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 Header Item Overseas Missions (Continued)
 Header Item Defence Forces Reserve Strength

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 As the Deputy is well aware, section 2 of the Defence (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1960, as amended by the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006, makes provision for the triple lock mechanism. That is the law and our position on this issue. It would be odd to produce a Green or White Paper that omitted all references to the triple lock mechanism. The Deputy would be more excited and upset if that were to happen. It is reasonable that we review all areas and positions taken and consider the benefits and downsides. I am not expressing a view about change. The last White Paper was produced in 2000 and no major debate preceded its introduction. We now have an opportunity, through a Green Paper, to debate and discuss issues. We need to review where the world is now as compared with where it was in 2000. It is good to review measures we believe are working satisfactorily to ensure they are. If there is something we can do to change or improve the way in which we approach or address issues, we should do so. We should consider whether stances taken in the past which made a lot of sense now make no sense. In a democracy, when one is considering the introduction of a policy paper that may be in place for a decade or more, as was the case in respect of the previous White Paper, it is important consideration is given to where we are. We are living in a different world. For example, there are some areas in which the triple lock mechanism is no longer relevant. An important issue is how we deal with international terrorism. If a group of terrorists based in Ireland is targeting, say, Britain, or persons here are committing criminal acts, should we do nothing until there is a UN mandate? There are concepts that do not cover every issue that arises in the area of defence. However, none of this should cause the Deputy sleepless nights.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien It does not.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter It is important that we review where we are, where we were in the past and what we believe will be the position in the future and the roles we can play of a constructive nature. Irish Defence Force' roles outside the domestic environment are essentially in the area of peacekeeping, peace enforcement and humanitarian assistance and will continue to be such.

The south Sudan region has been riven by war, horror, death, destruction and problems with landmines. We are reviewing the role Ireland might play in this regard. We have particular expertise which is recognised globally in the neutralisation of explosive devices. If we can make a contribution to making things safer, we will do so, but we will have to be careful about the nature of the mission involved. Decisions will be carefully made and in appropriate circumstances in the context of the legalities of any engagement that may take place.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien If the decision is to participate in that mission, I presume the Lariam issue which I have raised a number of times in the past will arise again. Is the Department considering discontinuing the use of Lariam in favour of another drug? As far as I am aware, there are four compensation cases - there may be more - before the Department relating to the use of Lariam. I would welcome hearing the Minister's view on that issue.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter That is a completely different issue. I am aware of the Deputy's concern about this matter. As he will be aware, Lariam is the recommended drug of choice in dealing with malaria. Recommendations on the use of this drug include that a person be medically examined prior to it being administered; that there be no adverse impacts on an individual - the reason it is administered some time prior to a mission - and that the contraindications and circumstances in which Lariam should not be used are outlined. A departmental review in this regard is almost complete. The Deputy may not be aware that a particular medication which it was previously recommended should be only used for a short period may now be used for a longer period and that in some circumstances it may be an alternative to Lariam, despite that up until relatively recently it was not proposed as such. This issue is also being examined. I am sure the Deputy would not expect me to say anything about any existing or threatened court case.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien No.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter We have, in the context of the Defence Forces, ensured procedures that should be in place are in place. I do not know, in the context of a mission to Sudan, what will be the recommended medications. That issue has not yet come for consideration.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl There is growing concern among persons who have served overseas and taken Lariam. I took it many years ago with no ill effects, at least, of which I am aware. Have the Defence Forces provided counselling, guidance or information directly to serving or retired members of the Defence Forces who have concerns about this issue? If the Department was to be proactive in this matter, by way of maximising the amount of information available, concerns would be allayed.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The maximum information is provided for individuals on the use of Lariam, the contraindications in terms of when it should not be used and the necessity, should a person have an adverse reaction, to immediately bring the matter to the attention of medical personnel within the Defence Forces.

Defence Forces Reserve Strength

 10. Deputy Derek Keating Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the current numbers of the Reserve Defence Forces based in Dublin; his plans to expand the Reserve Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [54642/12]

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The current number of Reserve Defence Force, RDF, personnel based in Dublin is 948. This number is divided into the various DFR units and sub-units currently in the Dublin area.

With regard to future plans for the Reserve Defence Force, as the Deputy will be aware, I recently published a value for money review of the Reserve Defence Forces. The steering committee concluded that the current reserve organisation was not fit for purpose and required radical reform. The central recommendation of the VFM steering committee is that the Reserve be retained, with 4,000 personnel spread countrywide and based in barracks and 16 other locations. This requires the consolidation of existing Reserve units throughout the country into a smaller number of full strength units. The retention of all locations was not a viable or sustainable option.

I have accepted the steering committee’s recommendations and directed that proposals for new organisational structures be prepared, taking account of the VFM report and the major reorganisation of the Permanent Defence Force, PDF. The Chief of Staff and Secretary General submitted an agreed report which set out detailed reorganisation proposals, including unit structures and the location of Reserve units. I have accepted these proposals.

A new single force concept will see PDF units having reserve components rather than a parallel Reserve, as is currently the case. Reserve units within barracks will be supported by their parent PDF unit and the 16 units outside PDF installations will be supported by dedicated full-time PDF personnel. This concept offers significant potential advantages in terms of training and development of the Reserve. The initiative of locating Reserve officers within the Defence Forces management structure will likewise underpin the future reserve. Work on implementing the recommendations of the VFM is under way.

In the light of my acceptance of the recommendations made in the VFM report, I have no plans for the expansion of the Defence Forces Reserve.

Deputy Derek Keating: Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply and the information provided. Question No. 18 in my name deals with a similar issue. I am sure that in due course the Minister will provide me with the figures in relation to the involvement of the Reserve Defence Force at local level. I have raised this issue because I am acutely aware, as I know the Minister is, of the major role played by the Reserve Defence Force, in particular with Civil Defence, in the front-line services which it provides.

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