Thursday, 11 July 2019
Public Service Pay Commission Report on the Permanent Defence Force: Statements (Resumed)
What I was told I reported absolutely accurately.
Deputy Jack Chambers referred to the working family payment. I have been absolutely beaten up on successive occasions at Question Time by all of the Deputies present regarding the number of people in the Defence Forces who are on this payment, which is fewer than 70 or less than 1% of the entire organisation. This includes staff of the Department. Now, I am being beaten up for giving people too much back in their allowances and bringing them over the threshold for the working family payment. I just cannot win. I am being accused of taking people out of scope for the working family payment. Deputies either want members of the Defence Forces to receive the working family payment or they do not. I do not want to see people receiving the working family payment. That is one of the reasons we had the independent pay commission report. It is also one of the reasons we increased allowances, with 10% for the military service allowance and the immediate restoration of all allowances that were reduced under the Haddington Road agreement, namely, the security duty allowance, the patrol duty allowance, the 24-hour weekend duty allowance and allowances relating to the Army Ranger Wing and the bomb disposal unit. There has also been a return to premium rates for weekend duties and recognition of peacekeepers in the context of the overseas allowance increasing from €19,000 to €20,400 for officers and from €15,300 to €16,100 for enlisted personnel. This reflects exactly what Deputy Catherine Murphy stated regarding our peacekeepers' work overseas. That work is very much recognised. This is why we have increased their allowances.
The State's cybersecurity is a matter for the Department for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. Military authorities have informed me that the Defence Forces' networks are monitored on a 24-7 basis and that they have the staff to man our networks.
I would love to have another half an hour to be able to wrap up. I thank the Opposition Deputies who came to me looking for reports and a briefing on a number of issues. I emailed Deputy Jack Chambers but he did not take me up on my offer.