Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Defence Forces Promotions.
Question 69: To ask the Minister for Defence the number of promotions by rank and appointment that have occurred within the Defence Forces since he announced on 24 November 2009 that he had received sanction for 50 promotions within the Defence Forces; if all 50 promotions have taken place; if not, the reason; the date by which the promotions will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2295/10]
Resulting from the Government decision regarding the reduction in public service numbers and the reduced budgetary provision available for 2009, recruitment, promotions and acting up appointments in the Permanent Defence Forces were suspended. I made a submission to my colleague, the Minister for Finance, in June 2009 regarding the implications of the measures for the Permanent Defence Force. My focus is on maintaining the ongoing operational capability of the Defence Forces and, therefore, the question of limited exceptions to the application of the measures arises in this regard. I outlined the need for limited recruitment, promotions and acting appointments for the Defence Forces in my submission to the Minister.
As I announced on the 24 November, an allocation of 50 promotions was approved for the Permanent Defence Force by the Minister for Finance. These promotions were approved to address priority operational and command requirements of the Permanent Defence Force. These promotions, therefore, must be allocated in a manner that gives protection to the operational capacity of the Defence Forces. In addition, the allocation must be balanced across both officer and enlisted ranks having regard to the operational requirements of the Defence Forces. Military management has been reviewing existing vacancies in all ranks across the organisation as a whole to prioritise those to be filled from the approved promotions. Following the military review, a number of priority posts have been identified and I am pleased to confirm that nine officer promotions and 27 enlisted promotions have been progressed. Some have been completed and the remainder will be completed in the coming days. A number of senior technical officer vacancies also have to be filled and competitions are being organised to fill these posts. The residual approved promotions will be used to fill priority posts arising in the next few months. In addition, approximately 30 vacancies will be filled through acting up appointments in the coming weeks.
My officials are continuing to engage with the military authorities regarding the review of structures and posts required to meet the operational requirements of the Defence Forces in light of the Government decision to maintain a complement of 10,000 personnel. I am glad that, while these are challenging times, the Defence Forces have risen to the challenge and are organised, equipped and staffed in a manner which will ensure they can continue to deliver the services required of them by Government.
I read the Minister's reply earlier in the Irish Independent and it demeans the House that he made this information available to that newspaper before announcing it in the House. Does this imply that if I had not tabled the question today, he would not have made this decision? He announced 50 promotions at the RACO conference in Cavan three months ago. The members involved were listed and are awaiting promotion. Why did it take three months to make this announcement? The Minister announced only 40 promotions. What is the timeframe for the remaining ten promotions? He indicated that will depend on urgency and priority. How long will this take? Acting up is not the same as being promoted, as it is only a temporary measure. Will the Minister confirm when the remaining ten promotions will be made? Why did it take three months for these appointments to be announced since the individuals had been identified, approved and were ready? Why did we have to read this announcement in today's newspaper prior to the Minister replying to this question in the House? Surely he could have waited until he replied in the House to tell the newspaper.
I am sorry the Deputy is unable to count because that was two months ago. I do not know how well aware the Deputy is of the issues but the military authorities have been reallocating and reorganising their position to take account of the moratorium.
The remaining ten promotions will be made in the coming months. It is always the practice in such a scenario to hold back a number of people for contingencies that may arise and those affected will be appointed in the next few months.
The Minister's defence is to attack. I raised a pertinent question about this reply being published in a newspaper. When I met the journalist who wrote this article at the RACO conference, I congratulated him. I told him that we would read what he reported in the newspaper and we could table questions to the Minister on the basis of his articles because he is given all the information before us. This does nothing for the House.
The article states there will be 30 acting up vacancies and this will be a temporary measure. Could the number of vacancies be increased? There are many structural problems in the Army. The Defence Forces are based on chain of command and these vacancies create a health and safety issue, according to responsible members of the force with whom I have been in contact. I keep in constant contact with RACO, PDFORRA and RDFRA and I know what is happening in the Defence Forces and the Minister cannot say I do not. However, I refer to the command structure within the Defence Forces and vacant positions being filled by people of a lesser rank. Surely this raises a health and safety issue. Has the Minister examined this? Has he also examined the issue of officers and others leaving the Defence Forces before their time is up, which is also a health and safety issue?
The number of promotions could be increased from 30. I appreciate the need to extend the acting up provisions and that is why I am in contact with the Department of Finance in this regard. I also accept that 50 promotions are not adequate but this is the first instalment and I expect further news on this shortly.
With regard to the health and safety issues, the military authorities say the Army is fit for purpose. Certainly there are vacancies and gaps caused by the moratorium because the army is an institution with a high rate of turnover and naturally that will have an impact. We have made some progress and received some exemptions from the moratorium. I am utterly confident that we will receive more.