Monday, 22 February 2021
Ábhair Ghnó an tSeanaid – Matters on the Business of the Seanad
Gerard Craughwell (Independent)
I support Senator Bacik and her party leader, who spoke at the weekend on Covid, because they were 100% correct in what they said.
There was an extremely disturbing report in The Irish Timeson Saturday about the relationship that exists between the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces. There is a new Secretary General in the Department of Defence. She has been active on the ground and I think she needs time to repair whatever relationship exists. However, the Defence Forces are on their knees in the context of numbers.I have today some figures from a freedom of information request. For example, 136 men and women sought to get back into the Naval Service and three were taken back. Some 545 sought to re-join the Army and 44 were taken back. A total of 63 applied to re-join the Air Corps and eight were taken back. A total of ten commissioned officers applied to come back to the Naval Service and one was taken back. Some 30 commissioned officers applied to come back to the Army and three were taken back. Finally, 20 commissioned officers applied for the Air Corps and 15 were taken back - they were pilots. That type of situation is impossible to understand.
I have in my office a series of letters that pertain to several commissioned officers. The Chief of Staff said that they were welcome back and that he wanted them back. Some official in the Department said "No". How can that be? The Chief of Staff is the person responsible operationally for the organisation. The Defence Forces are more than 1,000 people short yet people have not been contacted and they have no idea why.
I will make one quick point before I sit down. Atlantic 252 is an RTÉ longwave radio frequency. The campaign is on to save it again. The diaspora, especially those who are elderly, do not use social media but they listen to Atlantic 252. We should put some pressure on RTÉ to retain the longwave service. It is the least we can do.