The Government recognises the importance of the role of the Reserve Defence Force, RDF, in contributing to Ireland's defence capability. The White Paper on Defence is clear that there is a continued requirement to retain and develop the RDF and it is currently on a developmental path arising from the recommendations of the White Paper.
The primary roles allocated to the Reserve remain to augment the Permanent Defence Force, PDF, in crisis situations and to contribute to State ceremonial events. The commitments in the White Paper serve to underpin these important roles.
The programme for Government contains a commitment to establish an independent commission on the Defence Forces. I referred to this earlier. This commission will examine the role and contribution of the RDF, including its legislation, the regulations governing the RDF, the development of the first-line Reserve, and whether specialists from the RDF should be able to serve overseas. I have made comments in response to Deputy Cathal Berry's questions on this issue and on whether we should accommodate it in the legislation on defence that is coming through the Dáil.
The assignment in 2018 of responsibility of director of Reserve Defence Forces to the director of combat support and intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance, ISTAR, based in Defence Forces headquarters, has allowed for the provision of guidance, across all units and formations with RDF assets, in developing their capabilities. This is in line with the single force concept and the role of the Reserve as described in the White Paper. The focus is to harness RDF skills and talent, maximising its potential development on the basis of mutual engagement with the PDF. Specific project areas focus on training, regulation, recruitment, retention and promotions and are supported through RDF and PDF reciprocal training, mentoring and education.
In relation to Columb Barracks, it is the assessment of the Department that it is no longer required for military purposes. The current financial and administrative burden resulting from its retention cannot be sustained forever. For this reason, my officials have been proceeding with the disposal of the barracks in line with Government policy. They have been working with the new Land Development Agency on that process. I will come back to it because I am sure the Deputy will have questions on it. The site certainly has considerable potential. The barracks was closed in 2012, which is some time ago. The whole point of the Land Development Agency is to try to maximise for the State the potential of strategic sites such as this one. That is probably where the focus needs to be now.