Defence Forces Equipment

Ceisteanna (12)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

12. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Defence the details of analysis his Department has carried out into the potential impact of the lack of primary radar surveillance capability on the neutrality of Ireland; the measures he is taking to secure the necessary funding for the development of a primary radar surveillance system which was highlighted in the 2019 Update to the White Paper on Defence as contingent on additional funding becoming available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29114/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

My priority as Minister for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Defence Forces is maintained to the greatest extent possible to enable the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.

The resources available to the Defence Forces to carry out their operational commitments are kept under constant review and future equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment priorities planning process. The recently published Defence Equipment Development Plan (EDP), provides a comprehensive list of planned Army, Air Corps and Naval Service equipment projects to be advanced over the next five years.

As set out in the White Paper on Defence Update (2019), the National Development Plan 2018 to 2027, which provides €541m in capital funding for Defence over the period to 2022, does not make provision for a radar surveillance capability for the Air Corps. It remains Government policy, as per the 2015 White Paper on Defence, that should additional funding, beyond that required to maintain existing capabilities become available the development of a radar surveillance capability is a priority for the Air Corps. Funding for this is not provided in the current resource envelope and any future decisions in this regard will be in the context of the ongoing security environment and any associated developments.

In order to carry out Air Corps tasks such as maritime air patrols or air ambulance there is a requirement to have access to the appropriate operational picture. At present, the Service Level Agreement with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) provides for receipt by the Air Corps of radar data from the IAA in support of Air Corps operations.

All of the Departments and Agencies referred to above, as well as the Department of Justice and An Garda Síochána who have primary responsibility for the internal security of the State, work closely together to ensure coordination in areas of mutual interest. In this regard, the Department of Transport has overall responsibility for the development and formulation of national policy in the field of aviation security, and for aviation security obligations under all national and international legislation. The National Aviation Security Committee meets regularly, under the chairmanship of the Department of Transport. The Department of Defence and the Air Corps are members of this committee.

Defence Forces Remuneration

Question No. 14 answered with Question No. 6.

Ceisteanna (13, 35)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

13. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Defence the recommendations from the completed report on non-pay retention measures; and if it will be shared with the representative associations. [29119/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

35. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Defence the details of the recommendations from the completed report on non-pay retention measures in the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29135/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 13 and 35 together.

The Report of the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) on Recruitment and Retention in the Defence Forces was published on the 4th of July 2019. The Report was accepted in full by the Government at that time and, to facilitate implementation, an extensive High Level Plan titled "Strengthening our Defence Forces – Phase One” was also published on the same date.

The High Level Plan provides for actions or projects to be undertaken to deliver on the PSPC recommendations. It also proposes a timeframe for actions or projects to commence and identifies the lead actor to implement the action or project. The timeframe for commencement of actions is split into four distinct timelines i.e. immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term.

The project to review non-pay retention measures in the Permanent Defence Force is one of the long-term projects being led jointly by my Department and the Defence Forces. The draft report was signed off on 30 September by the project team undertaking the review and it has now been submitted for formal approval.

The reports and documentation that are produced as a result of the implementation of the high level plan relate to the identification, examination and consideration of options to inform management deliberations and decisions. They do not, of themselves, represent final proposals, nor are they to be considered discussion documents for exchange with the Representative Associations or any other party.

Any proposals or decision that arise from these considerations, will be discussed with the Representative Associations where such issues fall within the scope of representation. My Department continues to engage with the associations on all matters that fall within this scope and not just those arising from the High Level Implementation Plan.

Question No. 14 answered with Question No. 6.

Coast Guard Service

Ceisteanna (15)

Paul Murphy

Ceist:

15. Deputy Paul Murphy asked the Minister for Defence his plans to take the Irish Coast Guard air rescue service back into full public ownership. [28815/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Defence Organisation provides a broad range of services in accordance with its primary security role while it also undertakes a diverse range of non security related tasks. The Defence Forces continue to carry out the roles assigned by Government, including security operations, critical supports to An Garda Síochána and Aid To Civil Authority (ATCA) supports to other Government Departments and Agencies.

Since 2004 the Irish Coast Guard has had overall responsibility for the provision of Search and Rescue services within the Irish Search and Rescue domain. The Irish Coast Guard fall under the remit of the Minister for Transport. From within the Defence Organisation, both the Naval Service and the Air Corps provide support to the Irish Coast Guard in maritime Search and Rescue operations on an “as available” basis. A Service Level Agreement is in place setting out their roles and responsibilities in this regard.

The current contract for the Search and Rescue Helicopter service is between the Minister of Transport and a civil helicopter operation, CHC Ireland DAC. The contract commenced on 1st July 2012 for a period of 10 years, with an option to extend for a further 3 years. A Steering Committee has been set up under the auspices of the Department of Transport and led by the Irish Coast Guard to manage the procurement of the next SAR aviation service. Personnel from my Department and members of the Air Corps are members of the Steering Committee progressing this contract

I would like to confirm that the Defence Organisation is supportive of the Department of Transport’s programme to put in place the Next Generation Search and Rescue Contract. A strategic assessment and preliminary appraisal document in line with the Public Service Code was agreed by the Steering Group and brought to Government for information in July. A prior information notice was published on etenders to alert the market of the upcoming competition and engagement with the market is currently taking place. Subject to Government approval, it is intended that a Request for Tender will be published by the end of 2020 and the new contract awarded by end 2021/early 2022.

In light of the foregoing, I can confirm that there are no plans to subsume the air rescue services provided by the Irish Coast Guard into the roles and responsibilities of the Defence Organisation.

Departmental Budgets

Ceisteanna (16)

Sorca Clarke

Ceist:

16. Deputy Sorca Clarke asked the Minister for Defence if Vote 36 of budget 2021 regarding the Defence Forces and his Department's annual expenditure will be amended to include the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces. [28528/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

In accordance with constitutional and statutory provisions, 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 (DFHQ), 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 DFHQ, 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).

While the Secretary General is the Accounting Officer, it is nevertheless the case that there is a considerable degree of delegation of financial control and responsibility to the Chief of Staff. A significant portion of the Defence budget, in fact 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. Furthermore, where significant levels of expenditure are proposed, a jointly chaired civil-military High-Level Planning and Procurement Group is the sanctioning authority in accordance with the Public Spending Code and meets on an almost monthly basis to progress equipment procurement and infrastructural development priorities.

In relation to Budget 2021, the position is that Estimates discussions are ongoing between my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the final funding allocations to both the Defence and Army Pensions Votes will be published on Budget Day, next Tuesday October 13th.

Air Corps

Ceisteanna (17)

Denis Naughten

Ceist:

17. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Defence his plans to expand the role of the Air Corps air ambulance service; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28519/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Air Corps provides a broad range of services in accordance with its primary security role. It also undertakes a diverse range of non-security-related tasks on an ‘as available’ basis including the provision of air ambulance services to the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The HSE’s Aeromedical Desk in its National Emergency Operations Centre is responsible for the co-ordination of all health-related air transport arrangements. In addition to the Air Corps, the Irish Coast Guard and private air ambulance operators also provide air transport services for the HSE.

The Air Corps’ inter-hospital service operates out of Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel. This service provides transport for patients and medical teams primarily between hospitals within Ireland and the UK. To date in 2020, the Air Corps completed a total of 40 inter-hospital missions, 27 of which were to the UK , including one priority transfer. Four missions were outside of the agreed Service Level Agreement whereby the Air Corps provided the requested air transport of patients to or from mainland Europe.

The Air Corps also operates the Emergency Aeromedical Support (EAS) Service. It is a daily, day-time service based out of Custume Barracks, Athlone. Since the commencement of this service in June 2012, the Air Corps has completed over 3,000 missions with over 310 missions during 2020.

The EAS and inter-hospital services are good examples of the Air Corps and HSE combining their resources to deliver life-saving services for the people of Ireland. There are no plans to change the current operation of the aeromedical services based out of Baldonnel or Custume Barracks, Athlone.

Military Medals

Ceisteanna (18)

Catherine Connolly

Ceist:

18. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Defence if the time limits will be waived for the award of distinguished service medals and military medals for gallantry, with a view to awarding bravery medals to the veteran members of A Company 35th Infantry Battalion that served in Jadotville almost 60 years ago; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29115/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The siege of Jadotville was a prominent event that occurred during Ireland's peacekeeping mission in the Congo in September 1961. "A" Company, 35th Infantry Battalion took responsibility for the UN post at Jadotville on 3rd September 1961. On the 9th September, a large force of Katangese Gendarmerie surrounded them and early on the morning of the 13th September "A" Company came under attack. From the 13th to the 17th September they endured almost continuous attack. They were taken into captivity on the 17th September and remained in captivity until finally released on the 25th October 1961.

The award of Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) and Military Medal of Gallantry (MMG) are provided for in Defence Force Regulation DFR A9. This also sets out the criteria for the award of such medals. The Regulations do not provide a timeframe for the issue of these medals; rather they provide a timeframe within which the recommendation for the DSM and MMG need to be made.

In relation to the men of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion, the issue of the award of medals was addressed in 1962 and 1965. A properly constituted Medals Board considered the various cases presented. The board did not award any medals whose citations mention Jadotville. The Chief of Staff of the day considered the decision of the Board and was satisfied with the findings. Subsequently at that time, the question was raised again in a letter to a newly appointed Chief of Staff. He forwarded the letter to the original Medals Board and asked that they reconvene and review their decision. The Board indicated that the issues raised had received due consideration and that they were not prepared to alter their findings.

A review was conducted in 2004 by military officers for the purpose of a broader examination of the Jadotville case. This Board recommended that the events of Jadotville and the contribution of the 35th Battalion be given recognition. In this context, a number of measures have taken place to honour and to commemorate the events at Jadotville and the very significant contribution of “A” Company and of the 35th Battalion, as a whole, to the UN Peace Support Mission in the Congo.

Recognition of their contribution over the years include:

A. A presentation of scrolls to "A" Company in 2006.

B. Portraits of Lt Col McNamee (35th Battalion Commander) and Comdt Quinlan (Company Commander “A” Company) were commissioned in 2006.

C. In July of 2010 the 50th anniversary of the first deployment to the Congo was commemorated in a highly publicised and well attended event in Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel.

D. A nominal roll of “A” Company, printed in copper, was affixed to the monument in Custume Barracks and was unveiled as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Jadotville affair in September 2011.

E. On the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the Siege of Jadotville, a Unit Citation to honour the collective actions and bravery of the men of “A” Company was issued. This was the first time a Unit Citation was awarded within the Defence Forces.

Furthermore, on 13th June 2017, the Government decided, as an exceptional step, to award a medal known as “An Bonn Jadotville” or “The Jadotville Medal” to each member of “A” Company, 35th Infantry Battalion and to the family representatives of deceased members to give full and due recognition in honour of their courageous actions at the Siege of Jadotville. This medal presentation ceremony took place on 2nd December 2017 in Custume Barracks, Athlone. This location is considered the spiritual home of “A” Company and it is from here that “A” company assembled in advance of their fateful deployment to the Congo.

Over the past number of years various representations have been received in my Department outlining the courage and bravery of "A" Company. All representations have been considered and responded to acknowledging their valiant actions while under siege in Jadotville.

With regard to enquiries about any additional medals, it has been previously indicated that any additional documentation, information or evidence to support the request to award such medals will be considered. At this juncture, no new information has come to light.

Defence Forces Remuneration

Ceisteanna (19, 28)

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

19. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Defence the reason the high-level plan committed to implementing the review of technical pay for enlisted personnel by 04 January 2020 has been pushed into future pay negotiations which is contrary to the agreement. [29120/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Dara Calleary

Ceist:

28. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Defence the status of the review of technical pay for enlisted personnel in the Defence Forces; and when the review was originally due for completion. [29136/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 19 and 28 together.

A review of technical pay was provided for in the Public Service Agreement 2010 - 2014 (Croke Park Agreement). The Agreement provided for a review to be undertaken of the current grading of appointments and/or classes of appointments for enlisted personnel, including consideration of whether current requirements merit tech pay, are at the appropriate rate of tech pay (including whether a higher or lower rate of tech pay should be paid), or can be met in a more cost effective way.

The purpose of the review in the context of the agreement was to rationalise existing technical pay arrangements and consider if the requirements could be met in a more cost effective manner. A review of Technical Pay Group 1 was conducted in 2014 and came into effect on 12 January 2015.

While a review of Technical Pay grades 2 - 6 in the Defence Forces was in progress, the Public Service Pay Commission made recommendations relating to the review which were substantially different to the focus of the original review.

The Public Service Pay Commission recommended that the review of Technical Pay Groups 2 - 6, be completed at the earliest opportunity, without compromising the Public Service Stability Agreement. The Commission recommended that the review would include consideration of the earlier military management proposals.

On foot of the recommendations from the Public Service Pay Commission, a joint civil/military project team in the Department of Defence compiled two reports examining technical pay grades 2-6 across the Defence Forces, within the timeframe set in the High Level Implementation Plan.

The implementation of the recommendations in these reports will be considered in the negotiations on the next public service pay agreement. This will ensure that implementation of the recommendations will comply with the provisions of the FEMPI Acts and will not compromise the stability of the Public Service Stability Agreement.

Defence Forces Review

Ceisteanna (20, 23, 24, 37, 53)

Barry Cowen

Ceist:

20. Deputy Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Defence when the commission on Defence will be established. [29139/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

23. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Defence his plans for the commission for the future of the Defence Forces; the person who will be on the board; if representatives of the Defence Forces personnel such as an organisation (details supplied) will be on the commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29106/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Cathal Crowe

Ceist:

24. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Defence if the commission on the future of the Defence Forces has been constituted; the way in which he plans to address pay deficiencies in the Permanent Defence Force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22242/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Ceist:

37. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence the progress made regarding the establishment of a commission on the future of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28529/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

53. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Defence his plans for the commission for the future of the Defence Forces; if representatives of an organisation (details supplied) will be on the commission; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29110/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 23, 24, 37 and 53 together.

Establishment of a Commission on the Defence Forces is an important commitment made in the recently agreed Programme for Government. The Commission will be tasked with undertaking a comprehensive review which will include the following matters:

- Arrangements for the effective defence of the country at land, air and sea.

- Structures for governance, joint command, and control structures.

- The brigade structure.

- Pay and allowances and composition of the Defence Forces.

- Recruitment, retention and career progression.

- The contribution of the Reserve Defence Forces, including its legislation and Defence Forces regulations governing it, and whether specialists from the RDF should be able to serve overseas.

The Programme for Government provides that membership of the Commission will contain a wide variety of expertise such as management, human resources, academia, law, and public service, as well as members with external military expertise.

While the Programme for Government states that the Commission is be established before the end of 2020, with a mandate to report within 12 months, I am anxious to ensure that it is established as early as possible before the end of this year and I am working with my Department in an effort to achieve this.

Having regard to the current restrictions in place for Covid19, I am considering a range of options to ensure wide consultation on the Terms of Reference in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government. It is important to stress that the final decision on both membership of the Commission and its terms of reference will ultimately be a matter for Government and, pending the outcome of the consultation process, no decisions have been taken to date. My immediate priority is to commence consultation on the terms of reference as committed to in the Programme for Government.

Upon completion of the Commission's work, a permanent pay review body will be established, reflecting the unique nature of military service in the context of the public service. All recommendations by the Commission or the successor body and their implementation must be consistent with national public sector wage policy.

Defence Forces Representative Organisations

Ceisteanna (21, 31, 33, 51)

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

21. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Defence his views on the issue of formal recognition of an organisation (details supplied) in order to represent the interests of Defence Forces personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29109/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Cian O'Callaghan

Ceist:

31. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Defence if he will remedy the breach of the European Social Charter by Ireland by allowing an association (details supplied) join a union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28521/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Richard Boyd Barrett

Ceist:

33. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Defence his views on the proposal that an organisation (details supplied) joins a union as an affiliate body; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29111/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Bríd Smith

Ceist:

51. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Defence his views on the proposal that an organisation (details supplied) join a union as an affiliate body; if the affiliation will be supported; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29107/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

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.

Defence Forces Remuneration

Questions Nos. 23 and 24 answered with Question No. 20.

Ceisteanna (22)

Éamon Ó Cuív

Ceist:

22. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Defence the reason NCOs who commenced service after 1994 in the Defence Forces and who are in receipt of technical pay for specialist functions are required to retire at 50 years of age; the reason these personnel do not receive a pension until they are 60 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28222/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Military life places unique demands on individuals and it is necessary that Defence Forces personnel are prepared to meet the challenges of all military operations. To this end, it is vital the age and health profile of personnel be such as to ensure that operational capability and effectiveness are not compromised in any way.

The age and fitness profile of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) was an issue of serious concern during the 1990's and was the subject of severe criticism in a series of external reports. One of the key areas identified for urgent action was the development of a manpower policy with an emphasis on lowering the age profile of PDF personnel.

As a result, new terms and conditions were introduced for personnel enlisting after 1 January 1994 and new contracts for enlisted personnel were for a period of five years’ service. Since that time, the maximum period of service has been extended out to twenty-one years for line Privates and Corporals.

In 2015, following an adjudication in the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for PDF members, Privates and Corporals in receipt of Tech Pay Group 3 or higher may be extended to age 50 subject to meeting certain criteria for continuance in service. A review of contracts of service for Line Corporals and Privates and Corporals in receipt of Technical Pay 1 and 2 was recommended.

An agreement was subsequently reached with PDFORRA in 2019 that all Privates and Corporals recruited post 1994, be allowed to continue in service to 31 December 2022 (or until they reach the age of 50), provided these personnel met certain criteria during the interim period, including medical grades and fitness tests. This agreement was subsequently extended to include post 1994 Sergeants, who also could continue in service to the same date, subject to their meeting agreed criteria in the interim period.

There is currently therefore, a moratorium on mandatory discharging of Privates and Corporals who have reached 21 years service and this moratorium also extends to post 1994 Sergeants, subject in all cases to their meeting certain criteria.

A review of service limits for enlisted personnel is currently being progressed in the context of a broader review provided for in the High Level Implementation Plan - "Strengthening Our Defence Forces". As this review which will encompass upper age limits for Privates, Corporals and Sergeants as well as senior NCOs is currently underway, it would be inappropriate to pre-empt any recommendations that may arise.

Turning to the pensions aspect, in the public service generally the payment of retirement benefits is deferred – or preserved – to a future date for any scheme member who leaves the scheme before a certain age. This is known as preservation of benefits and the concept is a long established feature of public service pensions.

The specific occupational pension scheme terms of members of the PDF – which depend on factors such as the date a person first joins the public service – fall into the following three distinct fast accrual categories:

- Those who joined the PDF before April 2004;

- Those who joined on or after 1st April 2004 and before 1st January 2013; and

- Those who join on or after 1st January 2013 as members of the Single Public Service Pension Scheme.

The pension scheme terms for personnel who joined the PDF before April 2004 provide for the payment of pension and gratuity immediately on retirement after relatively short periods of service, and regardless of age. The minimum qualifying period for immediate payment of pension and gratuity on retirement is 21 years’ service for enlisted ranks. Therefore, a Private or NCO who enlisted between 1st January 1994 and 31st March 2004 qualifies for immediate payment of retirement benefits after 21 years’ service. There is no minimum pension age or provision for deferred benefits.

However, all personnel joining the PDF since April 2004 have a minimum pension age of 50, with pension and gratuity payable immediately on retirement at that age. If leaving before age 50, payment of retirement benefits is deferred until age 60 under the ‘post-April 2004’ schemes, and until the Contributory State Pension age of 66/68 under the Single Pension Scheme.

Questions Nos. 23 and 24 answered with Question No. 20.

Defence Forces Reserve

Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 10.

Ceisteanna (25)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

25. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Defence the enrolment in the Reserve Defence Force; the proposals for recruitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29127/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Government recognises the important role that the Reserve Defence Force (RDF) plays in contributing to Ireland's defence capability.

The White Paper on Defence sets out a blueprint for the development of the RDF and that their primary role is to support the Permanent Defence Force in crisis situations.

The RDF is comprised of the Army Reserve (AR), the Naval Service Reserve (NSR) and the First Line Reserve (FLR). The establishment of the combined Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve is 4,069 personnel. As of 31 August 2020, the strength of the AR and NSR is 1,624 personnel. There is no establishment for the FLR, which has a strength of 280 personnel as at 31 August 2020.

A key ongoing challenge for the RDF is to recruit and retain personnel and I am fully aware that there continues to be a shortfall between the current strength figures and those of the establishment. I am advised by the military authorities that while a recruitment campaign for the AR and NSR was opened in March 2020, the restrictions imposed in the interests of public health as a result of the Covid 19 Pandemic have had a significant impact on certain Defence Forces activities. As such, it has been difficult to conduct RDF inductions. To date this year, there has been 63 inductions into the RDF.

Supports being provided to maximise recruitment to the RDF include the use of social media and a range of outreach activities by RDF members. PDF recruit exit interviews now also contain information on applying for membership of the RDF.

The Government remains committed to on-going recruitment to the AR and NSR. I am advised that, while there are no specific dates as of yet, it is anticipated that another recruitment campaign for the AR and NSR will be launched towards the end of Autumn 2020.

Question No. 26 answered with Question No. 10.

Military Aircraft

Question No. 28 answered with Question No. 19.

Ceisteanna (27)

Mark Ward

Ceist:

27. Deputy Mark Ward asked the Minister for Defence the status of the investigation into the incident when a helicopter door fell off and landed in a school in Clondalkin in May 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28896/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I am advised by military management that a formal investigation into the incident is on-going. I understand that this investigation is examining the technical and operational aspects of the incident and will make appropriate recommendations.

Given the nature of the incident, the investigation is being led by the Air Corps Flight Safety Officer in accordance with Air Regulations Manual Part F - Flight Safety, Section 7 Accident and Incident Investigation. I await the outcome of this investigation.

Question No. 28 answered with Question No. 19.

Defence Forces Personnel

Ceisteanna (29)

Pádraig O'Sullivan

Ceist:

29. Deputy Pádraig O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence if consideration will be given to granting service contract extensions up to 50 years of age for privates and corporals providing they meet all fitness and medical requirements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28530/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

Military life places unique demands on individuals and it is necessary that Defence Forces personnel are prepared to meet the challenges of all military operations. To this end, it is vital the age and health profile of personnel be such as to ensure that operational capability and effectiveness are not compromised in any way.

The age and fitness profile of the Permanent Defence Force was an issue of serious concern during the 1990's and was the subject of severe criticism in a series of external reports. One of the key areas identified for urgent action was the development of a manpower policy with an emphasis on lowering the age profile of Permanent Defence Force personnel.

As a result, new terms and conditions were introduced for personnel enlisting after 1 January 1994 and new contracts for enlisted personnel were for a period of five years’ service. Since that time, the maximum period of service has been extended out to twenty-one years for line Privates and Corporals.

In 2015, following an adjudication in the Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme for PDF members, Privates and Corporals in receipt of Tech Pay Group 3 or higher may be extended to age 50 subject to meeting certain criteria for continuance in service. A review of contracts of service for Line Corporals and Privates and Corporals in receipt of Technical Pay 1 and 2 was recommended.

An agreement was subsequently reached with PDFORRA in 2019 that all Privates and Corporals recruited post 1994, be allowed to continue in service to 31 December 2022 (or until they reach the age of 50), provided these personnel met certain criteria during the interim period, including medical grades and fitness tests. This agreement was subsequently extended to include post 1994 Sergeants, who also could continue in service to the same date, subject to their meeting agreed criteria in the interim period.

There is currently therefore, a moratorium on mandatory discharging of Privates and Corporals who have reached 21 years service and this moratorium also extends to post 1994 Sergeants, subject in all cases to their meeting certain criteria.

A review of service limits for enlisted personnel is currently being progressed in the context of a broader review provided for in the High Level Implementation Plan - "Strengthening Our Defence Forces". As this review which will encompass upper age limits for Privates, Corporals and Sergeants as well as senior NCOs is currently underway, it would be inappropriate to pre-empt any recommendations that may arise.

Defence Forces Remuneration

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 21.

Ceisteanna (30)

James Lawless

Ceist:

30. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Defence the outcome of the review of mandatory retirement ages for commissioned officers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29133/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

The Report of the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) on Recruitment and Retention in the Defence Forces was published on the 4th of July 2019. The Report was accepted in full by the Government at that time and, to facilitate implementation, an extensive High Level Plan titled "Strengthening our Defence Forces – Phase One” was also agreed and published on the same date.

The High Level Plan provides for actions or projects to be undertaken to deliver on the PSPC recommendations. It also proposes a timeframe for actions or projects to commence and identifies the lead actor to implement the action or project. The timeframe for commencement of actions is split into four distinct timelines i.e. immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term.

The project to consider options to tackle barriers to extended participation in the PDF (including the possibility of extending retirement ages for members of the PDF) was identified as a medium term project being jointly led by my Department and the Defence Forces.

After initial research, it was agreed that this project was to be divided into two phases. The first phase, focusing on reviewing mandatory retirement ages for Officers and the second phase to review contracts of service for enlisted personnel. It was agreed with PDFORRA that enlisted privates and corporals who had reached 21 years’ service, could remain in service until they reach age 50 until the end 2022. Sergeants are also permitted to serve beyond 50 until that timeframe. These measures mean that the review could take place in an extended timeframe.

The first phase of this project, reviewing mandatory retirement ages for Officers is nearing finalisation. Work on the second phase, examining contracts of service for enlisted personnel has commenced.

Question No. 31 answered with Question No. 21.

Defence Forces Remuneration

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 21.

Ceisteanna (32, 56)

Paul McAuliffe

Ceist:

32. Deputy Paul McAuliffe asked the Minister for Defence if a report has been completed on incentivised long-service arrangements in the Defence Forces; and if so, if it will be shared with the representative associations. [29143/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Peadar Tóibín

Ceist:

56. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Defence if the completed report on incentivised long service arrangements will be shared with the representative associations. [29121/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 32 and 56 together.

The Report of the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) on Recruitment and Retention in the Defence Forces was published on the 4th of July 2019. The Report was accepted in full by the Government at that time and, to facilitate implementation, an extensive High Level Plan titled "Strengthening our Defence Forces – Phase One” was also published on the same date.

The High Level Plan provides for actions or projects to be undertaken to deliver on the PSPC recommendations. It also proposes a timeframe for actions or projects to commence and identifies the lead actor to implement the action or project. The timeframe for commencement of actions is split into four distinct timelines i.e. immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term.

The project to consider incentivised long service arrangements was set as a medium term project being led by my Department. A Report was produced within the timelines in anticipation that the options be considered in the context of discussions on a new Public Sector Pay Agreement and that these would commence in that time-frame. However, these discussions did not take place within that anticipated timeframe.

The Programme for Government, which was published in June 2020, contains a commitment to establish an independent Commission on the Defence Forces which will consider, amongst other matters, pay and allowances and composition of the Defence Forces. The Programme for Government also states that upon completion of the Commissions work, a permanent pay review body for the Defence Forces will be established.

With regard to sharing the Report with the Representative Associations, it is the case that many of the reports and papers that are produced as part of the high level plan relate to the identification, examination and consideration of options that will inform management deliberations but do not necessarily in themselves represent final proposals or discussion documents for exchange with the Representative Associations.

Furthermore, in some instances, final proposals arising from reports relating to certain pay related measures will be framed by the approach to the next Public Sector pay agreement, which is yet to be finalised. Accordingly, it is not appropriate to provide the Representative Association with access to or a briefing on the content of reports as they are part of an ongoing management deliberative process.

I can confirm that my Department will continue to engage with the Representative Associations, when Official side proposals are finalised.

Question No. 33 answered with Question No. 21.