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 Header Item Motor Vehicle (Duties and Licences) Bill 2013: Message from Select Committee (Continued)
 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1-30
 Header Item EU Presidency Issues
 Header Item Defence Forces Personnel
 Header Item Defence Forces Expenditure
 Header Item Defence Forces Deployment
 Header Item Defence Forces Remuneration
 Header Item NATO Membership
 Header Item Defence Forces Reserve Abolition
 Header Item EU Battlegroups
 Header Item Defence Forces Operations

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 796 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 53 Next Page Last Page

  12 o’clock

Written Answers Nos. 1-30

The following are questions tabled by Members for written response and the ministerial replies as received on the day from the Departments [unrevised]. 

  Questions Nos. 1 to 18 , inclusive, answered orally.

EU Presidency Issues

 19. Deputy Timmy Dooley Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter his plans for enhancing EU-UN relations during Ireland's EU Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13257/13]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Since the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, now conducts the Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy assisted by the European External Action Service. The EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy forms an integral part of the Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. In the area of Common Security and Defence Policy, the role of the Presidency is now limited to supporting the High Representative and the European External Action Service in this regard. However, that said, this arrangement provides Ireland with an opportunity to influence the Common Security and Defence Policy agenda. As part of Ireland’s Presidency of the European Council 2013, I prioritised a number of areas including enhancing EU/UN Relations, in particular, through EU engagement and participation in UN Peacekeeping. I hosted a very successful and well attended seminar in Dublin Castle on this subject. Speakers from the EU, NATO, the UN and, for the first time, the African Union as well academia gave informative presentations to over 120 delegates who attended from all over Europe.

This seminar informed the follow up discussion at the Informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers who recognised the primacy of the UN in the maintenance of international peace and security and the requirement for the EU to work hand in hand with the UN. The attendance at the Informal meeting of EU Ministers for Defence including, for the first time the UN represented by the Under Secretary General at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations also has cemented this priority into the thinking of the EU. At the Informal meeting a number of follow-up work strands were identified and these will be progressed with the European External Action Service.

In summary, this priority has and will continue to provide impetus to the Union as a whole to the enhancement of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy, a critical component of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, and to the United Nations which is central to the achievement of Ireland’s foreign policy objectives.

Defence Forces Personnel

 20. Deputy Denis Naughten Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the number of medical staff within the Defence Forces; the number who have a psychiatric qualification; the number in each category serving in a medical role here and overseas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13150/13]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Military Authorities have advised me that the number of medical staff within the Defence Forces is 217, comprising 17 Medical Officers, 5 Line Officers, 4 Dentists, 3 Pharmacists and 1 Clinical Psychologist and the remaining 187 being of other ranks. Of the 217 medical staff, 186 medical staff are in the Central Medical Unit, 6 in the Directorate of the Medical Corps, 8 in the Air Corps and 17 in the Naval Service. A total of 7 (1 Medical Officer and 6 Medics) are currently serving overseas as part of the UNIFIL mission to Lebanon.

The Defence Forces do not currently have a psychiatrist within their medical staff, however a civilian psychiatrist with extensive experience of military psychiatry is engaged in an occupational psychiatry role in St Bricin’s Hospital on a one day per week basis. The Defence Forces have a Clinical Psychologist who operates from St Bricin’s Hospital and takes referrals from medical officers, a civilian psychiatrist and the Personnel Support Services (PSS). In turn she liaises with the civilian psychiatrist.

Following publication of the Defence Forces Medical Service Review by PA Consulting Group in 2009 a number of Working Groups were set up and tasked with identifying the practical steps to be taken to achieve implementation of the PA Report. Following the completion of the work of the Working Groups a time bound implementation plan was drawn up to implement their recommendations.

The Central Medical Unit was formally established in 2012 to enable the detailed structures, processes and personnel to be put in place to provide for the support, management and delivery of modern medical services for the Defence Forces. This new Central Medical Unit brings all medical personnel under one central command. It has responsibility for the management and delivery of medical services, including the allocation of medical resources across the system based on operational requirements and demands.

  Question No. 21 answered with Question No. 6.

  Question No. 22 answered with Question No. 17.

Defence Forces Expenditure

 23. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the way Ireland's defence expenditure as a share of GDP compares with other EU nations; his optimum target for such expenditure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13266/13]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Each country pursues a Defence policy that reflects its particular requirements and there can be significant differences in the proportion of funding that differing States allocate to Defence. I am committed to ensuring that the Defence Forces can continue to meet this State's defence policy requirements. The latest comparable figures obtained from the European Defence Agency (EDA) show that Ireland’s 2010 Defence expenditure, including Army Pensions, at 0.59% of GDP, was the second lowest across the participating EU member states. Luxembourg at 0.48% had the lowest percentage with the United Kingdom at 2.56% having the highest. The average figure for Defence spending in 2010 across participating EU member states was 1.61% of GDP. Ireland has the lowest percentage of Defence expenditure as a share of GDP among the six EU countries not in NATO.

   The current economic conditions have necessitated reductions in public sector expenditure in Ireland, including Defence expenditure. Having regard to these resource constraints, I initiated a broad range of measures aimed at maintaining the operational capacity of the Defence Forces.

  Arising from the Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, I secured the agreement of Government agreed to stabilise the strength of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) at 9,500 personnel. Within this strength ceiling, a major re-organisation of the Defence Forces was initiated. This has prioritised operational capability and re-deployed PDF personnel from administrative and support tasks to operational Units. A major re-organisation of the Reserve Defence Force is also currently underway. In addition, equipment procurement continues to prioritise Defence Forces operational requirements.

  Together, these measures are ensuring that the Defence Forces remain fit for purpose. The Chief of Staff has confirmed that the Defence Forces can continue to meet all operational requirements, at home and overseas.

Defence Forces Deployment

 24. Deputy John McGuinness Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will report on the Defence Forces mission in Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13270/13]

 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 when Irish Defence Forces personnel will be withdrawn from Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13275/13]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 24 and 29 together.

On 20 December 2001, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1386 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorising the establishment of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. On 9 October 2012, the UN Security Council extended ISAF’s mandate for a further year until October 2013. Ireland has participated in the NATO–led UN mandated mission in Afghanistan since 5 July 2002, following the Government Decision of 2 July 2002, authorising the provision of seven (7) members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the force. The continued participation by seven (7) members of the Permanent Defence Force in ISAF is reviewed annually by the Government. The most recent decision by the Government was on 26 June 2012, when it agreed to continue to provide seven members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with ISAF for a further period from July 2012, subject to ongoing review by me.

The seven Defence Forces personnel currently participating in the ISAF are all located in ISAF HQ, Kabul and work in staff appointments in planning and administrative roles. The work being carried out by Defence Forces personnel, particularly by those in the Counter Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) cell, represents an important contribution to this UN mandated mission.

Planning for the drawdown of ISAF generally is currently ongoing and the withdrawal of the Defence Forces personnel from the mission will be coordinated within the context of the overall ISAF drawdown plan.

Defence Forces Remuneration

 25. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter the reason soldiers and other military professionals are not consulted on pay and service negotiations until after a prospective deal has been concluded; if he has expressed any suggestions to the Department for Public Expenditure and Reform to include them in the process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13151/13]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Talks on an extension to the ‘Public Service Agreement 2010 – 2014’ concluded last month. Arising out of those discussions, the Labour Relations Commission proposals regarding the ‘Public Service Agreement 2013-2016’ are currently being considered by the public sector staff representatives, prior to a ballot of their members.

It is not the case that the Representative Associations of members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF), the Representative Association for Commissioned Officers, RACO, and the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association, PDOFRRA, were not consulted until after a prospective deal had been concluded. It is true to say that they are not trade unions and are not, therefore, represented by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. While this means that there must be parallel negotiations with the associations, it does not make any such negotiations less real.

Discussions on a Defence Sector agreement were held between Defence sector civil and military management and the Representative Associations of members of the PDF in parallel to the discussions which were held with the public sector trade unions affiliated to ICTU. The PDF Representative Associations were also informed, in tandem with all other unions and associations who stayed in the talks, of the proposals that emanated directly from Government. It is important to state that the Defence staff representatives had an opportunity to influence and shape the outcome in the best interests of their members by negotiation and discussion with their management counterparts.

I am satisfied with the present parallel process arrangements in place and have no plans to raise the matter with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

NATO Membership

 26. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he has plans for the State to join NATO. [13161/13]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I can confirm that this Government does NOT intend to join NATO. Our cooperation with NATO will continue to be conducted through the Partnership for Peace. There has been no change in policy in relation to Ireland’s engagement in NATO or indeed in our Policy for deploying our troops to NATO-led Missions, which requires that the Mission be UN Mandated, and Government and Dáil approved. Ireland’s relations with NATO are set within the framework of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and Partnership for Peace (PfP), including its Planning and Review Process (PARP).

Ireland joined EAPC and Partnership for Peace (PfP) on 1 December 1999. The EAPC is a multi-lateral body, made up of the 28 members of NATO and the members of PfP, for political and security-related dialogue and consultation between its members.

The primary aim of our PfP participation is to enhance the Defence Forces’ interoperability with other professional military forces for the purpose of engaging in UN authorised peacekeeping and peace support operations led by the UN, EU or NATO. Participation in PfP is fundamental to Ireland being able to meet its obligations in providing professional peacekeepers for international crisis management and peacekeeping operations mandated by the UN.

Allow me to reiterate that our participation in PfP is not prejudicial to our traditional policy of military neutrality.

Defence Forces Reserve Abolition

 27. Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will provide details of his plans to abolish the Reserve Defence Force; and if he will provide the details of any circulars issued by his Department within the past 24 months on this issue. [13155/13]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter There are no plans to abolish the Reserve Defence Force and no circulars were issued by my Department in the last 24 months in this regard. The recently published Value for Money Review of the Reserve Defence Force recommended the retention of a Reserve of approximately 4,000 personnel with a range of reforms aimed at ensuring a viable and cost effective Reserve into the future. These recommendations are currently being implemented and when completed will enhance the overall capacity of the Defence Forces to deal with a broad range of contingencies.

A major re-organisation of the Reserve is underway and a new organisational structure will come into effect at the end of March. This will dovetail with the recent re-organisation of the Permanent Defence Force.

There will continue to be a Permanent Defence Force and a Reserve Defence Force, however, the way Units are organised will change. Under the new structures, Army Units within the Defence Forces will have both Permanent Defence Force and Reserve Defence Force components, as opposed to the separate parallel structures that exist at present. This new model will offer significant advantages in terms of training and improved interoperability.

A High Level Implementation Group (HLIG), consisting of civil and military personnel, is overseeing the implementation process. The changes currently being implemented are a direct response to the identified need for reform and will assist in ensuring a sustainable and fit for purpose Reserve into the future.

EU Battlegroups

 28. 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 position regarding the numbers of Defence Forces personnel that have participated in EU battlegroups; the cost to the Exchequer and future plans for participation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13278/13]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Ireland has previously participated in the Nordic Battlegroup in 2008 and 2011 and in the EU Battlegroup 2012. The other members of the Nordic Battlegroup were Sweden, acting as Framework Nation, Finland, Norway and Estonia and Croatia (2011 only). The members of the EU Battlegroup were Germany, acting as Framework Nation, Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Macedonia. For each of these battlegroups Ireland’s participation was minimal and amounted to staff posts at the Operational and/or Force Headquarters. Should any of these Battlegroups have been deployed, Ireland’s contribution would have amounted to approximately 175 personnel making up a Reconnaissance Company. The participation by the Defence Forces in EU Battlegroups increases its interoperability with forces from other Member States. The costs of equipment and additional training are marginal. The capabilities and the requisite high-end equipment in respect of Ireland's contributions to the Battlegroups already reside within the Defence Forces. No military equipment has been purchased specifically for EU Battlegroups. Training of the manoeuvre elements of the Austro-German Battlegroup took place in the contributing Member States - Irish troops were trained in Ireland. Unlike the Nordic Battlegroup, there were no joint field exercises or manoeuvre training with other elements in the Austro-German Battlegroup. Battlegroup training in Ireland is part and parcel of the overall programme of training for rapid deployment elements of the Defence Forces for overseas operations and, in the case of the current Battlegroup, comprises mainly the standard training of reconnaissance formations.

Two invitations have been received by Ireland to participate in future EU Battlegroups. One invitation has been received to participate in the Nordic Battlegroup 2015, together with Sweden, acting as Framework Nation, Finland, Norway and Estonia. The second Force Generation Conference was held in Sweden in early December 2012. The proposed contribution to this Battlegroup will be a Reconnaissance Company with associated HQ staff appointments and supporting elements. The model envisaged for the Battlegroup gives command of a multinational Reconnaissance Group HQ to Ireland, resulting in a raised profile.

The second invitation has been received to participate in the EU Battlegroup 2016, with Germany, acting as Framework Nation, Luxembourg, Austria, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. Discussions are ongoing with the participants on Ireland’s potential contribution to this Battlegroup. Any participation by Ireland in the Nordic 2015 and the EU Battlegroup 2016 will be subject to formal Government approval at the appropriate time.

  Question No. 29 answered with Question No. 24.

Defence Forces Operations

 30. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if the EU has indicated any willingness or intention to assume responsibilities for any defence and or society issues including emergencies within member states such as shoreline, sea or air surveillance where there might be a benefit to Europe as an entity; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13281/13]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The EU has not indicated any intention to assume responsibilities for defence as a whole. The Common Security and Defence Policy is an integral part of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and, as such, decisions of the European Council in relation to defence are reached unanimously by all Member States. This is safeguarded within the provisions of the legal guarantees, secured by Ireland and attached to the Lisbon Treaty, which clearly state that the Lisbon Treaty “does not affect the right of Ireland or any other Member State to determine the nature and volume of its defence and security expenditure and the nature of its defence capabilities”. The EU also has a very limited role with regard to society issues in relation to emergencies within Member States. Civil protection remains a national competence/responsibility for each EU Member State and, following consultations with other Government Departments with lead responsibilities in these areas, I am not aware of indications that the EU could assume responsibilities from national authorities.

In the event that a Member State’s response capacity to a natural or man-made disaster is overwhelmed, an EU Civil Protection Mechanism is in place to co-ordinate the provision by other Member States of mutual aid and support to that State. The European Commission’s only role in such an event is to co-ordinate the transport and deployment of the assistance being provided.


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