Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

 Header Item Ceisteanna - Questions
 Header Item Priority Questions
 Header Item Defence Forces Reserve Funding
 Header Item Defence Forces Reserve Issues

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 90 Next Page Last Page

Ceisteanna - Questions

Priority Questions

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy These are Priority Questions to the Minister for Finance.

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I think the Acting Chairman means the Minister for Defence.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I apologise; the Minister for Defence.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter My life is complicated enough without my becoming Minister for Finance.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Minister is double-jobbing.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Two jobs are enough. Three would be just too much altogether.

Defence Forces Reserve Funding

 1. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the key changes he is proposing regarding the Reserve Defence Forces; if legislation will be necessary to effect these changes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54929/12]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the key changes that are being introduced in order to ensure the future viability of the Reserve Defence Force, RDF. A value for money review of the RDF was recently completed and published. This review highlighted a range of issues that need to be addressed in order to improve the cost-effectiveness of the RDF; it also highlighted that existing organisational structures are not fit for purpose. The current effective strength of the RDF is approximately 4,500 personnel and the organisational structures were designed for a strength of 9,692 personnel. The review found that this strength was not achieved from 2006 onwards, despite the fact that there were no restrictions on recruitment prior to 2009. It also highlighted significant issues with regard to low uptakes of training within the RDF and a high turnover of personnel. All of these issues have an adverse impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of the RDF.

  A major reorganisation of the RDF is one of the key changes being introduced to address these findings. The new organisational structure for the Army Reserve is based on a single-force concept under which Defence Forces units will have permanent and reserve elements. These units will be based in Permanent Defence Force, PDF, installations throughout the country and in 16 locations outside of those installations. This new model will offer significant advantages in terms of training and improved interoperability and will enhance the overall capability of the Defence Forces. The changes to which I refer will reduce direct expenditure on the RDF by €11 million, while maintaining the budget for reserve training activity.

  The new organisation is based on a revised strength ceiling for the reserve of 4,069 personnel - that is, 3,869 in the Army Reserve and 200 in the Naval Service Reserve. This strength level was recommended in order to ensure the maintenance of appropriate reserve capabilities within the existing resource constraints. This requires the withdrawal of gratuities from members of the reserve and reassignment of the budgetary provision into paid training. I have requested the Chief of Staff to report back to me on the other important recommendations contained in the report, including the First Line Reserve, training and recruitment and retention.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

  Changes to Defence Forces regulations will be required for the new organisational structure. They may also arise in respect of other developments such as the increased use of the reserve in a voluntary unpaid capacity for aid to the civil authority tasks or changed criteria for retention on the effective strength of the reserve. I wish to emphasise that the contribution and commitment of each and every member of the reserve is appreciated. I sincerely hope that all members of the reserve will continue to serve within the new organisation.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I thank the Minister for his reply. I acknowledge that there was a significant decline in participation in the RDF, particularly during the middle part of the previous decade. One is obliged to wonder why that decline occurred. I also wish to acknowledge the substantial contribution made to the State and local communities by the RDF in its many previous manifestations - the LSF, the LDF and the FCA - and over many years.

I accept that the Minister has been faced not only with a difficulty in respect of funding - the level of which being made available to the RDF has been dramatically reduced - but also with one which relates to numbers. The problem is that he is now perceived as being extremely effective when it comes to wielding the scalpel. People within the RDF look at him as the person who reduced the number of brigades from three to two. They are also aware of what he, as Minister for Justice and Equality, has done to the Garda station network throughout the country. Does the Minister accept that there are very real and grave concerns to the effect that he has embarked upon a course that will eventually lead to the evisceration of the RDF as we have known it?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Deputy will not be remotely surprised if I disagree with what he said. What we have tried to do is to effect a reorganisation of the RDF which reflects the reorganisation of the PDF in order that the former will be fit for purpose and include a restructured organisation which will result in a greater connectivity with the latter. We must encourage those committed individuals who are proud of their participation with the RDF and who engage in training as required. We must also ensure that money that is spent on the reserve is to the benefit of the community.

In the context of the review that was undertaken, there are currently some 4,500 members of the RDF. The most recent figure I have in respect of training for members of the RDF relates to 2011, when only 2,010 of these personnel took up the full seven days' training that is required. We are operating in a different environment now and it is not a case of taking the scalpel to anything. What we are seeking to do is to ensure we establish modern structures that reflect the reality of the functions the RDF can perform and that will facilitate greater connectivity between it and the PDF. We must also ensure that resources are not wasted. For example, the numerical strength of the cadre of staff from the PDF designated to provide training to the RDF was based on an assumption that the latter would have a staff in the region of 9,000. An RDF of that size simply does not exist. By reducing the number of PDF personnel detailed to RDF training, we have freed such personnel to engage in normal day-to-day PDF operations and training. This, in turn, has meant that public funds are not being wasted.

I have an obligation, as Minister, to ensure that at a time of reduced resources, when we will be receiving €13.5 billion - the difference between what the State is taking in and what it is spending - from the EU, the ECB and the IMF in 2013 in order to pay for essential services, we use such resources wisely. This is one of our objectives. Another of those objectives is that we should give the RDF a new lease of life. I hope the reforms being introduced will have that effect.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I accept the point the Minister makes to some extent. However, one must question the extent to which participation in the RDF has been promoted by the PDF. One must also ask whether those who were participating and who had signed up were encouraged to actively partake of the training courses on offer. Will the Minister provide an explanation as to the impact on serving members of his proposal to withdraw gratuities and redirect the money involved towards the provision of additional training? Substantial savings to the Exchequer have already been achieved. There would be manifest benefits to the Department, the PDF and society at large were we to encourage many of those under the age of 25 throughout the country who are unemployed to become actively involved in this form of important civil service.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy As we must move on to the next question, unfortunately there is not time for the Minister to reply.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Acting Chairman is very tough on Members.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath He should allow the Minister to reply.

  Question No. 2 lapsed.

Defence Forces Reserve Issues

 3. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will consider retaining the Reserve Defence Forces centre in the town of Clonmel, County Tipperary in view of the fact that there are two units (details supplied); the way he intends existing members based in the Clonmel centre to be accommodated if they have to travel to barracks in Cork and Limerick; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54996/12]


Last Updated: 06/05/2020 11:57:09 First Page Previous Page Page of 90 Next Page Last Page