form two elements of Ireland's engagement in the international peace and security sphere alongside political engagement, development cooperation and humanitarian action.

Preventing crises, resolving conflict, arresting climate change, protecting vulnerable populations and saving lives in humanitarian emergencies are in Ireland’s fundamental interest. Ireland's policy for international development also highlights that conflict and fragility, compounded by climate change, are increasing the vulnerability of millions. Globally, the number of major violent conflicts has tripled since 2010 and more countries are experiencing war than at any time in nearly 30 years.

The commitments made by Ireland under Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) do not impinge on or conflict with the goals and ambitions outlined in our policy on international development.

Then EU Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) as part of the Common Foreign Security Policy, provides the basis whereby the EU contributes to international peace and security and regional stability in the face of increasing conflict. PESCO is a capability development mechanism provided for under the EU treaties to deliver capabilities in support of CSDP missions and operations. It represents a further development in EU cooperation in support of international peace and security. PESCO enables member States, including Ireland, to further develop their capabilities in support of peacekeeping through participation in joint projects with like-minded partners. It also has the potential to help reduce the cost of developing and procuring necessary capabilities.

As a committed EU Member State, Ireland supports fully the efforts of EU Member States to improve the Union's capacity to respond to the prevailing challenging security environment, including in the area of defence. Within the framework of CSDP, Ireland has supported the development of recent EU defence initiatives with a view to enhancing the EU’s capacity to engage in peace support and crisis management operations, particularly in support of the UN and to delivering the necessary capabilities, both civil and military to this end.

Ministerial Transport

Ceisteanna (76)

Brendan Howlin

Ceist:

76. Deputy Brendan Howlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will report on his use of the Government jet to date in 2019. [50046/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Ministerial Air Transport Service provides the Government and the President with an independent and flexible air transport service to assist in meeting national and international obligations.

Requests for the use of the service are made to the Taoiseach’s office where they are examined with regard to the need and purpose of travel. Once approved all operational matters are settled directly between the Minister in question and my Department.

Information in relation to Ministerial Air Transport flights is publically available via a link entitled "Routinely Published Information" on the Department of Defence website where it is updated on a monthly basis: www.gov.ie/en/organisation/department-of-defence/.

In relation to my usage of the Ministerial Air Transport Service during 2019 in my capacity as Minister with responsibility for Defence, the following table outlines the details of travel sought by the Deputy to-date.

Departure Date

Return Date

Ministerial Time on Board (Minutes)

Route

Department

Passengers

30/01/2019

30/01/2019

255

Baldonnel - Bucharest - Baldonnel

Defence

MoS plus 3

Defence Forces Operations

Ceisteanna (77)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

77. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence when Ireland will withdraw from Operation Sophia and return to search and rescue missions in view of the continuing deaths of refugees and migrants in the seas around Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52646/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

In relation to Operation Sophia, the Irish Naval Service has not deployed Naval Service vessels to this mission since November 2018. Defence Forces personnel continue to occupy three posts in the Operational Headquarters of the Operation Sophia mission in Rome.

The EU Naval Mission, Operation Sophia, is primarily a security operation, designed to disrupt the traffickers business model and counter oil and weapons smuggling. Operation Sophia has played an important role in improving the overall maritime security in the Central Mediterranean.

A decision was adopted by the European Council on 26th September 2019 to extend the mandate of Operation Sophia for a further 6 months until 31st March 2020, with a temporary suspension of its naval assets, while Member States continue working on a solution related to the disembarkation of any rescued migrants. 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. 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.

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.

The Department of Defence constantly reviews the deployment of Defence Forces Personnel overseas. The changing nature of demands and potential future mission profiles need to be considered in the context of assets and capabilities which can be made available by the Defence Forces for overseas deployment, given existing operational demands at home and overseas.

Army Barracks

Ceisteanna (78)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

78. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to reconsider the barracks infrastructure of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52758/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

As I have outlined on a number of occasions, there are no plans to make any changes to the barracks infrastructure of the Defence Forces. The White Paper on Defence, published in 2015, comprehensively deals with all aspects of defence policy and was informed by a wide ranging consultation process, and it makes no provision for any changes to the current barracks infrastructure.

I am satisfied that the current structures have contributed to an improvement in the deployability and sustainability of the Defence Forces, both at home and overseas. The current structures optimise the capacity of the Defence Forces to continue to fulfil the roles assigned to it by Government, and as such, there are no plans to reconsider the barracks infrastructure.

Furthermore, and as outlined in the White Paper Update which I published last week, there have been very important modernisation projects completed in the last few years and many are ongoing, all contributing to capability. However, the Government acknowledges that there is continuing potential for additional investment in military facilities and, with this in mind, a focused five year infrastructure programme will be launched in January 2020. This will provide the means to channel available funds to where these will have the strongest impact.

Defence Forces Strength

Ceisteanna (79)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

79. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which the strength of the Defence Forces has stabilised to the extent necessary to achieve recommended strength in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52961/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The military authorities have advised that the strength of the Permanent Defence Force (whole time equivalent) at 30th November 2019, was 8,751 personnel, comprised of:

Army - 7,071

Air Corps - 733

Naval Service - 947

I am very much aware that there continues to be a shortfall between the current strength figures and those of the establishment and I remain committed to restoring the strength of the Defence Forces to 9,500. Recruitment is ongoing and the recruitment process itself remains subject to continuous monitoring and appraisal to ensure it remains fit for purpose.

The Government has acknowledged that there are recruitment and retention issues in the Defence Forces that must be addressed. It is a fact that members of the Permanent Defence Force are being attracted to jobs elsewhere in a buoyant labour market. In light of the particular difficulties being faced by the Defence Sector, the Government tasked the Public Service Pay Commission to undertake a comprehensive evaluation of recruitment and retention issues in the Permanent Defence Force (PDF).

The Commission’s Report, which has been accepted by Government, contains a broad range of recommendations which will provide immediate benefits to members of the Permanent Defence Force as well as initiatives that can lead to further improvements. These include:

- a 10% increase in Military Service Allowance

- the restoration to pre-Haddington Road levels of certain specific Defence Forces allowances

- the restoration of Premium Rates for certain weekend duties.

- the return of an incentive scheme to address pilot retention issues in the Air Corps.

I welcome the fact that both RACO and PDFORRA have accepted these recommendations.

The Report contains a range of recommendations aimed at improving work-force planning, recruitment and conditions of service. The Report also recommends an examination of pay structures in the PDF and to identify further retention measures within the context of the Public Service Stability Agreement and future public sector pay negotiations.

The Government has prepared a detailed implementation plan setting out the timelines and objectives, indicating the commitment to deliver on the Pay Commission’s recommendations. Work on implementing the plan is underway and, under my direction, is being prioritised by Civil and Military Management.

I am confident that all the measures contained in the plan, coupled with pay benefits being delivered by the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, the most recent being a 1.5% increase on 1st September, will address recruitment and retention challenges being experienced by the Permanent Defence Force.

However, it should be noted that as the Government's plan contains short, medium and long-term measures, the full impact of these measures will take time to determine. There are also a range of external variables which impact on recruitment and retention and which can change. The capacity of the Defence Forces to undertake the tasks assigned by Government will continue to be carefully monitored having regard to the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Commission and other actions which are underway.

Defence Forces Personnel

Ceisteanna (80)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

80. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the introduction of recent measures have stemmed the exodus from the Defence Forces; and his views on whether his policies over the past eight years have failed and contributed to the exodus, low morale and the feeling of being undervalued among Defence Forces personnel. [52723/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Government policy over the last eight years has led to strong economic growth and a buoyant labour market. This is to be welcomed.

The Government has acknowledged that there are recruitment and retention difficulties in the Defence Forces. This is a feature of the highly competitive jobs market and is particularly impacting on specialist such as pilots. This is also being experienced by other military forces internationally.

The Government accepted the report of the Public Service Pay Commission on retention and recruitment in the Permanent Defence Force. It contains a broad range of recommendations to address recruitment and retention difficulties, some of which will provide immediate benefits to members of the Permanent Defence Force. Immediate measures include:

- a 10% increase in Military Service Allowance,

- the restoration to pre-Haddington Road levels of certain specific Defence Forces allowances,

- the restoration of premium rates for certain weekend duties,

- the return of an incentive scheme to address pilot retention issues in the Air Corps.

These measures, which will cost approximately €10 million per annum have been accepted by the Permanent Defence Force Representative Associations and are in the course of being implemented.

In addition, the Report also provides for an examination of pay structures in the PDF and the identification of other retention measures, which will be progressed within the framework of the Public Service Stability Agreement and future public sector pay negotiations. The Report also contains a range of other recommendations aimed at improving work-force planning, recruitment and conditions of service in the PDF.

The Government has prepared a detailed implementation plan setting out timelines and objectives to deliver on the Pay Commission’s recommendations. This plan encompasses the immediate, short term and longer term actions recommended and it will take time to reap the full benefit of these measures. Under my direction, this work is being prioritised by civil and military management. It should also be noted that there are also a range of external variables which impact on recruitment and retention and which remain dynamic.

The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, provides for increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the Agreement. The increases due to date under the Agreement have been paid to members of the Defence Forces, the most recent being a 1.75% increase on annualised salaries from the 1 September 2019. Further increases in pay are scheduled in 2020.

I am confident that the implementation of the Government's Plan, in tandem with pay benefits being delivered by the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, the most recent being a 1.5% increase on 1st September, will address the recruitment and retention challenges being experienced by the Permanent Defence Force.

Army Barracks

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 61.

Ceisteanna (81, 86)

Fiona O'Loughlin

Ceist:

81. Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he has witnessed the working conditions in the Curragh Camp; his plans to improve the facilities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52899/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

86. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the steps he will take to ensure that living quarters in barracks nationwide are fit and habitable. [52721/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 and 86 together.

In order to ensure that the Defence Forces have the capability to deliver on all of the roles assigned by Government, I am committed to the development and improvement of the physical environment and living conditions in military installations throughout the country. The Defence Forces Built Infrastructure Programme is compiled on a priority needs basis by my Department in conjunction with the Military Authorities.

This year some €28m was allocated towards the maintenance of and the development of new building projects for the Defence Forces. This represents an increase of over €10m compared to 2018.

Over the period of 2016 to end 2018, some €17m was spent on various capital projects and ongoing maintenance of buildings and facilities in the Defence Forces Training Centre at the Curragh, most notably this included the refurbishment of Blocks B and D of Pearse Barracks as well as the provision of a newly constructed ammunition storage facility.

It is intended that in the region of €3.5m will be expended by year end on ongoing maintenance and improvement works in the Defence Forces Training Centre. One of the key projects currently underway is the upgrading and refurbishment of Plunkett Block 7 in the Curragh Camp, Defence Forces Training Centre at cost of some €2m. This project involves the refurbishment of an existing building to provide accommodation for 58 personnel to modern standards. Work on this project is advancing well and is expected to be completed in Q2 2020.

A competitive tendering process is also underway for the provision of a new Cadet School Headquarters Building in the Curragh at a cost of €2m. This project involves the construction of a new building to provide office and ancillary accommodation for the management, lecturer and support staff.

I can confirm to the Deputies that my Department, together with the military authorities, are actively developing a 5 year Built Infrastructural Plan. I am advised that this Plan, which will address infrastructural requirements for all our military installations, is now at a very advanced stage of development and will be completed in the coming weeks.

Question No. 82 answered with Question No. 61.

Defence Forces Recruitment

Ceisteanna (83)

Aindrias Moynihan

Ceist:

83. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the steps being taken to address the loss of specialist skills in the Defence Forces as identified by the Public Service Pay Commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53033/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) report on recruitment and retention in the Permanent Defence Force was accepted in full by Government. A comprehensive implementation plan entitled "Strengthening our Defence Forces Phase One " was also published by Government.

The PSPC report recommended a range of measures that would result in immediate and future benefits for members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF). The immediate measures included:

- a 10% increase in military service allowance

- the restoration to pre-Haddington Road levels of certain specific Defence Forces allowances

- the restoration of premium rates for certain weekend duties

- the restoration of a service commitment scheme for Air Corps pilots

These measures have now been implemented following their acceptance by the representative associations, RACO and PDFORRA. These measures which will cost €10 million per annum are in addition to increases in pay which members of the Permanent Defence Force are receiving under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020. The most recent of these was a 1.75% increase on annualised salaries from 1st September 2019.

The Government's plan also provides for further measures in the short, medium and longer term. The plan sets out timelines to deliver on the PSPC recommendations. This work is, under my direction, being prioritised by civil and military management. This includes a review of pay structures in the PDF, led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and the identification of pay related retention measures. Both of which will be progressed within the framework of the Public Service Stability Agreement and future public sector pay negotiations. A range of other pay and non-pay related actions are also being progressed.

Of the 10 projects being led by my Department, civil and military, 9 are up and running and are broadly on track.

These projects include a review of technical pay, which will affect enlisted personnel who are specialists. This review is well advanced with an initial priority focus on technical specialists in the Air Corps, Naval Service and CIS Corps. The initial draft report is currently being considered and a further draft report on the second phase of this review is nearing completion.

Options for incentivising longer service for certain NCO and officer ranks, in particular those with specialist skills undergoing a significant loss of experience are being developed and this will feed into future pay negotiations.

There are also a range of non-pay projects, on which work is underway or due to commence shortly. These include a review of recruitment methods, enhanced workforce planning, enhanced professional military education, bespoke leadership training, development of a mental health and wellbeing strategy, a review of barriers to extended participation in the PDF, the development of further non-pay retention measures and consideration of the provision of additional specialist posts in certain areas.

I am confident that all the measures contained in the plan, coupled with pay benefits being delivered by the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 will address recruitment and retention challenges being experienced by the Permanent Defence Force.

However, it should be noted that as the Government's plan contains short, medium and long term measures, the full impact of these measures will take time to determine. There are also a range of external variables which impact on recruitment and retention and which can change.

The capacity of the Defence Forces to undertake the tasks assigned by Government will continue to be carefully monitored having regard to the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Commission and other actions which are underway.

Protected Disclosures

Ceisteanna (84)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

84. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the steps he has taken since the first protected disclosure regarding chemical poisoning in the Air Corps was received four years ago; the steps he will take to address the health legacy issues including suicide of years of exposure to carcinogenic chemicals of persons based in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnell; and if he will instruct that a health review be carried out of serving and former members of the Air Corps. [52724/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Three written disclosures were made, in November and December 2015 and January 2016, under the provisions of section 8 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, relating to alleged failings in the Defence Organisation in the area of Health and Safety. Legal advice was sought on how best to progress certain disclosures as elements related to matters which are the subject of the ongoing litigation. I appointed an independent reviewer to examine the disclosures.

Following receipt of the report of the independent reviewer, I invited the views of those who had made the disclosures and published the report. I also sent the report to the Chief of Staff for the views and actions of the military authorities to be set out. In parallel to the independent review, following an inspection in 2016, the Air Corps had continued to work with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to improve its health and safety regime. I have been informed by the military authorities that the HSA has formally noted the considerable progress made to-date by the Defence Forces towards implementation of a safety management system for the control of hazardous substances. Subject to completion of the improvement plan the HSA investigation is closed. However, it must be noted that in the Air Corps health and safety is a matter of ongoing monitoring, supervision and adjustment.

The Defence Forces are continuing to develop their approach to the management of health screening. In relation to health surveillance, a risk assessment process will identify that exposure to a hazardous substance can cause a disease or illness and if there is a reasonable likelihood of an illness occurring. Specifically, in relation to carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic for reproduction (CMRs) the Chemical Risk Assessment will identify the need for specific health surveillance or screening. The Defence Forces have a comprehensive annual occupational medical screening process. Unit commanders will ensure that Defence Forces medical staff will be informed of the type and nature of activities carried out by individuals. Individuals are also responsible for briefing the medical staff on the type of activities they carry out in their work practices during the medical screening process.

The State Claims Agency is currently managing a number of claims for personal injuries alleging exposure to chemical and toxic substances while working in the Air Corps. There is ongoing engagement with the State Claims Agency in this context and my consideration of these issues must necessarily be informed by this ongoing litigation. It would therefore be inappropriate to comment further at this point.

Protected Disclosures Data

Question No. 86 answered with Question No. 81.

Ceisteanna (85)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Ceist:

85. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of protected disclosures made to his Department since the current legislation was introduced; the number of personnel dismissed from the Defences Forces; the number still serving members; and the number that have applied to rejoin the Defence Forces in view of the retention crisis that exists. [53118/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

There have been a total of 22 Protected Disclosures made between 2014 and 2018 with an additional 4 received to date in 2019. This figure relates to all Protected Disclosures which have made been made both to the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces. These Protected Disclosures were submitted by serving individuals and also by individuals who were retired from the organisation at the time of making the discloser. In addition some Protected Disclosures were made on anonymous basis.

In accordance with the terms of section 22 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 an annual report in relation to the total number of protected disclosures made in the preceding year is prepared and published on the departmental website https://www.defence.ie/what-we-do/protected-disclosures.

As I have previously stated, the health and welfare of the men and women of the Defence Forces are a priority to me and I am fully committed to compliance with the requirements of the Protected Disclosures Act, 2014 and to the protections contained in that Act. To this end I want to ensure that those making protected disclosures are reassured that where such disclosures are made in accordance with the legislation that they are and will continue to be dealt with in a thorough and fair manner. I have made it clear to my Department and the Defence Forces that the protections of the Act must be afforded to those who make qualifying disclosures under the Act. I take very seriously any complaint of penalisation or threatened penalisation of a member of the Defence Forces for having made a protected disclosure and I note that a statutory mechanism for investigation is available to the complainant. The mechanism is the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces as provided for in Section 20 of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.

I am not aware of any officer who made a Protected Disclosure who subsequently left the Defence Forces applying to re-join, nor am I aware of any enlisted person who made a Protected Disclosure and subsequently left the Defence Forces seeking to re-enlist as a recruit.

Given, as I have already outlined, that the Protected Disclosures were made by a variety of individuals both retired and serving and also anonymously it is not possible to clearly identify the number of personnel who made Protected Disclosures who are still serving.

Question No. 86 answered with Question No. 81.

Permanent Structured Co-operation

Ceisteanna (87)

Thomas Pringle

Ceist:

87. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of the integration of Ireland into PESCO in view of the upcoming second anniversary of the participation of Ireland in same; the level of engagement and lobbying his Department has received from European arms manufacturers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52870/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

As a committed EU Member State, Ireland supports fully the efforts of EU Member States to improve the Union's capacity to respond to the prevailing challenging security environment, including in the area of defence. The establishment of PESCO in December 2017 represented a further development in EU Cooperation in support of international peace and security under the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

Through participation in all aspects of CSDP, Ireland has been able to influence the overall direction of CSDP, in particular ensuring recognition by the EU of the UN as its key strategic partner and ongoing support for the UN and multilateralism. Participation in PESCO is important in continuing that influence.

PESCO provides a framework for capability development designed to contribute to enhanced capabilities for CSDP crisis management operations in the medium to long term so as the EU has greater capacity to act in support of international peace and security.

Ireland is currently participating in two PESCO projects - (1) The European Union Training Mission Competence Centre and (2) Upgrade of Maritime Surveillance, and is an observer on a further nine projects.

As part of Ireland’s participation in PESCO, Ireland, together with fellow participating Member States, have made several commitments which include regularly increasing defence budgets in real terms, increased cooperation on cyber defence and the use of the European Defence Agency as the forum for joint capability development, among other commitments. As a participating Member State, the PESCO commitments inform our defence planning in the short, medium and long term. Ireland also completes an annual PESCO National Implementation Plan which is shared with other participating Member States in order to track progress on these commitments.

In relation to engagement with European defence manufacturers, the principle of competitive tendering for Government contracts is used by the Department of Defence for the acquisition of defensive equipment for the Defence Forces. Central to those procedures is the requirement to ensure fair competition between suppliers through the submission of tenders following advertising of the tender competition on the e-tenders site and on the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU), where appropriate, in line with the EU procurement Directives, including the Defence and Security Directive. Such tender competitions are open to any company or country in accordance with the terms of all UN, OSCE and EU arms embargos or restrictions. In following these guidelines and codes, the Department of Defence must deal impartially with all companies that are entitled to enter its procurement competitions and must evaluate tenders on the basis of objective criteria.

In relation to Ireland's overall participation in PESCO and the specific PESCO projects in which we are engaged, my Department has not been subject to lobbying by European arms manufacturers. However, as the Deputy will appreciate, to ensure our Defence Forces have the best equipment required to undertake the roles assigned by Government, including on difficult and dangerous overseas operations, it is important that officials and members of the Defence Forces remain abreast of the latest developments in defensive and military equipment through engagement with industry representatives and manufacturers. My Department would also engage in market sensing and attend international conventions on military equipment in this regard. In the normal course, manufacturers would also meet with officials and members of the Defence Forces to make presentations on new and emerging technologies and equipment. This is part and parcel of the business of my Department.