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Defence Forces Reorganisation

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 835 No. 1

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Defence Forces Reorganisation

 128. 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 his views on the impact his recent organisational changes of the Defence Forces has had on the working conditions of members of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [13941/14]

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Minister's major initiative in July 2012 was the reorganisation of the Defence Forces and the move from a three-brigade to a two-brigade structure. Almost two years later, in the Minister's view has this change had any major implications for those serving within the forces with regard to their day-to-day operations?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Deputy is aware, arising from the comprehensive review of expenditure in 2011, the Government decided to stabilise the strength of the Permanent Defence Force, PDF, at 9,500 personnel. Following that decision it was decided that it was not viable to retain a three-brigade structure within a strength ceiling of 9,500 personnel. A major reorganisation encompassing a reduction in the number of Army brigades from three to two was undertaken. This reorganisation to give effect to this decision is now complete and has improved the deployability and sustainability of the Defence Forces, while maintaining an all-arms versatile force both at home and overseas. The Government recognised that the reorganisation was a major change in the organisation and structure of the Defence Forces and was cognisant of the demands it placed on members of the Defence Forces and that such significant organisational change could cause both uncertainty and concern. Therefore, the implementation of the major reorganisation of the Defence Forces progressed in full consultation with serving personnel and their representative associations, including through regular meetings where issues of concern to their members were raised and then dealt with. There is a broad consensus that the subsequent organisational changes have brought significant improvements to the PDF.

The men and women of the Defence Forces always have risen admirably to the challenge of change and modernisation and this period of change for the PDF has been no exception. All options to minimise disturbance to serving personnel were explored but inevitably, given the scale of the reorganisation, it was necessary for some staff to be moved to new locations. The Defence Forces personnel support service representatives in every barrack or installation provided every necessary support to such redeploying personnel. My Department and I remain fully committed to ensuring that the Defence Forces as a whole provide a challenging and rewarding career and do so in a supportive working environment. I am satisfied both that recent structural changes have not had a detrimental impact on working conditions generally within the PDF and that the reorganisation is working well.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Notwithstanding the Minister's remarks, I understand that before the reorganisation, there were five operational units within Dublin while there now are only two. Moreover, one is the cavalry squadron, many of the duties of which are largely ceremonial. As a consequence, Defence Forces personnel are called in regularly to Dublin from various parts of the country, including Dundalk and Athlone and from as far afield as Finner Camp, County Donegal. How can it be sensible that members of the Defence Forces are called in to do duty in Dublin from such locations, particularly from County Donegal? I suggest to the Minister this surely is having a negative impact on the operation of the force and I cannot help but wonder whether additional costs arise from such a situation.

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter In the context of the Defence Forces and the difficult financial circumstances that have afflicted the State as a result of the total economic and fiscal ineptitude of the Deputy's own party in government, the Defence Forces have been doing an extraordinary job. The reorganisation was necessary to ensure the Defence Forces were organised in a manner that reflected the objective strength of the Defence Forces. I presume the Deputy does not suggest the closure of a barracks in County Donegal and the reopening of another barracks in Dublin. Inevitably, where there is a reorganisation and if some barracks changes are effected, on occasions there will be movements of members of the Defence Forces from one part of the country to another, even if it is only temporary. It is part of the job and I believe is not an issue of any great concern. Moreover, it has not resulted in any excessive costs being incurred because the Defence Forces operate in an extraordinarily cost-effective way within the reduced budget that is available as a consequence of the fiscal reductions that had to be effected to enable the Government to bring the State's finances back in order.

Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I am highly amused that at every given opportunity, the Minister cannot resist the temptation to engage in party political sniping.


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