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 Header Item Defence Forces Personnel (Continued)
 Header Item Other Questions
 Header Item EU Battlegroups

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter] The Deputy will appreciate that until there is significant further progress on the implementation of recommendations made in the value for money report, it will not be possible to determine where recruitment vacancies and promotion opportunities may arise. As such, it is not proposed to undertake recruitment to the Reserve Defence Force or promote existing personnel at this time.

PDF strength by rank as at 31 October 2012 versus PDF rank establishment of 9,500

  9,500 Rank Establishment Strength at 31 October 2012 Vacancies by Rank
Lieutenant General 1 1 0
Major General 2 2 0
Brigadier General 8 8 0
Colonel 41 34 7
Lieutenant Colonel 137 131 6
Commandant 336 337 -1
Captain 452 436 16
Lieutenant 256 319 -63
Sergeant Major 43 35 9
Battalion Quartermaster Sergeant 44 42 1
Company Sergeant 245 166 79
Company Quartermaster Sergeant 199 171 28
Sergeant 1,330 1,057 273
Corporal 1,800 1,757 43
Private (including Cadet) 4,606 4,656 -50
Total 9,500 9,153 347


Note:

Equivalent Naval Service Ranks

Brigadier general/commodore

Colonel/captain

Lieutenant colonel/commander

Commandant/lieutenant commander

Captain/lieutenant (NS)

Lieutenant/sub-lieutenant

sergeant mayor/warrant officer

Battalion quartermaster sergeant/senior chief petty officer

Company quartermaster sergeant/senior petty officer

Company sergeant/chief petty officer

Sergeant/petty officer

Corporal/leading seaman

Private/able seaman

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl In written responses in recent weeks the Minister indicated that the total number of promotions at NCO level since the announcement of the review in July was 129 and that the total pertaining to commissioned officer rank was 90. There could be disproportionality in this regard. Will the Minister comment on this? Does he share the concern I expressed previously that there is considerable unease and pessimism among members of the Defence Forces owing to the peremptory manner in which he opted to change the three brigade system to a two brigade system without engaging in the deliberations proposed as part of the White Paper process? I suspect he does not.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I do not accept that there is such a difficulty. We had a three brigade structure posited on a Permanent Defence Force strength of 11,500. When I entered office, the Defence Forces were heading towards a position where, based on the funding provided by the previous Government, there would have been a strength of fewer than 8,000. We consolidated the number at 9,500. I received a commitment from my Government colleagues that the Defence Forces would be funded to ensure this strength. It made no sense to retain a three brigade structure in circumstances where the actual and real strength would be 9,500. It is correct and appropriate that we have a two brigade structure. That was the recommendation made to me by the Chief of Staff, the Secretary General of my Department and those working under them. They addressed the reorganisational steps to be taken.

With regard to promotions, the military authorities have advised me that up to 10 November, there were the following promotions: one major general, four brigadiers general, 233 officers and 309 enlisted personnel. Obviously, with the reduction in the number of barracks and personnel and the move from a three brigade structure to a two brigade structure, it is clear that there would be reductions in the officer and NCO ranks. The reorganisation entails reducing the number of management and administrative posts in the Defence Forces. This will obviously mean reductions in promotional opportunities within the Defence Forces similar to those experienced across the public service as a whole. However, targeted promotions within the strength ceiling of 9,500 will continue to be made in the Permanent Defence Force. In addition, very significant opportunities for training and career progression will continue to be available within the reorganised structure for the Permanent Defence Force. From my contacts with members of the Defence Forces, there is now a sense of optimism. The members know where they stand with regard to numbers. The Defence Forces will continue to commit themselves to assisting the civil power domestically and continue to perform extraordinarily capably in carrying out the various international duties in which they are engaged through the United Nations.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I understand there are complex procedures in place within the Defence Forces for promotions. Is the Minister satisfied that procedures were applied consistently in all promotions? Will he explain why those going for promotion, in the Air Corps, for example, did not have their overseas service considered in some instances? If he cannot explain it now, I will be happy to receive correspondence from him.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I cannot comment and I am sure the Deputy would not want me to comment on a specific instance he has raised. If he wants to set out the difficulties he says occurred, I will ensure he receives a reply.

There are very specific procedures to be complied with in promotions in the Defence Forces. Should the procedures not be complied with, or should a difficulty issue arise, a complaint can properly be made both within the Defence Forces and to the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces. Since I was appointed Minister, there have been occasions on which issues surrounding promotions have given rise to cause for complaint to the ombudsman. These issues have been addressed and new procedures put in place to ensure that where there have been procedural failings, they will not be repeated.

  Question No. 5 lapsed.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Robert Troy): Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy The format for other questions is that there are six minutes per question. The Minister is allowed two minutes for his initial reply. Thereafter, there are to be one minute contributions and the total should be no more than six minutes. Since the first response is to involve a grouping of three questions, I understand the Minister is allowed six minutes in which to make his initial reply, adhering to Standing Orders.

Other Questions

EU Battlegroups

 6. 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 if he will provide a progress report on Ireland’s participation in the Austro-German Battlegroup; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54759/12]

 29. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the cost of training troops to participate in the Austro-German Battlegroup; if money was allocated to cover the potential deployment of these troops and the number of days this money covered; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54757/12]

 33. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the cost of Ireland's participation in the German led EU battlegroup. [54756/12]

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 29 and 33 together.

Ireland is participating in the Austro-German-led battle group which will be on standby until 31 December. In 2010 the then Government approved Ireland's participation in this battle group. The other members of the Austro-German battle group are Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. A battle group is a standard technical military term and consists of about 1,500 personnel. The purpose of a battle group is to undertake operations commonly referred to as the Petersberg Tasks which are set out in the Amsterdam treaty. The tasks include rescue tasks, peacemaking, peacekeeping and humanitarian tasks. Ireland participates in order to enhance its military capability and inter-operability with other member states' defence forces.

Our contribution is a reconnaissance company. Should the battle group be deployed, Ireland's contribution would amount to approximately 175 personnel. During the stand-by period, one officer has been deployed to the battle group headquarters in Ulm, Germany for training and planning activities. The costs of equipment and additional training for participation in the battle group are marginal. The capabilities and equipment in respect of Ireland's contributions to the battle groups already reside within the Defence Forces. Training of Irish troops for the Austro-German battle group took place in Ireland and no joint field exercises or manoeuvre training took place. There were no specific additional costs arising in association with the preparation and stand-by period.

Should the battle group be deployed, the current estimated additional maximum cost for 120 day deployment is €10.7 million, excluding allowances and ammunition, which are generally already provided for in the Defence Vote. There are no proposals under consideration at this time for the deployment of the Austro-German battle group. On the basis that it will cease to function on 31 December, it is not anticipated that there will be.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I am conscious that participation in the Nordic battle group and, consequently, the Austro-German battle group was approved by the previous Government. I am interested in knowing about the deliberations the Minister has had with the Chief of Staff and his partners in the Government on future participation. Has he, in consultation with interested parties, had the opportunity to evaluate the success, or otherwise, of participation in the two battle groups? Does he have proposals to bring to the House in the near future on Ireland's continued participation?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am happy to tell the Deputy that preliminary discussions have been held on Ireland's possible participation in 2015 in the Nordic battle group, to which he referred. Ireland participated in the Nordic battle group in 2008 and 2011. Other members of the Nordic battle group were Sweden which was acting as the framework nation, Finland, Norway, Estonia and Croatia. Ireland is due to participate again in the Austro-German battle group in 2016. This is also under positive consideration.


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