I propose to take Questions Nos. 21, 31, 33 and 51 together.
Under the Defence Acts, 1954-2015, the Permanent Defence Force representative associations are prohibited from being associated with or affiliated with any trade unions or any other body without the consent of the Minister.
To compensate for these limitations there are a range of statutory redress mechanisms available to serving members, including redress of wrongs, a Defence Forces Ombudsman and a Conciliation and Arbitration scheme.
In 2017, the European Committee of Social Rights, in a non- binding ruling, found that Ireland was in violation of the European Social Charter in respect of the right to organise, that is to affiliate to certain organisations and the right to negotiate collective agreements. The Committee found that Ireland was not in violation of the European Social Charter in respect of the prohibition of the right of military personnel to strike.
The Government is aware of the long standing desire of PDFORRA to associate with ICTU. However, association with ICTU poses complex questions for the Defence Forces from a legal, operational and management perspective. It is critically important that Defence Forces operations are not restricted and this is a key concern.
The European Committee of Social Rights in arriving at its decision took into account a statement made in the complaint, which claimed that ICTU had stated that “PDFORRA could be affiliated to ICTU with whatever conditions the Government deemed necessary”. Defence management (civil and military) have been engaged in discussions with the Permanent Defence Force representative associations and ICTU regarding the practicalities of a Defence Forces representative association forming association/affiliation with ICTU. These discussions have encompassed matters of concern to all parties.
PDFORRA initiated legal proceedings on this matter on 26 June 2020. As this matter is now subject to litigation, it would not be appropriate to comment further.