Tuesday, 14 December 2021
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I thank the Deputy for raising a very important matter. On the question of Ukraine, there is a range of EU meetings tomorrow and Thursday, including an EU Council meeting. Ukraine and the position pertaining to Russia will be raised. We have already had preliminary discussions and preparatory meetings late last week in respect of that matter. It is entirely unacceptable that this type of pressure is being put on Ukraine by the massing of so many Russian military personnel on Ukraine's borders. The European Union is making it very clear that this is unacceptable and there will be consequences - certainly economic consequences - as a result of any infringement or violation of Ukraine's sovereignty. The matter is being taken very seriously in Europe and we know it is being taken very seriously in the United States. It is a global matter and the more major players are engaging with Russia on this to avoid any conflict. It is critical that we avoid such conflict.
In the context of our Defence Forces, there is a Commission on the Defence Forces, as the Deputy said. It was established and is independent. It is to examine structures for governance, joint command and control, the arrangements for the effective defence of the country, the composition of the Defence Forces and its pay structures. A separate organisational capability review of the Department of Defence is currently under way.
The commission is independent and is mandated to make recommendations as it sees fit within its terms of reference. The commission's report, when submitted, will be fully considered. I have looked at the list of the people on the commission again to refresh my memory and they do not sound like people who would stand for any rubber stamping by any secretariat of any report. There are strong personalities on that commission. There are people on it with experience in the military world, the public service, the Civil Service and the industrial relations world. These are people generally with solid experience in life so the scenario does not arise where somebody will write a report and they will rubber stamp it. That will not happen at all.
It is a real opportunity to look radically at the entire matter. We need to change and improve in respect of our capabilities. There is a range of matters, including specialists that need to be recruited to the Defence Forces across the board. The Deputy instanced cybersecurity as an example and even across Europe we need a Europe-wide response. The most important defence against cyberthreats is a collective defence, where we can pool our knowledge and experience of cyberattacks and dealing with them, as happened in our case. Poland came to help us, as did the United Kingdom and others.