Monday, 29 March 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I support the plan for rural resettlement. I hope it comes to fruition. It is a pity the old scheme was done away with because the rural resettlement scheme was a success in its own small way but I wish the new plan well.
The Leader will not be surprised I am on my feet once again because of the Defence Forces. Ireland has a responsibility beyond its borders. We are a member of the European Union and have a responsibility to protect Europe's assets. We have a responsibility to ensure drug and people trafficking does not take place off our coast. We are in the sad situation in which four of our nine ships are tied up in Haulbowline in County Cork.
The establishment figure for the Naval Service is 1,094 people. We were recently told there were 899 people still in the Naval Service. However, if we remove the 37 untrained personnel, 27 recruits and ten cadet officers, we have 862 serviceable personnel. Some 24 of those have sought their discharge which will bring the figure down even further. The sea-going allowance brought in by the Minister, Deputy Coveney, which I and others welcomed, has been a disaster. Only 48% of those serving are qualified or eligible to apply for it, so it has been a failure. We are facing a situation in which we have few experienced personnel on board our ships. It must be a serious concern for all of us.
In the high level implementation plan agreed between the representative bodies and the Government last year, technical pay was to be implemented between level 2 and level 6.We now find out they will not be implemented. Are we really trying to drive people out of the service? Apart from above sea, below sea we have massive assets coming into the west coast of this country from the United States. There will soon be a new data link between Iceland and Ireland and another between Santander and Ireland. We have massive data communications systems coming into Ireland and no way of monitoring them under the sea.
There is a commission sitting. The Leader has promised to bring in the Minister but we need urgent action to reverse what is going on.