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Defence Forces: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members] (Continued)

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 946 No. 1

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Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith I move amendment No. 3:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“acknowledges the pride that Irish people take in those who carry out their work in our lifesaving emergency services including ambulance crews, firefighters, the Irish Coast Guard and Defence Forces (Naval Service, Army and Air Corps) as well as the contribution made by volunteers involved in lifesaving, including those involved in lifeguard, lifeboat and mountain rescue services, the Reserve Defence Force and the Civil Defence;

remembers those members of the emergency services who have lost their lives in the course of lifesaving duties, especially of late the Irish Coast Guard, and including those on overseas lifesaving missions in humanitarian emergency situations including natural disasters, famine and war;

agrees that the single greatest asset the Defence Forces has is its personnel;

recognises the dedication and professionalism shown by members of the Defence Forces;
notes:

— that the current allowed strength of the Defence Forces at 9,500 has stretched its ability to fulfil its potential roles and maintain a credible contingent capability;

— that the current effective strength of the Defence Forces is below 9,000;

— the concerns that exist within the Defence Forces about the poor terms and conditions of members, and a range of other concerns including gender balance, commuting, work life balance and stress, and that morale is at the lowest it has been for some

time;

— the significant difficulties that the Defence Forces have in the retention of personnel; and

— the widespread belief that the 2012 re-organisation has not been a success;
further notes that:
— members of the Defence Forces earn extremely low initial wages of €21,800 per annum and there is a low level of participation by women in the Defence Forces;

— the effective membership of the Reserve Defence Force fell from 2,280 to 2,049 during 2016 and has fallen further to 1,970 this year; and

— if the net loss of 200 members, that the Reserve Defence Force experienced last year, continues into the future it will cease to exist by 2026;
agrees that:
— global threats to human security, emphasised by the United Nations, caused by social and economic stresses such as poverty, environmental degradation and outbreaks of infectious diseases are rated higher for likelihood and impact than geopolitical risks such as terrorist attacks or weapons of mass destruction according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report with the most likely and highest impact risks in its most recent report, in 2014, being unemployment and climate change;

— Ireland needs a defence policy that emphasises a coordinated lifesaving emergency service function at home and abroad, and that is fit for purpose and appropriately resourced;

— Irish spending on emergency services is low and emergency services are inadequately coordinated;

— at €639 million in 2015, defence expenditure (excluding pensions) amounted to just 0.25 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP); and

— a low level of resources is not consistent with a credible emergency services and Defence policy; and
calls for:
— regular recruitment and retention campaigns for emergency services, including both Permanent and Reserve Defence Forces, as part of a review of emergency services generally including consideration of the establishment and strength of the Permanent

Defence Forces target of 10,500 personnel across the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service, 4,000 for the Reserve Defence Force by 2021 and emphasising a radical improvement in the gender balance of members of the Defence Forces;

— the urgent improvement of defence force supports to the Irish Coast Guard, so that top cover is available for emergency requests on a 24/7 basis;

— the improvement of the terms and conditions of members of the Defence Forces, in line with the standards of other public servants providing emergency services, and an end to the two-tier pay structure for recently recruited members of private rank;

— a review of legislation and Defence Forces’ regulations, including the Reserve Defence Force, to reorient and reorganise Ireland’s Defence Forces towards providing coordinated emergency services at home and abroad, towards actively opposing

military alliances and/or military operations serving economic and political interests contrary to humanitarian principles or contrary to the effective development and delivery of lifesaving emergency services, to reduce the proliferation of conventional

and unconventional weapons, and to improve the democratic civil control of the Defence Forces in any external or domestic security role;

— consultation with the representative organisations in the Defence Forces on the practicalities of reorientation and reorganisation;

— the coordination of Defence as a portfolio with other portfolios involved in emergency services in Cabinet; and

— an end to the use of Irish airports or ports by United States armed forces.”

Amendment put:

The Dáil divided: Tá, 36; Níl, 98; Staon, 0.

Níl    Staon
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Tellers: Tá, Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Bríd Smith; Níl, Deputies Tony McLoughlin and Kevin Boxer Moran.

Amendment declared lost.

Motion, as amended, put and agreed to.


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