Dáil debates

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Priority Questions

Defence Forces Reorganisation

1:00 pm

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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Question 1: To ask the Minister for Defence the progress he has made in implementing his decision to reduce the number of brigades from three to two; if he has met with various stakeholders; if so, with whom and when; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7012/12]

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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As part of the comprehensive review of expenditure, the Government decided to implement a revised Permanent Defence Force strength ceiling of 9,500 personnel. In response to this decision, I initiated a major reorganisation of the Defence Forces. This will ensure that the operational effectiveness of the Permanent Defence Force is prioritised.

The reorganisation will encompass a reduction in the number of Army brigades from the current three to two and will include the Reserve Defence Force. This fundamental reorganisation of the Defence Forces is a significant undertaking, and there is a range of options that must be considered. As I have previously stated, I have requested the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General of the Department of Defence to introduce detailed proposals for my consideration. These will include proposals on territorial areas of responsibility. The Secretary General and the Chief of Staff have initiated work on this and will keep me informed of developments on an ongoing basis. I understand this work will take some months to complete.

I am aware that there are many parties interested in the outcome of the reorganisation. However, in advance of my receiving a final report and recommendations, I will not pre-empt the ongoing work by commenting on potential future organisational matters. The representative associations and other relevant stakeholders will be consulted on matters that fall within their remit when options for the reorganised structure are considered and the likely impacts are known.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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Is there a timescale within the Department for completion of this reorganisation? When will the new structures be in place? Is it envisaged that senior positions in the Army will be removed because of the restructuring of the brigades? Will there be relocation of personnel?

I have a specific issue about which the Minister may not have information, but I would appreciate if he could write back to me. An issue has arisen with regard to the relocation of officers and members of the PDF from Dún Uí Néill Barracks, who are currently entitled to a Border duty allowance. Those transferring to Athlone are allowed to retain that allowance, while those transferring to Dublin are not. I would appreciate an explanation from the Minister of this inconsistency in the treatment of the people involved. When does the Minister envisage being in a position to announce which one of the current brigades will no longer be in existence?

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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I will write to the Deputy about the issue of allowances.

The process we are discussing is a fundamental reorganisation of the Defence Forces. It is a significant undertaking that will require a large body of work. As mentioned already, there are a range of possible approaches that must be considered, and I do not want to pre-empt the work being undertaken. The experience from previous reorganisations of the Defence Forces has shown that time is required to formulate the options, evaluate each of them and subsequently decide on the best one to ensure that organisational structures are fit for purpose. I have asked the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General to provide detailed reorganisation proposals for my consideration. The effect of the changes cannot be determined at this stage with regard to the manner in which the Defence Forces are configured, and I want to await the deliberations that are under way at the moment.

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister said in his response that he would consult the various organisations. Have they been consulted yet? I know they are very upset that they found out about this reorganisation through the media. Has there been any contact between them and the Department since?

Photo of Alan ShatterAlan Shatter (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Defence; Dublin South, Fine Gael)
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Certainly, they are aware of the decision. It was not a matter of consultation but one of policy, and it fell to me as Minister to make the decision. When the initial work has been completed by the Secretary General and the Chief of Staff, there will be a consultative process on issues of relevance to the organisations. Ultimately, the decision on the new structure will be made by me and not by the organisations themselves, but obviously we are anxious to ensure that the maximum consultation takes place. I assure the Deputy that insofar as there are issues that fall within the remit of PDFORRA and the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers, RACO, those discussions will take place. I have had some contact with them on a general basis, but there is specific work to be done now and it is being carried out.