Thursday, 12 October 2006
Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
That was an interesting answer. The Minister said the personnel involved should be deployed on a voluntary basis as far as possible. Will the Minister agree that section 4 of this year's Defence (Amendment) Act provides for the secondary conscription of Defence Forces personnel to undertake overseas services? Until now, the attitude of the soldiers in the Defence Forces, and I am mindful of the word "defence" in that title, was civic-minded and the numbers volunteering usually exceeded the numbers required. That attitude has been welcomed throughout the world in terms of United Nations missions abroad.
Will the Minister communicate with PDFORRA whose general secretary expressed major concern at the annual conference last week about the shift that section 4 of the Defence (Amendment) Act allows? I do not know if the Minister is aware that the general secretary stated that personnel involved in these activities have always done so on a voluntary basis and that the organisation would pursue all means to defend the voluntary rights of its members on this matter. That could create a crisis and I urge the Minister to ensure, if possible, that the situation that existed prior to the 2006 Act, and perhaps even prior to the 1993 Act, is endorsed in that members who join the Defence Forces should only be obliged to serve overseas if they volunteer to do so.
Am I correct in stating that the majority of members of the Defence Forces join to defend the State's sovereignty rather than take part in overseas missions or battle groups in operations throughout the world? Since our foreign affairs position has changed in that we will now take part in battle groups, will consideration be given to have 2006 as the cut-off date and that those who joined prior to that would be excused from any secondary conscription for operations overseas?