Dáil debates

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Financial Resolutions 2022 - Financial Resolution No. 6: General: Financial Resolution (Resumed)


6:45 pm

Photo of Sorca ClarkeSorca Clarke (Longford-Westmeath, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I am very pleased to hear the Minister use the word "context" in respect of the defence budget because that context needs to be put in the record of this House. The context is one of where funding was coming from an abnormally low base to begin with. I am also concerned the Minister only made a brief passing reference to the Commission on the Defence Forces in relation to culture but not on the level of ambitions.

While the infrastructure budget is absolutely welcome for Galway, the Curragh and other facilities, some are truly in desperate need of an upgrade. Yesterday's budget included initiatives that had already been announced. It was just the funding to go with them.

I have been told the vague references to the required transformation is not what the members currently need to hear. It is not giving them confidence that the Government is actually taking on board the report from the Commission on the Defence Forces and that it is not taking it seriously. Also lacking is a Government commitment to quantifying and addressing the issues around the working time directive.

While I welcome the very first tentative steps towards providing primary radar, the reported €15 million earmarked for the exploratory research to procure that system, without the accompanying capability - that is, people - to maximise its use will be another exercise in futility and another example of the half measures the Defence Forces have been subjected to in recent years. We all remember the naval tax credits that could not be given when ships could not go to sea because of a lack of staff and the naval patrol duty allowance that was committed to but is yet to be implemented.

Therein lies the gaping hole in the Government's approach. There is no clarity on the level of ambition the Government is aiming for and no pathway to achieving it. More concerning again is that there is no real recognition of the necessary and urgent need to invest in the serving members of the Defence Forces and to ensure in the shortest possible time that the Defence Forces become modern, diverse and have the necessary coherent structure so that they can provide a viable career.

I will make one brief comment on the foreign affairs aspect of the Minister's remit. Before taking up my position on the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, like most people in this House, my world had four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. However, there are NGOs which will tell you there is actually a fifth: the hunger season. It is a hunger season that is getting longer, more profound and is quickly becoming a starvation season for many people beyond these shores.


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