Written answers

Thursday, 18 November 2021

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Defence Forces

Photo of Sorca ClarkeSorca Clarke (Longford-Westmeath, Sinn Fein)
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91. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the review of the central recruitment that has taken place regarding the ongoing recruitment issues highlighted in both the press and at committee by the Reserve Defence Forces representatives; and the outcome in terms of improving the pathways to becoming a member of the Reserve Defence Forces. [56519/21]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The White Paper on Defence is clear that there is a continued requirement to retain and develop the Reserve Defence Force (RDF).

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a very significant impact on Defence Forces recruitment, including to the Reserve Defence Force (RDF) and has resulted in a pause to most collective induction processing and training activities.

The Military Authorities have advised me that a revised Defence Forces General Framework for Living with Covid-19 is now in place, based on the recent easing of Government restrictions. This revised framework is reviewed by the Joint Operational Planning Group (JOPG) on a regular basis and facilitates the commencement of the RDF Induction Process, with planned induction training to commence shortly. This of course, will be subject to continued guidance from Government on easing of restrictions.

Additionally, I understand that measures are currently under consideration by the military authorities with a view to streamlining elements of the induction process. The outcome of a pilot initiative in this regard is awaited and will further inform next steps.

While the Government remains committed to restoring the strength of the RDF, given the competing recruitment demands at present, where PDF recruitment is and should remain a priority, it should be noted that the same personnel and resources are utilised for both PDF and RDF recruitment. Nonetheless, RDF recruitment will be progressed to the greatest extent possible. An additional 29 new RDF members have been inducted as at the end of October this year, with 17 inducted into the AR and 12 inducted into the NSR.

I was also delighted last week to attend a Commissioning Ceremony where a cohort of 29 officers were newly commissioned into the Army Reserve.

Separately the Deputy will be aware that the Independent Commission on the Defence Forces, which is due to report at the end of the year, is also expected to include proposals on the role and contribution of the RDF. I look forward to receiving this Report.

I wish to assure the Deputy that the Government appreciates the service of the Reserve Defence Force and recognises its important contribution to Ireland's defence capability.

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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94. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of new recruits that have enlisted in the Permanent Defence Forces to date in 2021; when the next recruitment campaign will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56380/21]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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99. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of women at all ranks currently in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps; the extent to which ongoing recruitment exists; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56458/21]

Photo of Jennifer Carroll MacNeillJennifer Carroll MacNeill (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael)
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109. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the work being done to increase the number of members of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56187/21]

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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112. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of members recruited to the Defence Forces to date in 2021; the number that have left; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56483/21]

Photo of Cormac DevlinCormac Devlin (Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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117. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of persons that have left the Permanent Defence Forces to date in 2021; the number of new recruits there have been over the same period; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56500/21]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 94, 99, 109, 112 and 117 together.

The strength of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF), as at 31st October 2021, is 8,572 of which 601 are female. The detailed breakdown of the female strength requested will be provided separately.

Strength v establishment

Female Strength

As of the same date, 541 personnel left the PDF. Personnel leave the Permanent Defence Force for a number of reasons including on age grounds, at the end of contract and voluntary discharges.

As at 15thNovember, 577 personnel (including 455 General Service Recruits) have been inducted into the Defence Forces. This arises from the ongoing General Service recruitment campaign and the expanding scope of direct entry competitions, along with reviews of direct entry terms and conditions to improve intakes. The scope of direct entry competitions was expanded in 2021, from 10 competitions, to include a new Air Corps Aircraft Technician competition. Additionally, direct entry terms and conditions continue to be revised to improve intakes. The re-entry campaign for former members of the PDF continues.

There has been significant progress on pay arising out of increases due from recent pay agreements, the most recent of which was a 1% increase on annualised salaries or €500, whichever is greater, on the 1st October 2021, with further increases to follow. There are now Service Commitment schemes in both the Air Corps and the Naval Service, and a Special Naval Service tax credit for sea-going personnel.

Furthermore, in light of the particular challenges faced by the Defence Sector, the Government tasked the Public Service Pay Commission (PSPC) to undertake a comprehensive review and analysis of underlying difficulties in recruitment and retention in the Defence Forces. I am confident that the pay benefits delivered by the Public Service pay agreements, in tandem with the implementation of the PSPC's recommendations will improve recruitment and retention challenges currently being experienced by the PDF.

Additionally, the Commission on the Defence Forces is due to submit their report by the end of the year and I look forward to receiving the report in due course. The recommendations will then be fully considered and will inform future decisions regarding the Defence Forces.

I remain committed to maximising recruitment and retention of personnel to maintain the capacity of the Defence Forces to operate effectively across all roles and to undertake the tasks laid down by Government, both at home and abroad.

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