Dáil debates

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Other Questions

Defence Forces Personnel.

3:00 pm

Photo of Ulick BurkeUlick Burke (Galway East, Fine Gael)
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Question 51: To ask the Minister for Defence if he has considered the request made by RACO at its recent biennial delegate conference that he amend Defence Forces Regulations S6 to provide that the rank of brigadier general would be among those represented by the association; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34431/07]

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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The Defence (Amendment) Act 1990 and Defence Force Regulations section 6 provide for representative structures for members of the Defence Forces. In accordance with the regulations, the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers, RACO, represents officers of the Permanent Defence Force in respect of the matters specified in the third schedule to the regulations. The ranks involved are colonel, lieutenant-colonel, commandant, captain, lieutenant and second-lieutenant and cadets.

The rates of pay of brigadier general are determined by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector. The review body is an independent standing body whose primary function is to advise the Government on the general levels of remuneration appropriate to higher public servants, members of the Judiciary, and political officeholders. As the rank of brigadier general is the third highest rank in the Defence Forces, I am satisfied the review body is the appropriate forum for determining the pay rates of brigadier generals.

I have no proposals nor have I received an approach from the general staff to amend the regulations to provide that the rank of brigadier general be amongst those represented by RACO.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North, Fine Gael)
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There are only nine brigadier generals in the country and they are not represented by any organisation in pay negotiations. I accept the chief of staff and his two assistants, who in a way are Government appointees, would not fall into this category. In the Civil Service assistant secretaries are represented and brigadier general seems to be the only category that is not. Brigadier generals are dependent on the goodwill of the review commission and I see no reason why they should not be represented; the Minister should give consideration to this.

Members of RACO have indicated to me that they would be favourably disposed towards including brigadier generals in their association.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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I do not doubt what the Deputy says and if the people involved approach me I will give this matter consideration. The second last report of the higher review body caused distress amongst the general staff and they made their views known forcibly to the body. The review body responded by saying it did not want to be perceived as undervaluing the contribution made by senior Army officers.

The latest report granted a pay increase of 4% to brigadier generals and, in the course of deliberations, the review body evaluated the post of brigadier general. If they wish to change I will be happy to listen to them.

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North, Fine Gael)
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Brigadier general is the highest level of commander in the Defence Forces and they are responsible for training, organisation and the three regions. Brigadier generals may be the most powerful people in the Defence Forces. Given the level a brigadier general occupies the increase mentioned seems very small compared to that recently proposed for Ministers. The Minister should consider allowing brigadier generals be represented by RACO and I will convey the Minister's desire to have the association approach him in this regard.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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If the association wishes to have its representation changed it can approach me and I will make the appropriate inquiries.

Regarding Deputy Deenihan's comments on pay rates, it is certain that, like all bodies covered by the higher review group, brigadier generals will be paid immediately and will not see their pay increases deferred. I find the attitude of some Members of this House to independent bodies curious. This morning Deputy Gilmore spoke of an independent body on human rights and suggested the Government must obey it. Everyone feels independent bodies must be obeyed until they recommend certain levels of pay for the Government. At what point do independent bodies cease to be independent?

Photo of Jimmy DeenihanJimmy Deenihan (Kerry North, Fine Gael)
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Is the Minister one of the Cabinet members who agreed with the pay rise?

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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I do not deny it.