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 Header Item Defence Forces Records (Continued)
 Header Item European Defence Capabilities
 Header Item Topical Issue Matters
 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Death of Member: Expressions of Sympathy

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 835 No. 1

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Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter Of course, that is one of the varied and numerous issues to be considered in the context of the Defence Force White Paper which will look to the future, to the State's needs and to the capabilities of the Defence Forces. It will look to the operational requirements, both in the context of serving abroad and at home and in providing an assistance to the civil power.

A key issue is resources. In the context of the Air Corps, there is the issue of the extent and nature of the missions that it is required to undertake and the capacity of the State, within limited financial resources, to purchase additional aircraft, and the need in that context.

As Deputy Ó Fearghaíl will be aware, substantial investment has been made in the Naval Service. We will see in the not too distant future the commissioning of a new naval vessel, which has cost in the region of €53 million. There is a further naval vessel under construction, which should be commissioned during the first half of next year, which has cost a similar sum of money. In the context of the Deputy's specific question, the future role of the Air Corps, the numbers within it, its capabilities and its operational needs all are issues to be considered in the context of the White Paper.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl In conclusion, I ask the Minister whether he himself is committed to improving the rotary-wing fleet so that it could be expanded to include additional helicopters, especially those with over-ocean capacity. Experiences in such missions as the EUFOR mission to Chad in central Africa have demonstrated the requirement to have accessible and appropriate rotary-wing capacity in difficult situations and over difficult terrains. Obviously, one understands the financial pressure that the Minister is under, but does he have a plan to improve the level of equipment that would be made available to the Air Corps in the period ahead?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter We have been able to maintain the resources and equipment of the Defence Forces at a very high level to meet the operation requirements of the Defences Forces, both in the context of the Army, navy and Air Corps.

In the context of the consideration of the purchase of any further assets for the Air Corps, that is a matter based on looking at what is contained ultimately in the White Paper on the needs and requirements, what is affordable to the State and the nature of the engagement of the Air Corps, which is important to the State but which, of course, is also limited.

European Defence Capabilities

 134. 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 the extent to which the Defence Forces is in liaison with other defence forces throughout the European Union with a view to ensuring compatibility in respect of procedures, operational equipment, command structures, communication and language; if he is satisfied that adequate co-ordination exists to ensure that no country throughout the European Union might be vulnerable in the event of an attack; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [12935/14]

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan This question relates to the necessity for compatibility between the Defence Forces and other defence forces throughout Europe and those on UN deployments with a view to ensuring that each understands the other sufficiently adequately to be able to cope with emergency situations.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Defence Forces liaise with other armed forces personnel throughout the European Union through a range of fora. These include: NATO Partnership for Peace, EU military staff, EU military committee in Brussels and European Defence Agency.

  Ireland joined Partnership for Peace, PfP, on 1 December 1999. 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. Membership of the PfP continues to allow the Defence Forces access to NATO standards, which are internationally-recognised as representing best practice in military and related matters such as operations, procurement, training, civilian co-operation, etc.

  Participation in PfP's planning and review process is considered an essential requirement for preparing for UN mandated peacekeeping operations. As part of this process, Ireland has adopted a range of partnership goals - NATO standard military capabilities - which assist Ireland to be compatible with other member states' armed forces in respect of procedures, operational equipment, command structures and communications.

  Through Ireland's involvement with the European Defence Agency, we are actively engaged in projects and project teams, along with other EU member states, which are addressing capability shortfalls in a number of areas, such as counter improvised explosives devices, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear protection and cyber security.

  The establishment of a political and security committee defence delegation, comprising civil and military elements, in Ireland's Permanent Representation to the EU and the detachment of Defence Force personnel to the EU military staff, coupled with our participation in EU-led civilian missions and military operations, reflect the expanding role of the defence organisation in the area of Common Security and Defence Policy.

  Additional information not given on the floor of the House

  In relation to the vulnerability of any member state to attack, as the Deputy will be aware the EU is not a defence alliance, and no decision has been made in relation to initiating a common defence. Common Security and Defence Policy is external to the Union. For most member states, mutual defence is achieved through membership of NATO.

  Ireland also maintains bilateral relationships with other countries at both policy and operational levels, and the Defence Forces have regular staff-to-staff meeting with other militaries to exchange information and experiences.

  The ongoing engagement of the Defence Forces and other EU armed forces in the fora referenced above ensures that all concerned are actively engaged in the development of concepts, procedures and capability enhancement. While adhering to international best practice in these areas, the Defence Forces and other EU armed forces are best prepared to meet their assigned roles.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan I thank the Minister for the comprehensive reply. Is he satisfied regarding the familiarity of the Defence Forces with the standards, equipment and training applicable in other jurisdictions throughout the European Union and by forces in deployment from the UN and to what extent is he satisfied that in emergency situations it is possible to dovetail the knowledge, activity and operational skills of all such personnel operating as a unit?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I am satisfied that the substantial engagement by the Defence Forces, both at UN level in co-operation with European Union colleagues in UN-sanctioned missions and engaging in the EU battlegroups, has ensured that in the context of its niche skill areas it has equipment of the highest standard. In the context of the EU, there is substantial movement to ensure equipment and communication compatibility. This is part of an ongoing process to ensure that Defence Forces personnel, when engaged in UN peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, have the best possible equipment available to them.

The nature of the equipment being used by the Defence Forces in the difficult UN mission at present on the Golan Heights in the context of difficulties that have arisen has proved that the resources provided to them have played an important role in facilitating their undertaking their mission and in ensuring that the Defence Force personnel's safety is maintained as best as can ever be the case when engaged in a conflict area.

Topical Issue Matters

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 27A and the name of the Member in each case; (1) Deputy Peadar Tóibín - the need to provide a housing solution for persons forced into homelessness; (2) Deputy Thomas P. Broughan - the need to ensure the proper enforcement of section 55 of the Road Traffic Act 2010; (3) Deputy Brian Stanley - the future of Ballacolla post office, County Laois; (4) Deputy Finian McGrath - the need to ban electronic cigarettes on public transport; (5) Deputies John Lyons and Billy Kelleher - the need to complete an independent review of emergency ambulance services in Dublin; (6) Deputy Paul J. Connaughton - the need to address the concerns regarding SUSI awarding third level grants to students and then withdrawing them; (7) Deputy Jim Daly - the need to ensure that moneys collected under motor tax across County Cork are allocated back to County Cork; (8) Deputy Seamus Healy - the need to alleviate the trolley crisis at South Tipperary General Hospital; (9) Deputy Mattie McGrath - the need for hauliers transiting Northern Ireland via the A5 to be exempt the UK road user levy; (10) Deputy Michael Moynihan - the loss of two teachers in the Convent of Mercy primary school, Kanturk, County Cork; (11) Deputy Pat Breen - the difficulties facing Labasheeda National School in County Clare and similar rural primary schools given the current student-teacher ratios for these schools and the need for the Minister for Education and Skills to review this criteria to allow for population fluctuations year on year in the interests of restoring certainty for the schools and communities involved; (12) Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick - the development of the coastal walk way to prevent flooding in Dundalk and Blackrock, County Louth; (13) Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn - the need to assign a clinical paediatric diabetes nurse to Letterkenny General Hospital; (14) Deputy Pearse Doherty - the need to assign a clinical paediatric diabetes nurse to Letterkenny General Hospital; (15) Deputy Charlie McConalogue - the need to assign a clinical paediatric diabetes nurse to Letterkenny General Hospital; (16) Deputy Michael McNamara - the need for measures to eliminate raw sewerage from entering the environment; (17) Deputy Thomas Pringle - the need to assign a clinical paediatric diabetes nurse to Letterkenny General Hospital; (18) Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív - iarratas Phobal Leitir Móir i gCondae na Gaillimhe an sean bheairic Garda a fháil ar léas fada ó Oifig na nOibreacha Poibli d'úsaid pobail agus a n-iarratas nach ndiolfaí é Dé hAoine seo chugainn le seans a thabhairt a cheist a phlé leis an bpobal; (19) Deputy Seán Kyne - the need to reconsider the auctioning of the former Garda station in Lettermore, Connemara, County Galway to facilitate the use of the premises for community purposes; (20) Deputy Ciara Conway - the need to amend the income figure applied to public servants in the calculation of means for medical card assessment to reflect deductions including PRD, etc.; (21) Deputy Dessie Ellis - the eviction of local authority tenants; (22) Deputy Ciarán Lynch - to ask the Minister for Transport to discuss the introduction of special training for airline staff to enable them to identify victims of trafficking among passengers; (23) Deputy Clare Daly - the crisis in primary school places at junior infant level in Swords for the academic year starting September 2014; (24) Deputy Brendan Smith - the need for the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to discuss and raise at the United Nations the sentencing to death of 528 Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt; (25) Deputy Mick Wallace - the staffing levels at St. Mary's national school in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, which is due to lose one of its teachers despite having 87 children on roll; (26) Deputy David Stanton - the need to develop specific supports and services for adopted children, and the families of adoptees, who are experiencing post-adoption trauma; and (27) Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett - the need to protect tenants' rights in situations of receivership.

The matters raised by Deputies John Lyons and Billy Kelleher; Paul J. Connaughton; Dessie Ellis; and David Stanton have been selected for discussion.

Business of Dáil

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett It is with deep regret that we learned of the death of our colleague, Deputy Nicky McFadden. I call on the Government Chief Whip to move a motion of expressions of sympathy by the leaders of the various parties and a representative of the Technical Group, and others who wish to speak will have an opportunity in the formal expressions of sympathy which will take place in the foreseeable future.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I move:

  That expressions of sympathy from party leaders and a representative from the Technical Group on the death of Deputy Nicky McFadden shall be taken now, the sitting shall be suspended for 15 minutes upon the conclusion of the expressions of sympathy and Leaders' Questions shall be taken immediately on the resumption of the sitting.

  Question put and agreed to.

Death of Member: Expressions of Sympathy

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I think I speak for everyone in the House when I say that we are devastated by the suffering and the passing of Nicky McFadden, but if we are uplifted by her courage and by her insight into this journey, and her ability to make some sense of the savage uncertainty of life as lived, I suppose that she passed away on the feast of the Annunciation is appropriate because she begins her new life today free of the suffering that marked her last months on this earth.

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