Dáil debates

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

Defence Forces

9:00 am

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

The Commission on the Defence Forces was established on foot of a commitment in the programme for Government and the Government decision in December 2020, which also agreed its terms of reference and membership. The report was published on 9 February this year. The commission undertook a significant body of work encompassing its wide-ranging terms of reference. The report contains 69 main recommendations and, together with sub-recommendations, there are just over 130 overall. The commission's terms of reference included the consideration of appropriate capabilities, structures and staffing for the Army, the Air Corps and the Naval Service.

The report proposes significant changes for the Defence Forces, including its culture, high-level command and control structures, and the level of defence provision in Ireland. Clearly, these matters will require careful consideration and, in some critical aspects, interdepartmental discussion and agreement. This includes the level of resourcing that may be allocated to defence, legislative implications and the governance framework, which will require an underpinning in respect of changes and Government approval on foot of the commission's report.

It will also seek the views of the Department and the Defence Forces. The Defence Forces' representative associations will be consulted on all matters that fall within the scope of representation relating to the implementation of any approved plan. I will also engage with key stakeholders and the Oireachtas; I welcome the Dáil statements on the report that took place on 16 February. I firmly believe that this is an opportunity to have a mature debate around the type of defence capabilities we require and I am very much open to such a discussion. Current events are highlighting the importance of such a debate.

The intent is that following relevant consultation, and before the summer recess, I will revert to the Government with a proposed response to the commission's recommendations and a high-level action plan. This high-level plan will set out proposed timelines and oversight arrangements for its implementation. It would be inappropriate for me to give an outcome of the deliberations at this stage but, as I have said to the Deputy previously, I hope to be able to do that in June, if I can.


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