Tuesday, 25 May 2021
Department of Defence
In so far as this question relates to my policy brief or my functions, any person having any knowledge of possible criminal activity should report it to an Garda Síochána who are the proper authority to investigate such matters.
Allegations relating to sexual offences are taken very seriously by both the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces.
The Defence Forces have internal services available to assist and support serving Defence Force personnel. Those who wish to make a complaint can seek advice through these mechanisms.
- Military Police Corps who are responsible for the prevention and investigation of offences within the Defence Forces.
- Designated Contact Person (DCP) who can provide confidential support services to employees.
- PSS (Personnel Support Service).
- The Defence Forces Chaplaincy Service.
- Inspire 24/7 helpline and counselling service available to Defence Forces members and their families.
Through its various policies and strategies, the Minister is satisfied that the Defence Forces are taking all reasonable steps to provide an inclusive workplace environment, free from harassment, intimidation and bullying, and where dignity and respect are afforded to all.
The Report of the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) on Recruitment and Retention in the Defence Forces was published on 4 July 2019. The Report was accepted in full by the Government at that time and, to facilitate implementation, an extensive High Level Plan titled "Strengthening our Defence Forces – Phase One” was also agreed and published on the same date.
The High Level Plan provides for actions or projects to be undertaken to deliver on the PSPC recommendations. It also proposes a timeframe for actions or projects to commence and identifies the lead actor to implement the action or project. The timeframe for commencement of actions is split into four distinct timelines i.e. immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-term.
The project to consider options to tackle barriers to extended participation in the PDF (including the possibility of extending retirement ages for members of the PDF) was identified as a medium term project being jointly led by my Department and the Defence Forces.
After initial research, it was decided that this project would be divided into two phases. The first phase, focusing on reviewing mandatory retirement ages for Officers and the second phase to review contracts of service for enlisted personnel. It was agreed with PDFORRA that enlisted privates and corporals who had reached 21 years’ service and are under 50, could remain in service until the end 2022. Sergeants who were due to retire are also permitted to continue to serve until that timeframe. These measures mean that that review could take place in an extended timeframe.
A report on the first phase of this project, reviewing mandatory retirement ages for Officers, was completed by the joint civil-military Project team and is currently with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform awaiting clarification on certain issues. Work on the second phase, examining contracts of service for enlisted personnel is underway and progressing well.
Any proposals or decision that arise from these considerations relating to mandatory retirement ages will be discussed with the Representative Associations.
322. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the amount expended by his Department on the procurement of commercial flights for all Defence Forces troop rotations over the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27738/21]
323. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will provide details of the evaluation of cost savings by his Department associated with the procurement of an airlift capability for the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27739/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 322 and 323 together.
My priority as Minister for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is maintained to the greatest extent possible. This is primarily to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government as set out in the White Paper on Defence. Equipment priorities for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service are being considered in the context of the lifetime of the White Paper on Defence as part of the capability development and Equipment Development Planning (EDP) process.
In this context, the principal aim over the period of the White Paper is to replace and upgrade, as required, existing capabilities in order to retain a flexible response for a wide range of operational requirements at home and overseas. Budget 2021 provides a Capital allocation of €131m for investment in Defence equipment and barracks infrastructure and will enable continued investment in major equipment platforms such as Defence Forces vehicle fleet. The increased capital funding for 2021 builds on increased levels of capital expenditure totalling €392m over the years 2018 – 2020.
In relation to air-based capability, my immediate priorities have been the acquisition of three Pilatus PC-12 aircraft in the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) role and for two Airbus C295 maritime patrol aircraft. An additional PC-12 was also acquired in response to the Covid 19 situation. No decisions have been made for the acquisition of additional aircraft in other roles. Some €276 million, including VAT, has been committed to the acquisition of these enhanced capabilities.
While the option of acquiring a wider military lift capability has been mentioned, it is not identified as an action for acquisition in the present 5 year Equipment Development Plan, which was developed through a joint civil military approach.
Should the situation arise in the future where the requirement to acquire military lift capability is identified as an action in the EDP, as with all capital investment decisions, costing over €10 million, the requirements of the Public Spending Code would need to be met. These requirements cover the various steps required in assessing the viability of the proposal and those associated with relevant decision-making and potential subsequent public investment in any additional aircraft, including a thorough evaluation of potential cost savings. At this point in time no such evaluation has commenced.
Much of this longer range lift capability for military purposes is provided by way of chartering aircraft through a competitive procurement process on an as-required basis. To date, this has been considered to be the most cost effective approach taking account of the acquisition, running and maintenance costs of larger aircraft in the context of their expected usage and contingency requirements. The overall priorities in the EDP will remain under review as it is progressively implemented and taking account of funding availability.
There are a total of four rotations of troops every year; two to UNDOF and two to UNIFIL. Rotations in the Springtime of every year are managed and paid for by the United Nations directly. Autumn rotations are the responsibility of my Department in collaboration with the Defence Forces. The table below provides details of the costs to the Irish State for the procurement of commercial flights for Defence Forces troop rotations for UNDOF and UNIFIL duties over the past five years (2016-2020).
I am satisfied that the Defence Forces have the necessary resources available to them, including a modern and effective range of equipment which is line with best international standards in order to fulfil all roles assigned to them by Government.