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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 339-363
 Header Item Military Honours
 Header Item Naval Service
 Header Item Defence Forces Operations
 Header Item Defence Forces Remuneration
 Header Item Departmental Contracts
 Header Item Defence Forces Reserve
 Header Item Defence Forces Recruitment
 Header Item Defence Forces Recruitment
 Header Item Departmental Budgets
 Header Item Defence Forces Recruitment
 Header Item Defence Forces Data
 Header Item Defence Forces Personnel
 Header Item Defence Forces Recruitment
 Header Item Defence Forces Remuneration
 Header Item Defence Forces Expenditure
 Header Item Cybersecurity Policy
 Header Item Naval Service
 Header Item Air Corps
 Header Item Defence Forces Data
 Header Item Defence Forces Training
 Header Item EU Issues
 Header Item Permanent Structured Co-operation
 Header Item Permanent Structured Co-operation
 Header Item Defence Forces

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1001 No. 6
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 91 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 339-363

Military Honours

 339. Deputy Matt Carthy Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if a person (details supplied) will be awarded a medal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39794/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The awarding of the Military Medal for Gallantry is provided for in DFR A9, which sets out the criteria and procedures for the award of such medals. These Regulations, and associated Administrative Instructions, require that any recommendations for possible awards must be made in accordance with the relevant procedures. Such awards are made on the recommendation of a Military Board appointed by the Chief of Staff for the purpose of examining and reporting on every recommendation for an award.

In the case of recommendations for the award of the Military Medal for Gallantry, such recommendations are time bound and should be made not later than 2 years from the performance of the act in respect of which the recommendation is made.

There is no provision in the regulations to allow the Minister for Defence to make an award of the Military Medal for Gallantry other than on the recommendation of a military board appointed by the Chief of Staff, nor is there any mechanism for a case to be referred back to a military board for fresh examination.

Currently there are no plans to amend DFR A9.

The Deputy will appreciate that it would not be appropriate to comment on matters relating to specific individuals.

Naval Service

 340. Deputy Cian O'Callaghan Information on Cian O'Callaghan Zoom on Cian O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of additional Naval Service personnel that will be required in the event of a no-deal Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39799/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Naval Service currently has a strength of 887 personnel from an establishment of 1,094. I have previously acknowledged that there are recruitment and retention issues within the Naval Service and, in this context, I have announced a number of measures including an increased tax credit for sea-going Naval service Personnel and a new sea-going service commitment scheme. The Government is committed to restoring the strength of the Naval Service to its full establishment, however, this will take time.

Having regard to the current strength of the Naval Service and ongoing recruitment, the operational requirements arising from Brexit will be prioritised and personnel will be targeted to augment Brexit related activities.

Defence Forces Operations

 341. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the breakdown of annual operations by the Defence Forces; the percentage that are day patrols and so on; and the level of personnel and resources needed for each operation. [40189/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Defence Organisation provides a broad range of services in accordance with its primary security role while it also undertakes a diverse range of non security related tasks. The Defence Forces continue to carry out the roles assigned by Government, including security operations, critical supports to An Garda Síochána (Aid to Civil Power - ATCP), as well as Aid to Civil Authority (ATCA) supports to other Government Departments and Agencies.

   The number of operations in 2020 up to 31st October is as follows;

Operation Type Number
ATCA 2,743
ATCP 5,547
MDSO * 991**


  *MDSO: Maritime Defence and Security Operations

  ** 991 = 869 Naval Service Patrol days + 122 MDSO Flights

  Defence Forces statistics are not broken down by day/night operations.

  In addition to the above on-island taskings, there are currently (as of 26 Nov 2020), 609 personnel deployed overseas on peace support operations in 14 different mission areas.

  For security and operational reasons details regarding the level of personnel and resources required for each operation are not available.

Defence Forces Remuneration

 342. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the obstacle to the implementation of the technical pay agreement agreed over a year ago with the Defence Forces. [40190/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney A review of technical pay in the Defence Forces was provided for in the Public Service Agreement 2010 - 2014 (Croke Park Agreement). The purpose of the review in the context of the agreement was to rationalise existing technical pay arrangements and consider if the requirements could be met in a more cost effective manner. A review of Technical Pay Group 1 was conducted in 2014 and came into effect at the beginning of 2015.

While the review of Technical Grades 2-6 was underway, the recommendation from the Public Service Pay Commission relating to the review was substantially different to the focus of the original review.

The Public Service Pay Commission recommended that the review of Technical Pay Groups 2 - 6, be completed at the earliest opportunity, without compromising the Public Service Stability Agreement.

This matter will be considered in the negotiations on the next public service pay agreement.

Departmental Contracts

 343. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will provide a schedule of all consultancy firms, accountancy firms, legal firms, project management firms and IT firms his Department has engaged to carry out work its behalf in 2018, 2019 and to date in 2020; if he will summarise the work they were engaged to do and the full costs of the engagements; if disputes over costs ensued; if they were resolved with or without sanctions and or financial penalties and or withholding of funds; and if contracts are subject to legal challenge or mediation. [40206/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney It was not possible to collate the information requested by the Deputy in the timeframe available. As soon as it is complete, I will provide the Deputy with the requested information directly.

Defence Forces Reserve

 344. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the resources required to be available to improve recruitment into the Reserve Defence Force in the coming years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40290/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney A recruitment campaign for the Army Reserve (AR) and Naval Service Reserve (NSR) was opened in spring of this year. However, the restrictions imposed in the interests of public health as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic have had a significant impact on certain Defence Forces activities, leading to difficulties in conducting inductions and training, including for the Reserve Defence Force (RDF).

I have recently been advised by the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) that a second recruitment campaign for the RDF will not proceed this year and from January 2021, a rolling recruitment model for the RDF will instead be put in place, which is similar to the model currently used for the PDF General Service recruitment.

While the Government remains fully committed to on-going recruitment in the AR and NSR, it should be noted that the same personnel and resources are utilised for both PDF and RDF recruitment. Given the competing recruitment demands at present, Permanent Defence Force (PDF) recruitment is, and will remain a priority. However, RDF recruitment will also be progressed to the greatest extent possible.

Defence Forces Recruitment

 345. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the estimated number of recruits expected into the Army, Naval Service, Air Corps and Reserve Defence Force in the 2021 recruitment competitions based on previous competitions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40291/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Permanent Defence Force (PDF) and Reserve Defence Force (RDF) recruitment plans for 2021 have not yet been finalised.

  PDF and RDF recruitment plans will be informed by a review of the 2020 campaign and taking the COVID situation into account.

Defence Forces Recruitment

 346. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of applications and number commissioned under the Naval Service direct entry scheme for each year from 2017 to 2019 and to date in 2020, in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40292/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney It has not been possible to respond to this question in the turnaround time for PQs. The information requested by the Deputy is being compiled and will be provided as soon as it is available.

Departmental Budgets

 347. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if funding that was unspent under Vote 36 was subsequently used from 2017 to 2019 and to date in 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40293/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Defence Vote Group is comprised of Vote 35 (Army Pensions) and Vote 36 (Defence). On an annual basis, pay and other savings arising within subheads across the Votes have, with the approval of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and in accordance with Government Accounting Procedures, been used to address spending pressures across the Vote Group. This approach has facilitated my Department in ensuring that available resources are maximised across the Vote Group.

In the 3 years from 2017 to 2019 the total amount remaining unspent, after savings were re-allocated across the Vote Group, was €3.7 million from a Gross Allocation of €2,875 million. This represents less than 0.13% of the allocation for that period. The end-year outturn for 2020 is not yet known but the position is being carefully monitored on an on-going basis by my Department.

Defence Forces Recruitment

 348. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the reason Permanent Defence Force and Reserve Defence Force general service recruitment cannot be undertaken simultaneously in view of the same eligibility criteria under the single force concept; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40294/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The restrictions imposed in the interests of public health as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic have had a significant impact on certain Defence Forces activities, leading to difficulties in conducting inductions and training for Defence Forces.

  Notwithstanding this, as at 31st October 2020, the military authorities have advised that there were 449 personnel inducted into the Permanent Defence Force (PDF), including 316 General Service Recruits comprising 287 Army recruits and 29 Naval Service recruits. General Service recruits are not inducted directly into the Air Corps.

  In addition, 65 new members have been inducted into the Reserve Defence Force (RDF) thus far in 2020, with 59 inducted into the Army Reserve and 6 inducted into the Naval Service Reserve.

  General Service recruitment for the PDF is ongoing and so remains open throughout the year. I have recently been advised by the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) that, from January 2021, a rolling recruitment model for the Reserve will be put in place, which is similar to the model currently used for the PDF General Service recruitment.

  While the Government remains fully committed to on-going recruitment in the RDF, it should be noted that the same personnel and resources are utilised for both PDF and RDF recruitment. Given the competing recruitment demands at present, PDF recruitment is, and will remain a priority. However, recruitment to the RDF will be progressed having regard to the available resources.

Defence Forces Data

 349. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the breakdown of personnel undertaking career breaks for the Army, the Naval Service and the Air Corps by rank; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40295/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The administration of Career Breaks or Special Leave Without Pay and Allowances (SLWPA), is provided for in Defence Forces Regulation A11. The Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) determines the granting of such leave, which is subject to the exigencies of the service.

  I am advised by Military Authorities that as of 31 October 2020, there are a total of 74 Defence Forces personnel currently availing of a career break, the breakdown of which is set out in the following table:

 
Comdt
Capt
Lt
Total Officers
Sgt
Cpl
Total NCOs
Pte
Total
Army
5
7
1
13
1
10
11
42
66
Naval Service
1
1
1
2
3
4
Air Corps
1
1
3
4


  A career break may be granted for the purposes of domestic responsibilities, further education and travel abroad, for periods of not less than six months and not more than five years.

  A career break may also be granted for the purposes of self-employment, for a period of not less than six months and not more than three years. Members of the Defence Forces may be granted no more than two career breaks over the course of their service in the Permanent Defence Force.

Defence Forces Personnel

 350. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the way in which career breaks are promoted within the Defence Forces; if same are offered prior to a voluntary discharge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40296/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The administration of Career Breaks or Special Leave Without Pay and Allowances (SLWPA), is provided for in Defence Forces Regulation A11.

A career break may be granted for the purposes of domestic responsibilities, further education or travel abroad, for periods of not less than six months and not more than five years.

A career break may also be granted for the purposes of self-employment, for a period of not less than six months and not more than three years. Members of the Defence Forces may be granted no more than two career breaks over the course of their service in the Permanent Defence Force.

The Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) determines the granting of such leave, which is subject to the exigencies of the service.

In order to be eligible to apply for a career break, members of the Permanent Defence Force must meet certain criteria as regards service. A Non-Commissioned Officer or Private must have completed 6 years' military service in the case of general service personnel or 9 years' military service in the case of technicians. All Commissioned Officers of the Permanent Defence Force must have completed 12 years' military service. Only in exceptional circumstances will a member with less military service than that specified above, be granted a career break.

In terms of the promotion of career breaks within the Defence Forces, I am advised that such details are contained in the Defence Forces New Entrants Handbook, while all of the associated regulations are available to view on the internal Defence Forces information portal.

In addition, administration staff at all levels within the Defence Forces including staff of Personnel Support Service (PSS) are available to advise and assist personnel as required on the arrangements in place.

Defence Forces Recruitment

 351. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if changes to increase the age limit for joining the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve Defence Force is being examined to improve the numbers eligible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40297/20]

 359. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if an external provider has been considered to assist with the challenges experienced in recruiting for the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve Defence Force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40308/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 351 and 359 together.

  A review of recruitment practices and processes in the Permanent Defence Force, mandated under the High Level Implementation Plan Arising from Public Service Pay Commission report, has examined all aspects of the recruitment process as part of its work. The Review Group established in this regard was chaired by an external HR adviser and it is anticipated that its report will be finalised shortly.

  The issues facing the RDF are different with capacity to process and induct new entrants being a key inhibitor. This is currently being examined.

Defence Forces Remuneration

 352. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the estimated cost of paying personnel the living wage for undertaking a 24-hour duty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40298/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Remuneration for individual members of the Permanent Defence Force is dependent on a range of factors relating to the role and duties they perform. The minimum for trained personnel is comprised of Basic Pay and Military Service Allowance (MSA).

The pay structures and conditions of service of members of the Permanent Defence Force also contain professional and technical remuneration elements in addition to allowances in the nature of pay which reflect the unique aspects of military life both at home and abroad. For example, a standard 24 hour security duty does not typically equate to an additional 24 hours work and where individuals are rostered to undertake such a duty they normally receive compensatory rest after such a duty.

As such, the variability of time and attendance patterns of military personnel and the rates of remuneration associated with a wide spectrum of duties undertaken by such military personnel, can vary across the different branches of the Defence Forces and, consequently, do not facilitate the general application of a threshold rate of pay to a particular allowance.

Defence Forces Expenditure

 353. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the allocation and expenditure for supporting mental health within the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40299/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The provision of mental health services within the Defence Forces is a demand driven aspect of the overall provision of health services and, as with all other disciplines, is not subject to a separate financial provision.

A range of mental health services are provided and these include psychiatry, psychology, personnel support services, general health provision, external referrals and provision of appropriate medication. The Defence Forces psychiatrist and clinical psychologists provide clinical support to all personnel of the Defence Forces.

The Personnel Support Service (PSS) operates within each installation of the Defence Forces and consists of a team of occupational social workers and trained military support personnel. The Department of Defence also provides an external confidential counselling service to all personnel.

The ongoing development of the mental health and wellbeing framework is necessary to ensure that the Defence Forces keep abreast with best practice. In this context, I am please to be able to report that a Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy (2020-2023) for the Defence Forces will shortly be launched.

Cybersecurity Policy

 354. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the external advice or expertise that has been sought to assess the security of cyber infrastructure; the areas in which improvements can be made; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40302/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Ireland’s current national cyber security strategy was published in December 2019 and follows on from the country's first Strategy which was issued in 2015 and for which the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications has the lead role. Officials of my Department and members of the Defence Forces are actively involved in the implementation of the new Strategy.

In addition, my Department and the Defence Forces have a Memorandum of Understanding and a Service Level Agreement with the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications to provide support in the area of national cyber security.

My Department and the Defence Forces implement a programme of continuous review in relation to ICT security in order to keep up to date with current threat levels given that cyber security is a multifaceted challenge that is constantly evolving. Details of measures taken are not publicised for security reasons.

While it would also be inappropriate for me to comment on the specific cyber activities and the resourcing of same by the Defence Forces, for both security and operational reasons, I can inform the Deputy that the priority for the Defence Forces Communications and Information Services Corps is the protection of the Defence Forces Communications Network. Other activities undertaken by the CIS Corps include the monitoring and handling of cyber incidents, the enhancement of Defence Forces cyber situational awareness and the provision of cyber awareness training.

My Department has recently availed of Build-to-Share 'Managed Desktop' services provided by the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO). This is in line with the Public Service ICT Strategy and seeks to provide my Department with robust and secure ICT services. The ‘Managed Desktop’ shared services model for ICT infrastructure supports integration and sharing of resources across the wider Public Service while driving efficiency and controlling costs. OGCIO's aim is to implement a defence-in-depth security strategy to be achieved through the effective combination of people, processes, and technology to support the implementation of appropriate security measures and provisions.

Naval Service

 355. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if additional funding has been requested from the EU for the Naval Service to support patrolling Irish territorial waters in view of Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40303/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney My Department has not requested any additional funding from the EU for the Naval Service in the context of Brexit. However, my Department does apply for appropriate EU funding opportunities in support of the Defence Forces as and when they arise. My Department has secured approval in principle for EU funding available under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) Operational Programme (2014-2020) for a number of relevant projects, including projects specifically linked to Naval Service capabilities and operations.

  Almost €14 million is available from the four projects, which my Department has been approved in principle for, subject to agreed conditions. The table below provides a brief description of each project and the amount of funding available.

Project Name Funding applied for and approved
Upgrade of Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) € 9,000,000
Training for new MPA € 675,000
Upgrade of Fishery Monitoring Centre IT system € 1,300,000
Support of Specific Species Control and Inspection Programmes € 3,000,000

Air Corps

 356. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he has considered the establishment of a reserve unit for the Air Corps with the necessary skills; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40304/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Government recognises the importance of the Reserve Defence Force (RDF) in contributing to Ireland's defence capability. The 2015 White Paper on Defence is clear that there is a continued requirement to retain and develop the RDF.

The RDF is comprised of the First Line Reserve (FLR), the Army Reserve and the Naval Service Reserve The FLR consists of former trained members of the PDF who are available at short notice to supplement the PDF in times of crisis. The strength of the FLR, as at 31 October 2020, is 274 personnel, which includes 26 former Air Corps personnel.

The Programme for Government 2020 contains a commitment to establish an Independent Commission on the Defence Forces. The work of the Commission will encompass the role and contribution of the RDF. Any recommendations the Commission may make in regard to the future structure of the RDF will be given due consideration, in due course.

Defence Forces Data

 357. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the number of Permanent Defence Force personnel that have availed of paternity leave in 2020; the way same is being promoted amongst personnel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40305/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I am advised by the Military Authorities that a total of 328 members of the Permanent Defence Force have availed of Paternity Leave to date in 2020. This figure includes 9 personnel who commenced their Paternity Leave in December 2019.

The statutory provisions for Paternity Leave, as provided for in the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016, are available to all eligible members of the PDF. These provisions have been included in Defence Forces Regulations, which are available to view on the internal Defence Forces information portal.

In terms of the promotion of entitlements to Paternity Leave, I understand that an induction administrative briefing is delivered to new entrants and administration staff at all levels are available to assist serving personnel who may wish to apply for the various categories of leave, including Paternity Leave. Details are also included in the Defence Forces New Entrants Handbook.

Furthermore, briefings to staff at unit level, frequently address issues such as statutory leave entitlements and the staff of the Defence Forces Personnel Support Service (PSS) are also available to advise and assist personnel as required.

Defence Forces Training

 358. Deputy Duncan Smith Information on Duncan Smith Zoom on Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the estimated length of time it takes to fully train an Air Corps pilot; the number of pilots; and the number that are currently in training. [40307/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The military authorities have advised that the projected training timelines for personnel to achieve their Military Pilots Wings is, on average, 36 months. This encompasses all aspects of training from induction to graduation including 10 months military training in the Cadet School. There are currently 89 qualified pilots in the Air Corps with an additional 28 personnel at various stages of training.

  Question No. 359 answered with Question No. 351.

EU Issues

 360. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will report on the European peace facility, EPF, proposed off-budget €5 billion that would fund EU military operations and maintain a contingency fund for emergency defence force deployments; the details of Ireland’s contributions to same; the parameters of this fund; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40400/20]

 368. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the meaning of deployment of critical capabilities when looking to explore ways to improve the financing of military missions and operations in the context of the EPF Council decision, in particular regarding the deployment of EU battle groups and, in due course of the deployment of critical capabilities based on lessons learned from ongoing missions and operations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40408/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 360 and 368 together.

The European Peace Facility was proposed by High Representative and Vice President of the Commission, Federica Mogherini, in 2018 with the aim of providing the EU with a single off-budget financing mechanism of up to €5 billion (€5.7billion in current prices) for the period of the next MFF, 2021 to 2027, and would finance a range of Common Security Defence Policy (CSDP) actions having military or defence implications.

The EPF would unite and expand the scope of two existing mechanisms, the Athena Funding Mechanism which handles the financing of common costs relating to EU military operations under the EU's common security and defence policy (CSDP), currently funded by the Department of Defence, and the African Peace Facility, which primarily supports African Union actions and is currently funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The EPF is seen as a global instrument and will, in particular, expand the geographical scope of the African Peace Facility. The EU believe that the EPF will improve its ability to prevent and swiftly respond to crises and conflicts, primarily but not exclusively in areas that display the most urgent and critical security threats for the EU.

While discussions are on-going at EU level to finalise the provisions of the mechanism, it is expected that this mechanism will be operational in 2021. Member States contributions to the EPF will be based on a gross national income (GNI) distribution key. Ireland's GNI distribution key is expected to increase in 2021 to reflect the impact of Brexit. The allocation of the €5.7billion for the period 2021 to 2027 across assistance measures (under what was the African Peace Facility) and Athena and across each of the seven years of the MFF has not yet been agreed by Member States.

The Department of Defence has responsibility for the Athena Mechanism. Under the proposed EPF, funding for Athena will remain in a separate pillar within the framework of the EPF and will be expanded to account for the additional costs associated with EU overseas deployments. While projected out-turn for Ireland's contribution to Athena in 2020 is approximately €1.7m, the indicative figures provided in respect of Year 1 of the EPF indicate expenditure in this area for Ireland in the region of €2.2m for 2021.

In terms of military CSDP missions and deployment of members of the military forces of member states, the only change proposed within the EPF is that more of the costs would be commonly funded. At the moment most of the costs associated with, for example, an EU military Training Mission or the deployment of EU Battlegroups, lie with the member states which send personnel, but in future there will be more costs (eg transport costs) eligible for refund from the Facility. While there is preliminary agreement on the type of costs to be covered in common, the actual amount will depend on the circumstances- the type, number and location of military CSDP missions, including future missions which may be agreed only by unanimity over the coming seven years and take into account lessons learned from ongoing missions and operations.

Discussions continue in Brussels on the measure and the exact provisions and there are on-going discussions here between the Departments of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to this matter.

Permanent Structured Co-operation

 361. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if he will report on the permanent structured co-operation, PESCO, projects in which Ireland has observer status; his plans to participate in further PESCO projects; the criteria that will be used; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40401/20]

 366. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if Ireland will be submitting permanent structured co-operation, PESCO, project proposals with an operational focus in order to facilitate joint deployment in the field; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40406/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 361 and 366 together.

Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) is a process under which groups of Member States can come together to develop capabilities in support of Common CSDP Operations. On a voluntary basis, 25 EU Member States, including Ireland, have joined PESCO and subscribed to more binding commitments to invest, plan, develop and operate defence capabilities together within this EU framework.

The objective of PESCO is to generate coherent defence capabilities which will be available to Member States for national and multinational (EU, NATO, UN, etc.) missions and operations. This will enhance the EU’s capacity as an international security actor, to contribute to the protection of EU citizens, support international peace and security and maximise the effectiveness of defence spending by participating member States.

Forty seven PESCO projects have been launched to-date. These include projects in the areas of capability development and in the operational dimension. Each project is managed by the participating member States with oversight from the Council.

Ireland's participation in PESCO was agreed by Government and approved by Dáil Éireann prior to the Council Decision establishing PESCO on 11 December 2017. Ireland has Observer status on nine PESCO projects – (1) Deployable Military Disaster Relief Capability Package; (2) Maritime (semi) Autonomous Systems for Mine Countermeasures; (3) Cyber Threats and Incident Response Information Sharing Platform; (4) European Secure Software Defined Radio; (5) Military Mobility; (6) Energy Operational Function; (7) EU Radio Navigation Solution; (8) Counter Unmanned Aerial System; (9) Special Operations Forces Medical Training Centre.

As an observer, the Defence Forces get the opportunity to assess the project’s objectives and what value the project would bring to Defence Forces capabilities. There is ongoing assessment of the feedback from theses project meetings by my Department and the Defence Forces. Should there be merit in participating in any of these projects, that will be then be progressed in association with the project participants.

The next call for new PESCO Proposals will be launched by the PESCO Secretariat in March 2021 with a deadline of submission of proposals by the end of June 2021. While there are no plans currently for Ireland to submit PESCO project proposals with a specific operational focus, my Department and the Defence Forces will assess the proposed projects that Member States submit and will also keep under review any potential for Ireland to submit a project proposal.

Permanent Structured Co-operation

 362. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the meaning of deployable and interoperable forces that can be used by participating member states within the EU framework for national needs relating to PESCO; if German and other troops could be used in Ireland in the event of civil disturbance, strikes and so on and would be under EU control; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40402/20]

 365. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney the position on the commitment to explore the possibility of common strategic planning, training and exercises of member states' armed forces, built on and supported by existing EU military tools, for example, the EU battle groups, and also other multinational structures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40405/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney I propose to take Questions Nos. 362 and 365 together.

Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) is a process under which groups of Member States can come together to develop capabilities in support of Common CSDP Operations. On a voluntary basis, 25 EU Member States have joined PESCO and subscribed to more binding commitments to invest, plan, develop and operate defence capabilities together within this EU framework.

Ireland's participation in PESCO was agreed by Government and approved by Dáil Éireann prior to the Council Decision establishing PESCO on 11 December 2017.

The objective of PESCO is to generate coherent defence capabilities which will be available to Member States including for deployment on multinational (EU, NATO, UN, etc.) missions and operations. For many of these missions, EU countries deploy alongside other EU countries and developing standardised or common capabilities improves the interoperability of these Forces. This will enhance the EU’s capacity as an international security actor, to contribute to the protection of EU citizens, support international peace and security and maximise the effectiveness of defence spending by participating Member States.

Commitments were made by participating Member States with regard to both deployability (for the realisation of the EU Level of Ambition under the EU Global Strategy) and interoperability (in terms of common technical and operational standards).

In order to further enhance the availability, readiness and interoperability of the EU member States military personnel, deployable on international crisis management or humanitarian operations, it has been recommended in the PESCO Strategic Review 2020 that participating Member States should explore “the possibility of common strategic planning, training and exercises of Member States' armed forces.”

This is not a commitment, but rather guidance which has been provided with the aim of aiding the fulfilment of the binding commitments undertaken by participating Member States in the context of PESCO by 2025 and in support of CSDP and the EU Global Strategy. In engaging with EU Battlegroup preparations, Member States already work together in areas of strategic planning, training and exercises. Indeed, Ireland has participated in planning and in desktop and field exercises in respect of a number of Battlegroups in which we have participated, alongside other Battlegroup participant forces. Participation in planning and exercises is an essential pre-deployment enabler for the Defence Forces in terms of their peace keeping operations. As such, there is no issue with the proposal in that this guidance simply seeks to encourage consideration of the current cooperation within the Battlegroup framework, being expanded on a broader scale.

As per Article 15 of the Constitution of Ireland, the right to raise and maintain military or armed forces is vested exclusively in the Oireachtas. No military or armed force, other than a military or armed force raised and maintained by the Oireachtas, shall be raised or maintained for any purpose whatsoever. This therefore prohibits foreign forces under foreign command operating in Ireland in any guise.

Defence Forces

 363. Deputy Thomas Pringle Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Defence Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney if Irish troops are being trained in NATO facilities to NATO standards and if Defence Forces equipment is being aligned to NATO standards; if it is intended that they will be; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40403/20]

Minister for Defence (Deputy Simon Coveney): Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney Ireland’s relations with NATO are set within the framework of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and Partnership for Peace. This is a voluntary flexible instrument for co-operation between NATO and its partner countries. The primary aim of Ireland's Partnership for Peace 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.

NATO is effectively the international standards organisation for military forces. Access to NATO training and standards, through participation in Partnership for Peace, has proved invaluable in the development of Defence Forces capabilities for the increasingly complex and challenging crisis management operations we face today. It improves the quality of our contribution to UN missions and UN-mandated missions including those led by regional organisations such as the EU and NATO.

The Defence Forces have ongoing opportunities to avail of training techniques and facilities available to other forces throughout Europe. They attend training courses run by the following organisations:-

- NATO School Oberammergau, Germany

- Associated Centres of Excellence (COEs)

- Partner Training and Education Centres (PTECs); and,

- Other foreign militaries which offer courses of interest to the Defence Forces

The Defence Forces seek to constantly benchmark training across all three arms of the organisation against best military and academic practice. Military best practice is ensured by implementing a policy of standardisation that is in line with EU and NATO/Partnership for Peace.

The Operational Capability Concept offers us access to the evaluation concept of training, feedback and advice in accordance with NATO procedures and standards. Such engagement allows the Defence Forces training to be benchmarked to an international standard through external evaluation, which aims to improve the levels of interoperability and operational capabilities in order to enhance operational relationships between Alliance and partner contributors to EU and NATO-led crisis management operations under UN mandates, and provides us with the assurances that the standards required are being reached.

Certain equipment purchased to support the capabilities of the Defence Forces is in accordance with NATO Standards. In the procurement of equipment the specification of the equipment will be in line with the relevant NATO technical standards and is included as a requirement in the contract award procedures. With many different items of personal equipment, vehicles, armour types and the battlefield threats in existence, the Defence Forces generally use a common military standard to determine the appropriate levels of protection against threats. Many products which support Defence Forces capabilities are already in service in the military forces of many other countries, thereby facilitating interoperability with other countries in missions abroad, whether EU, UN or NATO led missions.


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