Written answers

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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267. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if particular attention will be given to the unique security needs of the Border region in view of the recent Report of the Commission on the Defence Forces and its recommendations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17409/22]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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Primary responsibility for the internal security of the State rests with the Minister for Justice and Equality and An Garda Síochána. Accordingly, responsibility for the security aspect of border control rests with An Garda Síochána, while the Revenue Commissioners also have responsibilities relating to their particular mandate.

Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces in the White Paper on Defence is the provision of Aid to the Civil Power which, in practice, means to provide assistance and support to An Garda Síochána when requested to do so. The Defence Forces also provide support to the Revenue Commissioners, again, when requested to do so.

The Commission on the Defence Forces was established on foot of a commitment in the Programme for Government and the Government decision in December 2020 which also agreed its terms of reference and membership. The report was published on the 9th February 2022.

The Commission undertook a significant body of work encompassing their wide-ranging terms of reference. The report contains 69 main recommendations. The Commission's terms of reference included the consideration of appropriate capabilities, structures and staffing for the Army, the Air Corps and the Naval Service.

The Commission's report proposes significant changes for the Defence Forces, including to Defence Forces culture, high-level command and control structures, and for the level of Defence provision in Ireland. Clearly, there are matters that will require careful consideration and in some critical aspects inter-departmental discussion. This includes the level of resourcing that may be allocated to Defence, legislative implications and the governance framework that will be required to underpin any changes the Government approve on foot of the Commission's report.

I will also be seeking the views of my Department and the Defence Forces. The Defence Forces Representative Associations will be consulted on all matters that fall within the scope of representation, relating to the implementation of any approved plan. I will also engage with key stakeholders and the Oireachtas, and I welcome the Dáil statements on the report which took place on the 16th February. I firmly believe that this is an opportunity to have a mature debate around the type of defence provision that we require and I am very much open to such a discussion. Current events are highlighting the importance of such a debate.

The intent is that following relevant consideration, and before the summer recess, I will revert to Government with a proposed response to the Commission's recommendations and a high-level action plan.

As the Deputy will appreciate, it would be inappropriate for me to engage in speculative discussion on this matter prior to completion of the ongoing process, Government approval of any proposed plan of action, and completion of any subsequent reviews that may ensue.


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