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 Header Item Defence Forces Reserve Issues (Continued)
 Header Item Defence Forces Personnel

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

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Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter A value for money review of the RDF was recently completed and published. In my previous reply I outlined the key findings and recommendations contained in that review. I also set out the necessary changes being introduced to the organisational structures of the reserve. These changes will help to ensure a viable reserve into the future.

The new organisational structures are based on a single-force concept which differs from the current model of reserve organisation. Army units will have permanent and reserve elements, rather than a parallel reserve structure as at present. This approach offers significant advantages in terms of access to equipment and training. Under this organisational model, the only Army Reserve elements outside of PDF installations will be 16 reserve infantry companies. All other Army Reserve combat support and combat service support elements will be co-located with their PDF counterparts in PDF installations.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Excuse me, Minister; is that the reply to Priority Question No. 3?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Yes. In the case of No. 1 Brigade, this location will be in Cork. On this basis and to achieve a geographic spread, it is no longer feasible to retain reserve elements in Clonmel. While the closure of many RDF locations is regrettable, the findings of the value for money review clearly highlighted that the current approach was no longer viable. All members of the reserve will be afforded the opportunity to apply for positions within the new organisational structures, having regard to their particular needs.

Reserve personnel from Clonmel may choose to apply for a position within their existing corps, which will now be based in Cork. Alternatively, given the distance from Clonmel to Cork, these personnel may choose to apply for a position in an infantry unit. The reserve infantry units closest to Clonmel will be based in Waterford, Kilkenny and Templemore. Personnel will be able to avail of retraining should this be necessary. I reiterate that the contribution and commitment of each and every member of the reserve is valued and appreciated. I sincerely hope that all members of the reserve will continue to serve within the new organisation. This applies equally to all members, including the members in Clonmel.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I could be forgiven for thinking the Minister's reply to my question was the reply to the first question. All the answers from the Minister are the same. I am really disappointed and quite disgusted with the Minister's attitude towards the PDF and the RDF. I question whether it is constitutionally proper for the Minister to be both the Minister for Justice and Equality and also the Minister for Defence. He has almost banjaxed the two outfits. It is his intent to leave us without any defence. The other day I heard the Minister refer to Derry, An Doire, as Londonderry. I question his fitness for office in these very sensitive positions. I note the Minister's reply to my question about the members of the RDF in Clonmel and his mealy-mouthed words of congratulations and thanks for the service while at the same time he is cutting their gratuity and leaving them go to hell or to Connacht. We kept Cromwell out of Clonmel but we could not stop the Minister from closing our barracks. He will render our gardaí ineffective because they do not have squad cars or tools of the trade. I am quite appalled at the Minister's reply. We want to encourage young people to become involved, to be civic-spirited and to join the RDF. Like Deputy Ó Fearghaíl, I ask why they were not encouraged to participate in the seven-day training course. The Minister seems to believe the volunteers are lethargic, but I do not think so. There may be other reasons. I ask the Minister, in all humanity, to be fair.

The number of brigades is being cut from three to two. This is a savage attack. We found new premises in Clonmel after a delay of a number of months when the RDF had no place to train. The volunteers had to stay at home because they had no place in which to train. The Department rented the premises. Is it now the case that the rental contract will be broken? This decision is an insult to the serving RDF members in Clonmel and Tipperary. I pay tribute to their sterling work over the years in support of the Army throughout the county and the country. They are badly served by this Government and by the Minister in particular.

Deputy Derek Keating: Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating This is supposed to be Question Time.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath It is. The Minister answered the question and I am replying-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy One Deputy at a time, please. Deputy McGrath has the floor. He has four minutes if he wishes to use them.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Yes, I want to use them. I want to express the disbelief and shock of the people of Tipperary and surrounding districts who have been involved with the RDF over many years. I pay tribute to former members - some of whom are retired and are quite ill - and to current serving members who are being discarded as if they were not fit for purpose or not wanted. Is that the thanks our State offers these people who took risks, who made the choice to undertake a seven-day training course every year and to be available and ready to support the Army and An Garda Síochána at different times? We cannot just close the book on this chapter as if it never happened. Tipperary and Clonmel have a proud tradition of association with the Army for nearly 350 years. The barracks in Clonmel lies empty. People who live next to the barracks have been telephoning me from 24 November until this Monday to complain about the noise of the burglar alarms. This shows the scant interest of the Minister in that institution. The barracks have been handed over to the property division of the Department. It is a listed building which is part of the proud heritage of the connection of the Army with Clonmel and the south east. Business people in Clonmel are very annoyed because when their business security alarms are activated nobody will put up with it. Local people cannot sleep at night because of the noise of the alarms ringing in their ears.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Question No. 4 is in the name of Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter What is happening, a Chathaoirligh? This is Question Time. The Deputy was entitled to put a question to me and I am entitled to respond to it.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Sorry, Minister; if I may make a point-----

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter With all due respect, a Chathaoirligh, in fairness to Deputy McGrath, he has put a series of questions to me. There is some misunderstanding on your part as to how we conduct Question Time. I disagree with some things the Deputy has said, but I do not quite understand. It is quite usual that I make an initial reply, after which a Deputy asks a question and I respond.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy With due respect to the Minister and to the Deputies present, I am informed that six minutes are allowed for a Priority Question. Of that six minutes, the Minister has two minutes in which to reply. If the Deputy asking the question wishes to utilise the four minutes remaining he or she can do so.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter He can just talk away for four minutes. That is not correct.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien The usual allocation is two minutes, two minutes, one minute and one minute.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Two minutes, one minute and one minute are the times for Other Questions.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter It is not fair to the Deputies opposite. It is not correct.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy A time allocation of two minutes, one minute and one minute is used for Other Questions. I am the Acting Chairman. I am being advised by the clerk in front of me.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am trying to be of help to the Opposition. In fairness to Deputy McGrath, the Acting Chairman indicated to him that he had four minutes. My recollection from other Question Time occasions is that the Chair normally indicates to the Deputy opposite when he or she had gone past a particular point in order to allow time for the Minister to respond. It is also unsatisfactory for the Minister, whether it be myself or any other Minister. Towards the end of his contribution, Deputy McGrath had a question. In the beginning it was just the usual invective. It would be reasonable if one could respond to his question.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I am adhering to the advice I have been given. The Chair is impartial. The Deputy has four minutes. I am carrying out the advice to the letter of the law. We must move on to Priority Question No. 4, from Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl. The Minister has two minutes to read out his reply and Deputy Ó Fearghaíl has a further four minutes, which can be broken into segments. If Deputy Ó Fearghaíl takes four minutes, well and good. If he does not take the four minutes, the Minister has the option to reply.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl To be helpful, I will take just two minutes.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I think there has been a very dramatic change in the way Priority Questions are dealt with.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The Minister is being unfair to the Chair.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am trying to be of assistance to Deputy McGrath. For once he might actually not feel the need to shout across the floor at me.

Defence Forces Personnel

 4. 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 his views on whether there are sufficient opportunities for promotion at all levels of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54930/12]

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I announced details of the reorganisation of the PDF on 17 July last, which resulted from the Government decision to maintain the strength of the PDF at 9,500. As the reorganisation entailed a reduction in numbers across all levels of the organisation, it will have some impact on the career prospects of some members of the PDF. The approach being taken in the reorganisation is designed to maximise the operational outputs of the PDF.

The table provided outlines the total number of vacancies by rank, based on the PDF rank establishment of 9,500 as at 31 October 2012, the latest date for which figures are available. Competitions for promotions for enlisted personnel have been completed and promotions of successful candidates are ongoing. Officer promotion competitions commenced last month, from which there will be promotions in due course. All promotions will be carried out within the resource envelope allocated to the Department of Defence.

In respect of the Reserve Defence Force, the central recommendation from the value for money steering committee was for the retention of the reserve with 4,000 personnel spread countrywide, with these personnel to be based in barracks and in 16 other locations. This will involve the consolidation of existing reserve units throughout the country into a smaller number of full-strength units.


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