Dáil debates

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Financial Resolutions 2018 - Financial Resolution No. 4: General (Resumed)


3:40 pm

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Wexford, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

Budget 2018 once again demonstrates the Government's commitment to our Defence Forces and to the men and women of Óglaigh na hÉireann who serve with distinction at home and abroad. The budget delivers an extra €25 million for 2018 and an additional €98 million for capital expenditure out to 2021. The combined defence allocation of €946 million comprises €707 million for Vote 36 - Defence, representing an increase of €15 million, and €239 million for Vote 35 - Army Pensions, an increase of €10 million, which I welcome. This will allow the Defence Forces to deliver on their operational outputs while the Army pensions allocation provides retirement benefits to more than 12,300 military pensioners and their dependants.

The 2018 pay allocation of some €509 million provides for the pay and allowances for a full-strength Permanent Defence Force, PDF, of 9,500 personnel, 550 civilian employees and 350 civil servants. I remain fully committed to achieving the establishment figure of 9,500 for the Defence Forces, and I have ensured that the Defence Vote has the necessary funding to deliver on this outcome. This year, approximately 800 new personnel will be inducted into the PDF, and I have initiated a new recruitment campaign to provide for the induction of further personnel in 2018.

During August, new pay scales were introduced, and backdated to July 2016, providing increased salaries for general service recruits who have joined since 2013. In recent months, PDFORRA members have received increases under the Lansdowne Road agreement, and further increases are available to all members of the PDF under the agreement's extension.

As with other areas of the public service, challenges have arisen for the Defence Forces in terms of the recruitment and retention of certain skilled personnel, including pilots and air traffic controllers. This challenge was highlighted by my Department's submission to the Public Service Pay Commission and can be considered when the commission begins its next phase of work shortly. Funding of €2 million for the Reserve Defence Force, RDF, is also included in the pay allocation.

The Government's commitment to the Defence Forces is further demonstrated by a significantly increased capital envelope for defence. The 2018-21 capital plan provides for €77 million in 2018, an extra €3 million; €106 million in 2019, an extra €21 million; €113 million in 2020, an extra €35 million; and €120 million in 2021, an extra €39 million. That is a total of €416 million over four years.

In 2018, this will allow us to continue investing in the Defence Forces' built infrastructure, including projects such as the ammunition secure storage depot upgrade in the Curragh, the accommodation upgrade at Pearse Barracks in the Curragh, and the locker block refurbishment at Cathal Brugha Barracks. It will also enable further investment in major equipment platforms, including the further development of the armoured personnel carrier fleet with the Mowag mid-life upgrade and proceeding with the replacement of the Air Corps Cessna aircraft. On a personal level, I look forward to the delivery in mid-2018 of the fourth ship purchased under the naval vessels replacement programme, the LÉ George Bernard Shaw. Capital funding in 2018 will also facilitate the purchase of new and replacement ICT hardware and the acquisition of force protection equipment.

Looking forward towards 2021, the increased capital allocation of €98 million will enable the defence organisation to continue procuring major equipment platforms. In particular, it will enable us to replace the CASA maritime patrol aircraft operated by the Air Corps. I am delighted to have been able to secure the necessary funding for this major project. The increased capital allocation will also enable us to carry out a mid-life refit of the LÉ Niamhand LÉ Róisínand to commence the process of procuring a multi-role vessel to replace the LÉ Eithne.

The 2018-21 capital allocation also facilitates the continuation of the Peace and Leadership Institute planning process in the Curragh in County Kildare. The 2018 allocation will allow Permanent Defence Force, PDF, personnel to continue to meet Government requirements for our overseas peace support missions. At 1 September last, 642 PDF personnel were deployed to ten different missions throughout the world. These roles are often difficult and challenging. However, the Defences Forces are highly trained, fully equipped and have the necessary training and skillset to cope and succeed in all environments. The Defence Forces will continue to provide essential support for An Garda Síochána, as required, throughout 2018. This support extends across many areas, including explosive ordnance disposal call-outs, Garda air support missions and Naval Service diving operations. Each year, as part of its aid to the civil authority role, the Defence Force provides invaluable support to local authorities, the HSE and the Garda Síochána in their emergency response efforts.

Other vital roles undertaken by the Defence Forces include air ambulance services, fishery protection duties, and emergency aeromedical support. The Defence Vote also provides funding for the Civil Defence. This funding provides supports to local Civil Defence units, such as central training as well as supplying vehicles, boats, uniforms and personal protective equipment for volunteers. Civil Defence volunteers provide tremendous support to the efforts of the front-line services in responding to major emergencies and I commend them for their efforts.

The Government appreciates the service of the Reserve Defence Force, RDF, and the White Paper on Defence is clear that there is a continued requirement to retain and develop the RDF. The strong volunteer base is at the core of the RDF and their dedication and service to their PDF support role is greatly appreciated.

The €25 million increase for defence in budget 2018 and the €98 million extra for capital expenditure enable implementation of the comprehensive strategic policy framework outlined in the White Paper on Defence, providing the necessary resources to the Defence Forces. The sensible and long-term investments outlined in this budget will ensure the Defence Forces continues to provide the platform from which we can build a republic of opportunity. It provides certainty so that the defence organisation can plan for the future knowing that it has the necessary resources to procure the capabilities required to undertake all roles assigned by Government, both at home and overseas.


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