Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 7 February 2019
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence
Reserve Defence Forces: Discussion
I thank the witnesses for their presentations; they were very comprehensive and provided some valuable policy ideas and initiatives, which are always welcome. There seems to be a mismatch in the language used. The Reserve Defence Forces Representative Association, RDFRA, has obviously had a very positive engagement with military authorities, which is supportive of the work it does and is committed on an ongoing basis to supporting that work. The Department of Defence has used words such as "apathy" and "aloof" to describe a general disengagement. There is a lack of response to submissions made around regulations, for example. How can that be improved? Who is the RDFRA's point of engagement in the Department? Is it a ministerial matter or is it a matter for officials? Where is the direct line of engagement? If this committee is to support the work of the RDFRA we need to know where the issue lies within the Department of Defence. There is a clear split in the language used by both bodies, and if the RDFRA is to be supported it is important that we address those issues.
The last time the RDFRA was here the serious difficulty it was experiencing in terms of numbers was highlighted, as was the mismatch between the White Paper target and the actual numbers in the Reserve. That number has stabilised, but it has not improved. The witnesses have provided some policy ideas in that area. When do they think we will reach a point where we will see proper growth in the numbers? What can stimulate that? Certain things have been mentioned, but if we are to value the organisation this information is important.
As part of the White Paper there have been some reforms in recent years. Some people within the military with whom I have discussed the reforms have said there has been a destructive policy in parts of Ireland where there was a localised system of recruitment. That has now been diminished by the centralising reform which has occurred. Is there anything that can be changed in that area so that we can see an improvement in recruitment of Reserve members across all counties? Are the witnesses seeing a geographical disparity in the people who are applying and who are actually becoming reservists?