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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 1-25
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Northern Ireland
 Header Item Covid-19 Pandemic
 Header Item Cabinet Committees
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item EU Meetings
 Header Item Defence Forces Strength
 Header Item Defence Forces Reserve
 Header Item Defence Forces Personnel
 Header Item Air Corps
 Header Item Defence Forces Data
 Header Item Naval Service
 Header Item Air Corps
 Header Item Defence Forces Recruitment
 Header Item Defence Forces Resources
 Header Item Departmental Expenditure
 Header Item International Relations
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item International Relations
 Header Item Passport Services

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate

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Written Answers Nos. 1-25

Covid-19 Pandemic

 1. Deputy Patricia Ryan Information on Patricia  Ryan Zoom on Patricia  Ryan asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if a proposal will be brought to Cabinet for a national day of mourning including a paid public holiday in memory of the victims of Covid-19. [10607/20]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar My heartfelt sympathies are with all those who have lost family members or friends during the Covid-19 pandemic. The restrictions which have been necessary in order to protect public health have impacted greatly on how we as societies, as communities and as families mark the death of a loved one. In particular we miss the opportunity to come together to remember those we have lost.

It is not possible with these current restrictions to organise an appropriate national commemoration. When the time is right there will be an opportunity for us nationally to remember those who died during this difficult time. The format which this might take and the timing of such an event is under consideration. In the meantime families who wish to can share with the nation details of their deceased loved ones through the Ireland Remembers initiative.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 2. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his views on whether there will be scope to narrow the time between phases 4 and 5 of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business if all the five health indicators are positive. [10640/20]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Thanks to the progress made by the Irish people in suppressing the virus, on Friday 5 June, the Government agreed to accelerate the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business.

This means certain sectors and public amenities will be able to reopen earlier than previously planned. The reconfigured Roadmap will consist of four phases, instead of five, with Phase 3 beginning on 29 June and Phase 4 on 20 July. Work is underway to determine what can open in each phase.

However, maintaining a three week interval between phases is important for epidemiological reasons to accurately monitor any impacts the easing of restrictions may have on the behaviour of the virus.

Northern Ireland

 3. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he has spoken with the First Minister in Northern Ireland recently regarding Covid-19 or other related issues and-or mutual issues which directly impact both jurisdictions. [10642/20]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I spoke with First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill on Friday, 5 June, when I briefed them on the Government plans for the second phase of easing the Covid related restrictions from 8 June as set out in the roadmap.

I advised them of our plans to condense the five-phase roadmap into a four-phase plan, allowing us to move out of lockdown at a faster pace than previously planned, and our intention for the domestic tourism sector and some hospitality operators to resume from 29 June. I also informed them that our retail stores were to open from Monday, 8 June and a series of other measures, originally envisaged for later phases of the plan, were being given the green light from 8 June. They were also informed that further work will be carried out in the coming days and weeks to determine which actions will take place in each phase.

We also discussed ongoing North South co-operation on dealing with Covid and the Memorandum of Understanding agreed to underpin and strengthen North South co-operation on the public health response to the pandemic.

There is ongoing North South and East West engagement on Covid responses across government at both political and official level. We will continue to seek opportunities for common or similar approaches to managing Covid, where that would be beneficial.

Covid-19 Pandemic

 4. Deputy Paul McAuliffe Information on Paul  McAuliffe Zoom on Paul  McAuliffe asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if guidance can be provided on the definition of a small wedding; and the numbers that will be permitted at ceremonies from phase 4 of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business onwards. [10716/20]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business sets out a framework and processes for assessing how we can keep the level of transmission of the virus as low as possible while balancing continuing restrictions proportionately with the positive social and economic benefits which can accrue from the lifting of some restrictions.

The framework approach contains a range of indicative measures set out under a number of different categories and across a number of potential phases. This is a living, flexible document and is subject to regular review.

As per the framework, Government will decide what restrictions to ease, at what point in time, having regard to the public health advice of the Department of Health as well as other social and economic considerations.

On Friday 5 June, the Government agreed to accelerate the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, which has been made possible thanks to the progress made by the Irish people in suppressing the virus. The reconfigured Roadmap will consist of 4 Phases, instead of 5, with Phase 3 beginning on 29 June and Phase 4 on 20 July. Work is underway to determine what can open in each phase.

Further details and the criteria of the various measures for easing restrictions in later phases, including the number of persons who can attend small and larger weddings, will be determined by the information available as the situation develops and in line with the prevailing public health advice at the time.

Government will continue to provide as much information as possible in as timely a manner as possible as the situation progresses.

Cabinet Committees

 5. Deputy Seán Haughey Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar when Cabinet committee C (European Union including Brexit) last met. [10899/20]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Cabinet Committee on Brexit, Foreign and European Affairs last met on 9 December 2019.

  In the period since, the full Cabinet has frequently considered and received updates on EU issues, including on management of the Covid-19 crisis at EU level and the MFF negotiations, Brexit, and international matters as appropriate.

Departmental Expenditure

 6. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Taoiseach Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the amount his Department spent on social media monitoring in 2018 and 2019. [11848/20]

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar My Department has no spend on social media monitoring in 2018 and 2019.

EU Meetings

 7. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if EU defence issues were discussed at the last EU Defence Ministers meeting last May; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11431/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The last informal EU Defence Ministerial took place on 12 May 2020 via video conference due to the ongoing situation surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated restrictions on travel and physical meetings.

 At this meeting, Defence Ministers discussed the Covid-19 crisis from the perspective of the possible implications for EU security and defence. There was a particular focus on the impact of Covid-19 on CSDP Missions and Operations where key concerns have been the safety of EU personnel and appropriate support to host nations.

Discussions considered topics such as solidarity, responsiveness, resilience and preparedness, capabilities and partnerships with other nations/organisations all in the context of the Covid-19 crisis. Ministers also discussed the setting up of a Covid-19 Information Sharing Platform to facilitate the exchange of information and lessons learned between member States on military assistance provided in a national or bilateral context in support of civilian authorities' response to the crisis.

There was a further informal meeting of Defence Ministers today by video conference.  The meeting commenced with a meeting of the European Defence Agency (EDA) Steering Board where there was a stocktake on the various strands of work currently being undertaken by the EDA on behalf of the participating member States.  Among the issues discussed at the informal meeting were the current status on a range of CSDP initiatives, including PESCO Projects and the upcoming strategic Review of PESCO, the European Defence Fund and ongoing discussions on the European Peace Facility. The meeting also discussed the impact of the Covid Crisis on CSDP missions and operations and the need to reactivate these missions as soon as circumstances and maintaining the safety of our personnel allows.  An initiative on a Strategic Compass designed to guide future work in the area of CSDP so as to deliver on the level of ambition set out in the EU Global Strategy was also discussed.  In my intervention I outlined Ireland's support for CSDP, our priorities and issues in relation to all these initiatives.

Defence Forces Strength

 8. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the strength of the Permanent Defence Forces as of 31 May 2020; the breakdown of each rank across the three services; the gender breakdown of same in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10858/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The table at the link shows the strength of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) as at 31 May 2020 broken down by rank, service and gender. 

  While the Government remains committed to returning to, and maintaining the agreed strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel, the capacity of the Defence Forces to induct and train recruits has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 situation, which resulted in the postponement of the majority of inductions to date.

  The Defence Forces remain committed to optimising the number of personnel inducted during 2020.  In that context, the military authorities have advised that they are currently finalising plans to re-commence General Service training and recruitment, taking public health guidelines into account. A campaign to re-enlist former members of the Permanent Defence Force, to fill certain vacancies, is also underway.

  Strength of the Defence Forces - Tables

Defence Forces Reserve

 9. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the strength of the Reserve Defence Forces as of 31 May 2020 with regard to all three services and all ranks; the gender breakdown of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10859/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The Reserve Defence Force, RDF, is comprised of the First Line Reserve, FLR, the Army Reserve, AR and the Naval Service Reserve, NSR. 

  The effective strength of the Army Reserve (AR) and Naval Service Reserve (NSR), as of 31 May 2020, are set out as follows:

  Strength of AR and NSR - Totals

  The breakdown of females of the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve for the same period is as follows:-    

                   Strength of AR and NSR - Females

  The substantive strength of the First line Reserve for the same period is as follows:- 

FORMATION* OFFR NCO PTE TOTAL
ARMY 1 13 137 151
AIR CORPS   4 21 25
NAVAL SERVICE 3 14 87 104
TOTAL 4 31 245 280
*The gender breakdown of the FLR is not available

  The Government appreciates the service of the Reserve Defence Force and recognises its importance in contributing to Ireland's defence capability.  The White Paper on Defence (2015) sets out a developmental path for the RDF.

Defence Forces Personnel

 10. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the reason a person (details supplied) has not had a response to the application submitted 12 weeks ago to rejoin the Army; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11088/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe On 1 April last, I announced a scheme to provide for the re-enlistment of former enlisted members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) who have the skills and expertise required to fill posts in the PDF which require specialised skills, where vacancies exist. 

The scheme is intended to support the Defence Forces in responding to capability demands in the short to medium term and will allow for initial re-enlistment for a minimum of six months and up to 3 years. 

Since the launch of the scheme in April, some 637 applications have been received with over 500 going forward for further assessment within the Defence Forces. Given the numbers involved and the need for a consistent and transparent approach across all the Corps, also within the parameters of public health restrictions resulting from the Covid-19 crisis, this process is taking some time. Individuals are also required to meet eligibility criteria such as medical and physical fitness.

I am advised by the Military Authorities that contact will be made with this applicant shortly in order to advise him of the status of his application.

Air Corps

 11. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the approximate costs for the new large aircraft that is being considered by his Department; if a second-hand plane has been considered; if such a plane would be capable of assisting in fighting wild gorse fires; the functions such an aircraft could undertake; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11299/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe My priority as Minister with Responsibility for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is maintained to the greatest extent possible so as to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government both at home and overseas.

The acquisition of new equipment for the Defence Forces remains a clear focus for me.  Future equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are being considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence, and White Paper Update 2019, as part of the capability development and equipment priorities planning process.  The principal aim over the period of the White Paper is to replace and upgrade, as required, existing capabilities in order to retain a flexible response for a wide range of operational requirements, including response to security risks and other emergencies, both at home and overseas.

The 2020 capital allocation for Defence is €113 million, an increase of €7 million on the National Development Plan 2019 allocation.  The NDP - Project Ireland 2040 - provides financial allocations for a total of €541 million for Defence over the period 2018-2022. This level of capital funding will allow the Defence Organisation to undertake a programme of sustained equipment replacement and infrastructural development across the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service as identified and prioritised in the Defence White Paper and builds on the significant investment programme over recent years.  Some €265 million inclusive of VAT has already been earmarked for investment in new aircraft over the period 2020-23.

No decision has been made to purchase an aircraft. In line with the approach to proposals for major acquisitions and the Public Spending Code, the assessment of a proposal to acquire a large aircraft includes consideration of the overall investment rationale. The assessment would consider the demands that may be made of an aircraft and the capabilities it may be expected to be able to supply, together with the associated technical specification and requirements. These requirements would be considered against existing air-based capabilities supplied by the Air Corps and the feasible options to meet any proposed requirements. Acquisition of a large aircraft could potentially provide a range of capabilities not currently available for military use or to meet other State requirements.  This utility would have to be assessed against the significant investment of public funds, in respect of the initial investment and on-going operational costs, which will be considered alongside other spending priorities.

Pending any detailed examination, it is not possible to state what the cost would be, the type of aircraft or what its range of capabilities could be.  A tender competition would be required to be carried out in accordance with EU Public Procurement legislation.

Defence Forces Data

 12. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of full-time personnel employed across the Defence Forces for each of the years 2008 to 2019 and to date in 2020, by branch in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11341/20]

 13. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar further to Parliamentary Question No. 16 of 20 May 2020, the date on which each of the current vacancies across the Defence Forces first arose in tabular form; the efforts taken to recruit to fill these posts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11342/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 13 together.

  The reply to Parliamentary Question No. 16 of 20 May 2020 provided a snapshot of the number of vacancies that existed in the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) on 30 April which was achieved by calculating the variance between the strength of the PDF on that date and the agreed establishment. The information requested on the exact nature of each of these vacancies is not readily available. However, vacancies are filled on an ongoing basis through promotion competitions and recruitment.

  The table details the strength of the Permanent Defence Force from 2008 to May 2020.

Year Army Air Corps Naval Service Total
2020* 6,837 727 887 8,451
2019 7,002 721 936 8,659
2018 7,243 725 989 8,957
2017 7,386 734 1,053 9,173
2016 7,332 704 1,090 9,126
2015 7,309 748 1,083 9,140
2014 7,457 766 1,057 9,280
2013 7,434 779 1,023 9,236
2012 7,510 791 1,058 9,359
2011 7,650 791 997 9,438
2010 7,752 766 1,032 9,550
2009 8,070 805 1,031 9,906
2008 8,507 832 1,070 10,409
  *2020 figures as at 31 May.

  In 2012 the Government decided to stabilise the strength of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) at 9,500 personnel and this was further reflected in the White Paper on Defence (2015). While the Government remains committed to returning to, and maintaining this agreed strength, the capacity of the Defence Forces to induct and train recruits has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 situation. This has resulted in the postponement of the majority of inductions in the year to date.

  The Defence Forces remain committed to optimising the number of personnel inducted during 2020. In that context, the military authorities have advised that they are currently finalising plans to re-commence General Service training and recruitment, taking public health guidelines into account. A campaign to re-enlist former members of the Permanent Defence Force, to fill certain vacancies, is also underway.

  In addition, the report of the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) of 2019 contains a range of recommendations aimed at improving work-force planning, recruitment and conditions of service for members of the Defence Forces. A High Level Plan to giver effect to the recommendations of the PSPC is being implemented.

  It should be noted that as the High Level Implementation Plan contains short, medium and long term measures, the full impact of these measures will take time to determine. There are also a range of external variables which impact on recruitment and retention and which can change and these will be carefully monitored to assess their effect as they arise.

Naval Service

 14. Deputy Darragh O'Brien Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his plans for the purchase of a multirole vessel for the Naval Service in view of the contribution by the Naval Service vessels during the Covid-19 crisis; when the tender competition will be held; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11385/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe My priority as Minister with Responsibility for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is maintained to the greatest extent possible so as to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government both at home and overseas.

The acquisition of new equipment for the Defence Forces remains a clear focus for me. Future equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are being considered in the context of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and equipment priorities planning process.  The principal aim over the period of the White Paper will be to replace and upgrade, as required, existing capabilities in order to retain a flexible response for a wide range of operational requirements, including response to security risks and other emergencies, both at home and overseas.

The current capital allocation for Defence is €113 million for 2020, an increase of €7 million on National Development Plan 2019 allocation.  The NDP - Project Ireland 2040 - provides financial allocations for a total of €541 million for Defence over the period 2018-2022. This level of capital funding will allow the Defence Organisation to undertake a programme of sustained equipment replacement and infrastructural development across the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service as identified and prioritised in the Defence White Paper and builds on the significant investment programme over recent years.  However, in light of the unexpected level of expenditure linked to the Covid crisis this may be the subject of review.

The White Paper underpins the ongoing replacement of the Naval Service fleet. A significant investment over recent years has been on the procurement of new Off-Shore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for the Naval Service. The fourth ship in the programme, LÉ George Bernard Shaw, was commissioned into service in May 2019 reflecting an investment by the Government of over €250 million in the new ships programme since 2010. The four ships are performing well in operational service.  In addition, works on the mid life refit of LÉ Roisín are underway and this will be followed by mid life refit works on LÉ Niamh.

Further to the Off-Shore Patrol Vessels Project, the White Paper also provides for the replacement of the current Naval Service flagship LÉ Eithne with a multi role vessel (MRV). Planning is underway on this project and it is intended to hold a public tender competition to cover the supply of the MRV.  As with the purchase of any major defence platform and complex project, it requires the finalisation of required capabilities to enable a specification of requirements  to be defined before a tender competition can  can go to the market and work is ongoing in this regard. In addition, the timing and scope of the project will be subject to the public funding available within the overall Defence capital funding envelope The cost of the MRV will only be known once a tender competition is concluded. It is important to note that while the MRV will operate as naval asset, its role is very much a whole of defence one with the capacity to contribute to the wider maritime domain.

I am satisfied that the Defence Forces have the necessary resources available to them, including a modern and effective range of equipment which is line with best international standards in order to fulfil all roles assigned to them by Government.

The Naval Service made a significant positive contribution to the Covid 19 crisis with its existing flotilla. It participated in Operation Fortitude in support of the Defence Forces response to Covid 19. It has supplied six ships, to support the interagency response to Covid 19 in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

The six ships were

- LÉ Samuel Beckett

- LÉ James Joyce

- LÉ William Butler Yeats

- LÉ George Bernard Shaw

- LÉ Niamh

- LÉ Eithne.

Air Corps

 15. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if funding has been secured in 2020 for the construction of a crash rescue building at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel; the estimated cost of the project; the duration of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11428/20]

 16. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if funding has been secured in 2020 for the replacement of hangar 2 and upgrade to hangar 3 at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel; the estimated cost of the project; the duration of the project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11429/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe I propose to take Questions Nos. 15 and 16 together.

  The Defence Forces Built Infrastructural Programme 2020-2025 was published in January 2020. This Programme, which is a five year plan, will provide a blueprint for investment in the Defence Forces built infrastructure over a multi annual timeframe.  The Deputy will appreciate that for commercially sensitive  reasons I am not in a position to disclose estimated costs at this point in time.  As part of this programme, I can confirm that the following projects with a scheduled construction start are as follows:

Project Name Planned Start Estimated construction period  
Hangar 3 Upgrade 2021 5 months
Replacement of Hangar 2 2023 12 months
New Crash Rescue Building 2024 8 months

Defence Forces Recruitment

 17. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will report on the implementation of the Public Service Pay Commission recommendations on recruitment and retention in the Permanent Defence Forces. [11577/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The Government’s high level plan “Strengthening Our Defence Forces – Phase 1” sets out a range of actions to be undertaken in the short-medium and longer term. The plan is complemented by a range of other HR actions which were already underway.

  The immediate pay measures set out in the plan i.e. an increase in Military Service Allowance, the reversal of 10% cuts to allowances and the restoration of weekend premium rates for overtime were implemented immediately upon their acceptance by the PDF Representative Associations. A service commitment scheme for pilots was also re-introduced, with very positive uptake.  

  The remaining projects in the plan contain both pay and non-pay measures. 

  The pay related projects include a review of pay structures, consideration of incentivised long service arrangements and  a review of technical pay (grade 2-6) arrangements. 

  The review of pay structures is a medium term project being led by DPER . Some initial preliminary work has commenced on this project within my Department, however, the main body of work will be done as part of a wider review of public sector pay arrangements. The Defence Forces Representative Associations have submitted views regarding pay and allowances and these will be fully considered.

  In relation to the project to consider incentivised long service arrangements, a report has been prepared on this matter which will be used to inform future pay negotiations. In relation to the review of technical pay, this has been undertaken in two phases and the reports produced are under consideration.  

  The Covid-19 emergency has impacted project timeframes for the remaining non-pay related projects. For some projects resources were necessarily reassigned to matters relating to the Covid-19 response and where other essential work necessarily took priority. However at this point work on all of the outstanding projects either remains ongoing or has recently re-started and projects are being progressed as quickly as is possible in the circumstances.  

  The following table summarises the current status for each of the 15 projects included in the plan:

  Project Current Status
V1 Review of Pay Structures - Led by DPER Some initial preliminary work  commenced within DoD. Main body of work to be done as part of a wider review of public sector pay arrangements. Timeframe for this wider review not confirmed at present. 
V2,

V3,

V4
Increase in MRA, Restoration of  allowances  Restoration of weekend premium rates Complete
R1 Restore Pilot Service Commitment Scheme Complete
R2 Tech 2 – 6 arrangements 2 reports on the Review of Technical Pay Groups 2-6 arrangements remain under consideration.
R3 Incentivised long service arrangements Report was submitted to Project Sponsors [DPER and DoD] in October 2019.  The report is due to be used to  inform future pay negotiations.
R4 Barriers to extended participation in the PDF This Project was divided into two phases. The first phase, which focuses on reviewing mandatory retirement ages for Officers is nearing completion.

The second phase, which will look at enlisted contracts has just been initiated. However, it was agreed with PDFORRA that enlisted privates and corporals who had reached 21 years’ service, could remain in service until they reach age 50 until end 2022. Sergeants are also permitted to serve beyond 50 until that timeframe. These measures mean that the review can take place in an extended timeframe.
R5 Bespoke management training for leaders and managers The final draft of this Report is currently being reviewed and it is hoped to finalise this project in the near future. 
R6 Professional Military Education (PME) Strategy  First draft of the PME Strategy is nearing completion. It is anticipated that the strategy will be finalised during Q3 2020.  
R7 Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy First draft of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy is under consideration by the DF Mental  Health and Wellbeing Working Group (DFMHWWG). This project is on target for completion in August 2020.
R8 Non-Pay Retention Measures in the PDF Phase 1 report (Review of Current Retention Measures) and Phase 2 report (Review of Retention Measures in other PDFs) are completed. Phase 3 Report (Proposed Further Non-pay Retention Measures PDF) was nearing completion in early March, however, the project team was temporarily reassigned to Covid-19 work. Work has now recommenced and the Phase 3 Report is currently being reviewed in light of any issues that arose due to Covid-19.
R9 Additional specialist posts for high turnover/long lead in appts This project has required detailed consideration of turnover, specialist training and associated personnel requirements in specialist areas and was taking longer than originally planned. In addition, a number of the senior project team  members were reassigned/diverted to deal with Covid-19 related work and as a consequence this project was temporarily suspended. Work has now re-commenced on the project, albeit at a slower pace than prior to the Covid-19 crisis.
A1 Recruitments methods for PDF Project team meetings were temporarily suspended due to challenges arising in the context of the Covid-19 crisis, however the external recruitment specialist leading the review, Mr Padraig Love, has continued to work on the project  and the project is well advanced.
A2 Workforce Planning Project A2 is being progressed with the assistance of an independent HR specialist. The timeframe set out for the development of an integrated workforce plan was overly ambitious when requirements were analysed in more detail, particularly given the range of specialisms in the Defence Forces and recruitment and training processes.  In this context, there is significant overlap and interdependencies with other projects. When completed, this important project will better inform recruitment and retention and broader HR policy.

Defence Forces Resources

 18. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the details of the upgraded and new Permanent Defence Forces accommodation projects provided by his Department in each of the years 2011 to 2019, in tabular form. [11578/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe The information sought by the Deputy is currently being collated by my officials and will be forwarded to the Deputy as soon as it is available.

The following deferred reply was received under Standing Order 51

I refer to the above PQ in which my predecessor indicated that the material enquired of would be forwarded to you as soon as available. The following table sets out the details of the upgraded and new Permanent Defence Forces accommodation projects provided by my Department and the Defence Forces in each of the years 2011 to 2019 as requested.

  The Deputy might be interested to note that earlier this year a Defence Forces Built Infrastructure Programme was published. I have enclosed a copy of same for information. This Programme, which is a 5 year plan, will provide a blueprint for investment in the Defence Forces built infrastructure over a multi annual timeframe and is designed to modernise and enhance the training, operational and accommodation facilities of the Defence Forces.    

  Permanent Defence Forces Accommodation Project Spend 2011 to 2019

  Note : The following tables details the payments made in each calender year in respect of projects which by their nature are conducted/administered over more than one calender year period, e.g. payments described as retention release related to final contractual payments made after projects have been completed and the defects period has passed.

YEAR SPEND
2011 €810,218
2012 €2,028,907
2013 €842,289
2014 €2,078,683
2015 €1,684,986
2016 €2,496,618
2017 €1,429,364
2018 €2,366,963
2019 €4,039,236
Total €17,777,247


 2011
Project Spend
Kilworth - new billet accommodation (retention release) €33,696
Dundalk - Officers Accommodation & Locker Room €21,652
Gormanston - two storey billet block refurb €233,591
Collins - Blocks 15 / 16 - ablutions refurb €211,166
Cathal Brugha - E&F house refurb €304,152
Cathal Brugha Officers Mess drain repairs (retention release) €2,586
Gormanston - ablutions renovations (retention release) €1,569
Athlone - upgrade ablutions €1,348
DFTC - Pearse - paint bedrooms internally (retention release) €458


2012
Project Spend
Gormanston - two storey billet block refurb €12,294
Dundalk - Officers Accommodation & Locker Room €760,165
Collins - Block 15 fire doors €12,262
Kilkenny - E & F Blocks (retention release) €7,028
Limerick - C & E Blocks upgrade €552,105
Dundalk - Officers Mess windows (retention release) €4,082
Cathal Brugha - E&F house refurb €16,008
Kilbride - reroof A & B Blocks & upgrade drains €67,972
Kilbride - drying room and laundry €45,951
Dundalk - Officers' Mess, Gate Building & Boiler house - reroof €50,969
DFTC - Manse refurb €12,888
Galway - Officers Mess reroof (retention release) €7,685
Custume - Blocks K - transit accommodation (Bks Closures) €163,399
Custume - Blocks I - transit accommodation (Bks Closures) €175,685
Galway - USAC boiler replacement €40,172
Haulbowline - NCO living-in accommodation - convert old Married Quarters house 12/40 €100,242


 2013
Project Spend
Dundalk – Officers Accommodation and Locker Room €46,009
McKee Barracks – North Accommodation Block – refurb phase 1 (roofing) €148,633
Kilkenny - F Block upgrade to provide accommodation €21,653
Limerick - C & E Blocks upgrade €27,362
Kilkenny - H Block refurb €45,795
Cork - upgrade shower areas in old Officer accommodation €47,846
Kilbride - reroof A & B Blocks & upgrade drains (retention release) €3,577
Dundalk - Officers' Mess, Gate Building & Boiler house - reroof (retention release) €2,677
Custume - Blocks K - transit accommodation (Bks Closures) €8,600
Custume - Blocks I - transit accommodation (Bks Closures) €9,247
Galway - USAC boiler replacement €2,114
Gormanston – Officers’ Mess heating refurb €72,251
Dundalk - 2 storey billet block upgrade €66,858
Manse refurb (retention release) €678
McDonagh - F Block - Passage 3 - refurb ablutions & kitchens €26,622
Old Hostel - ablutions refurb €41,791
Haulbowline - NCO living-in accommodation - convert old Married Quarters house 12 /40 €42,423
Cadets' building - Phase 1 underpinning €35,114
Cadets' building - Phase 2 reroofing €193,039


2014
Project Spend
McKee - North Accommodation Block - refurb Phase 1 (roofing) €1,696,860
Limerick - K Block upgrade ablutions (ret release) €2,631
Cork - upgrade shower areas in old Officer accommodation (ret release) €2,518
Kilkenny - H Block refurb (ret release) €2,410
Gormanston - O/Mess heating refurb (ret release) €3,803
Dundalk - 2 storey billet block upgrade €225,523
Kilbride - drying room and laundry €2,418
Custume Barracks - re-roofing flat roof Officers' Mess €22,589
McDonagh - F Block - Passage 3 - refurb ablutions & kitchens (ret release) €1,401
Old Hostel - ablutions refurb (ret release) €2,200
Officers Mess - heating upgrade €76,767
Haulbowline - NCO living-in accommodation - convert old Married Quarters house (ret release) €6,631
Cadets' building - Phase1 underpinning (ret release) €1,848
Cadets' building - Phase 2 reroofing €31,084




 2015
Project Spend
McKee - North Accommodation Block - refurb Phase 1 (roofing) (ret release) €85,367
McKee - North Block – Phase 2 €403,047
Kilkenny - F Block (Officers & Welfare accommodation) - reslate €36,548
Cork - 17 Block - refurb showers / toilets €62,835
Limerick - N Block refurb for Other Ranks accommodation €288,742
Galway - Officers Mess heating boilers replacement €20,632
Bere Island - Mens' Billet reroof €69,935
Collins - renovate 11 Block for female lockers / ablutions €45,000
Dundalk - 2 storey billet block upgrade (ret release) €15,389
McKee - G Block external painting €10,662
Cathal Brugha - O Block refurb to accommodation recruits €162,082
Cathal Brugha - swipe card access to Blocks C&D €73,775
Pearse - Blocks B & D - reroofing €200,262
Ceannt Officers' Mess - external - 15 €23,722
Pearse - Blocks G & H reroofing - 32 €81,121
Senior Officer accommodation refurb €59,304
Cadets' building - Phase 2 reroofing (ret release) €11,795
Lower Billets - refurb showers / toilets €34,750




2016
Project Spend
McKee - North Accommodation Block - Phase 2 (walls, windows and doors) €1,127,316
Cork - 17 Block - refurb showers / toilets (ret release) €3,307
Limerick - N Block refurb for Other Ranks Accommodation (ret release) €15,197
Galway - Officers Mess heating boilers replacement (ret release) €1,086
Bere Island - Mens' Billet reroof (ret release) €3,681
Collins - renovate 11 Block for female lockers / ablutions €331,863
Collins - renovation of Block 7 to provide accommodation €246,290
Galway - shower room upgrade in Accommodation Block 1 €16,172
Custume Barracks - re-roofing flat roof Officers' Mess (ret release) €1,189
Cathal Brugha - swipe card access to Block C&D €22,232
Cathal Brugha - C & D Blocks fireproofing €58,889
Finner - Accommodation access control €171,269
Cathal Brugha - Blocks 1 & 2 window & door replace €50,530
Athlone – Accommodation block - internal painting €52,318
Pearse - Blocks B & D - reroofing (ret release) €10,622
Ceannt Officers' Mess - external (ret release) €1,249
Pearse - Blocks G & H reroofing €128,711
Senior Officer accommodation refurb (ret release) €8,362
Connolly - refurb 5 shower rooms for student accommodation €48,918
McDonagh - refurb G & H Blocks €136,957
Ceannt - Officers Mess - refurb 2 ablution areas €20,752
Officers Mess - heating upgrade (ret release) €4,040
Upper Billet - refurb (ret release) €33,839
Lower Billets - refurb showers / toilets (ret release) €1,829


2017
Project Spend
McKee - North Accommodation Block - Phase 2 €63,032
Pearse - Blocks B & D €928,173
Collins - renovate 11 Block for female lockers / ablutions €19,836
Collins - renovation of Block 7 to provide accommodation €12,963
Galway - shower room upgrade in Accommodation Block 1 €880
Collins - shower room refurb €31,873
Collins - refurb 8 Block for accommodation units (36 Bed) €225,231
McKee - G Block external painting (ret release) €955
Cathal Brugha - Blocks 1 & 2 window & door replace (ret release) €2,343
Athlone - Accommodation block – internal painting €2,753
Cathal Brugha - C & D Blocks fireproofing (ret release) €3,099
Finner – Accommodation access control (ret release) €9,048
Cathal Brugha - Officers Mess - shower refurb €35,753
Pearse - Blocks G & H reroofing (ret release) €11,044
Ceannt - Officers Mess - refurb 2 ablution areas (ret release) €1,093
Connolly - Refurb 5 shower rooms for student accommodation (ret release) €2,575
McDonagh - Refurb G & H Blocks (ret release) €7,208
Plunkett - Block 6 refurb €71,505


             2018
Project Spend
Pearse - Blocks B & D €2,192,364
Collins - shower room refurb (ret release) €1,678
Collins - refurb 8 Block for accommodation units (ret release) €11,854
Cathal Brugha - Officers Mess - shower refurb €78,932
Plunkett - Block 6 refurb €82,135


2019
Project Spend
Cathal Brugha - upgrade Blocks 1 and 2 €165,369
Plunkett - 7 Block €316,614
Apprentice Hostel €3,317,632
Cathal Brugha - Officers Mess - shower refurb €6,036
McDonagh - Cadets' Mess - refurb shower rooms 1, 2 and 3 €225,499
Plunkett - Block 6 refurb €8,086

Departmental Expenditure

 19. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the amount his Department spent on social media monitoring in 2018 and 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11839/20]

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe My Department did not incur any expenditure in relation to social media monitoring in 2018 or 2019. 

International Relations

 20. Deputy Paul Donnelly Information on Paul Donnelly Zoom on Paul Donnelly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he communicated with the President of the United States of America to express the concern here at the treatment of black and minority persons by many in US police forces. [10490/20]

 21. Deputy Chris Andrews Information on Chris Andrews Zoom on Chris Andrews asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on the administration of the United States of America; and if he will write to President Trump outlining his condemnation of recent police action against civilians (details supplied). [10503/20]

 24. Deputy James Browne Information on James Browne Zoom on James Browne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has spoken to the US Ambassador, Mr. Edward F. Crawford, regarding legitimate Black Lives Matters demonstrations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10612/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 20, 21 and 24 together.

As I stated last week, I was shocked by the tragic death of George Floyd on 25 May and the circumstances surrounding his death. I am also deeply concerned at the underlying issues of racial inequality and racism that gave rise to protests in many cities across the United States and elsewhere in recent weeks, including here in Ireland.

Ireland and the United States share strong ties of kinship and enjoy close diplomatic and political relations, as well as enduring economic, cultural and social connections. As a result, I and my officials hold regular and constructive discussions with US officials on a range of issues.

As part of our regular dialogue, I have raised these issues on two occasions with the US Ambassador, Edward Crawford, both during an initial telephone call and during a meeting on 9 June. I set out our concerns about the circumstances surrounding the death of George Floyd and the underlying issues of racial inequality, as well as concerns about some of the policing responses to peaceful protest. We had a good exchange of views and undertook to stay in ongoing contact in the period ahead.

I continue to call for a de-escalation of tensions in the US, and a deepening of engagement at the community and political level to address the underlying issues of racial inequality, which have led to such widespread protest. The disturbing events over the past weeks in the US have also sharply brought into focus the need to look hard at our own societies, in Ireland and elsewhere. I welcome the debate it has opened up in Irish society. We must listen to those speaking out about their own experience of racism and exclusion, identify the challenges in our society, and tackle these scourges head-on, collectively and pro-actively.

Brexit Issues

 22. Deputy Micheál Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has spoken with his other EU counterparts recently regarding Brexit. [10641/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Taoiseach, my cabinet colleagues and I take every opportunity to engage with our EU partners to advance Ireland’s priorities in matters arising from the UK's withdrawal from the EU, including the EU-UK Future Partnership negotiations, and implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, with the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.

My engagement with key interlocutors on Brexit has continued in recent months, including recent contacts with EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, and with a range of EU Foreign Ministers.  I have also spoken, as appropriate, with UK counterparts, including Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis. This is in addition to the regular contact maintained between the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance, and the Minister of State for European Affairs, with their counterparts across the EU and in the UK.  

The EU-UK future relationship is on the agenda of the informal meeting of Europe Ministers on 16 June and it is also expected to be discussed at the meeting of Heads of State and Government on 19 June.  A High Level Conference between the EU and the UK on 15 June assessed progress made to date in the Future Partnership negotiations.

Officials from across Government are continuing their work to make sure that Ireland’s voice is heard at these negotiations in line with the EU’s negotiating mandate, and that work to implement the Protocol on Ireland / Northern Ireland is taken forward. In this regard, Ireland again participated in the second meeting of the Joint Committee, on 12 June, as part of the EU delegation. The Government will continue to engage closely and work with the Taskforce and the Commission, our EU partners, and stakeholders across this island on this vital issue.

International Relations

 23. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney his views on calls from organisations such as an organisation (details supplied) for the suspension of the sentences of persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10576/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am aware of the cases that the Deputy raises. Given the importance Ireland attaches to respect for the separation of powers, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on specific cases ruled upon by the courts of another EU Member State.

The constitutional and political arrangements in Spain are matters to be determined by its own citizens, through its democratic processes and institutions, in full respect of the rule of law.

  Question No. 24 answered with Question No. 20.

Passport Services

 25. Deputy Paul McAuliffe Information on Paul  McAuliffe Zoom on Paul  McAuliffe asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if there is an expected date available for the reopening of the passport office; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10715/20]

 28. Deputy Seán Haughey Information on Seán Haughey Zoom on Seán Haughey asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of persons who have applied for a passport which have not yet been processed due to the Covid-19 restrictions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10898/20]

 37. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the level of passport services available at present; the timescale for a resumption of all passport services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11382/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 25, 28 and 37 together.

Once the potential impact of Covid-19 became obvious, contingency planning commenced to minimise the impact of restrictions on the delivery of passport services. In particular, plans were put in place to ensure that we continued to provide an emergency service for the issuance of passports in cases of serious illness or death abroad.

The Passport Service also assisted those whose applications were regarded as urgent. While staff were on site during the pandemic, carrying out this necessary work, they also produced approximately 6,000 additional passports. The additional passports were adult passport renewal applications received online which required minimum staff intervention.

In addition, as part of the response to the crisis, personnel from the Passport Service have been and will continue to be redeployed into other essential public service roles, such as assisting the HSE with contact tracing and facilitating the payment of social welfare benefits for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

The Passport Service has now started a phased return to full operation. This planning is in line with the wider Government plan to reopen in phases. The Passport Service resumed the processing of non-essential online applications on the 9 June (in Phase 2 of the Government Roadmap) and produced over 12,000 passports in the first week of operation. There are currently 32,000 applications in our system being processed. The Passport Service has a great deal of experience in dealing with peaks in demand, and we believe that we are well-placed to ensure the online service will be meeting its usual turnaround times of approximately two weeks by the end of the month.

We encourage all applicants to apply via the Passport Online service which has won awards for its user-friendly process, including a NALA award for the use of plain English. If an applicant is not familiar with using a computer, a friend or relative with basic computer skills can help them to apply online – the process only takes ten minutes to complete. Passport Online can also facilitate social distancing, given that a renewal application for an adult does not require the signature of a witness.

Passport Online expanded in 2019 to include first time applicants, both children and adults, in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain and Europe. Irish citizens, including children, can also renew their passports online 24/7, from anywhere in the world.


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