Thursday, 18 November 2021
Department of Defence
225. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he plans to amend administrative instruction A10 in relation to the use of the national flag at funerals of deceased retired members of the Defence Forces to ensure that in all cases in which a deceased member had 20 years’ service with a satisfactory record the family of the deceased would be presented with the national flag at the graveside or at the crematorium as a mark of gratitude for their long service to the State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56737/21]
The military authorities have advised that the National Flag which drapes the coffin of personnel who die in service is presented to the next-of-kin at the time and place of burial or cremation. At present it is not custom for the National Flag to be presented to the next-of-kin of former Defence Forces personnel.
Administration Instruction A10 sets out that in certain circumstances, where the next-of-kin of ex-service personnel request to be presented with the National Flag draping the coffin, the General Officer Commanding the Brigade, the Defence Forces Training Centre, the Air Corps or the Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service may accede to such a request.
At present there are no plans to change the procedures currently in place.
226. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which the strength of the Defence Forces has fluctuated in each of the past five years to date; if it is planned to recruit to augment the numbers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56793/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 226 and 228 together.
The table below details the strength of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) for each of the past five years:-
I am advised by the military authorities that the strength of the PDF, as at 31st October 2021, is 8,572 personnel.
I have previously acknowledged the current staffing issues within the Defence Forces and am very much aware that there continues to be a shortfall, currently of 928 personnel, between the current strength figures and those of the establishment.
A range of actions have been taken to address recruitment and retention issues. There is continuing recruitment, which has resulted in a total of 577 personnel being inducted as at 15th November. 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.
Concurrent retention initiatives such as a commitment scheme in the Air Corps (for pilots) and the Naval Service have been undertaken which complement the above recruitment measures in countering current staffing challenges. Furthermore, 15 projects were undertaken to facilitate the implementation of the PSPC Report on Recruitment and Retention. Most of these projects have been completed with others being considered in the context of wider public sector pay arrangements.
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.
My focus remains on retaining/restoring all branches of the Defence Forces at their full capacity, but there is no quick fix to the current challenges. In that context, I would reiterate that there has been significant work undertaken to date, and such work continues, but it will take time to see the full effect of the measures introduced.
227. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which his Department continues to engage with representative bodies in the Defence Forces with a view to achieving an equitable resolution to outstanding matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [56794/21]
The Defence (Amendment) Act 1990 and Defence Force Regulations S6 provided for the establishment of representative associations for members of the Permanent Defence Force. The associations that have since been established are RACO (for commissioned officers) and PDFORRA (for enlisted personnel).
The scheme of Conciliation and Arbitration (C&A) for members of the Permanent Defence Force provides a formal mechanism for the determination of claims and proposals from the Permanent Defence Force Representative Associations, relating to remuneration and conditions of service.
Officials from my Department continue to work with the Representative Associations in a positive and collaborative process within the C&A Scheme to resolve issues. There is also ongoing engagement on a regular basis between the Official side (comprising officials from the Department of Defence, military management, the Department of Expenditure & Public Reform) and the Representative side on a range of items.
In tandem with the above, since my appointment as Minister for Defence in 2020, I have met with the Representative Association for Commissioned Officers (RACO) on four occasions: 17 July 2020, 20 October 2020, 17 December 2020 and 13 October 2021. I have met with the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDFORRA) on five occasions: 17 July 2020, 20 October 2020, 17 December 2020, 24 May 2021 and most recently on 13 October 2021.
I look forward to further continued constructive engagement with the Defence Forces Representative Associations and I can assure the Deputy that there will be continued engagement with the Representative Associations on all matters that fall within the scope of representation.