Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Defence

Defence Forces

Photo of Brendan GriffinBrendan Griffin (Kerry, Fine Gael)
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13. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the percentage of persons who join the Reserve Defence Forces; if he will consider a more ambitious programme to recruit more persons into the Reserve Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23715/22]

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 RDF has an establishment of 4,069, with a current strength of 1,494 for the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve, and 271 for the First Line reserve, which accounts for 43% of the establishment figure.

The ability to conduct RDF inductions in recent years was severely impacted by the COVID-19 public health pandemic. Nevertheless, 76 applications to join the RDF were received in 2021. 41 additional new members were inducted during 2021, accounting for a 54% success rate.

I am advised by the military authorities that a more streamlined process is in place with regard to the recruitment and induction process for the RDF. To date in 2022, following the launch of an RDF competition, 832 applications have been received and are under consideration by the Military Authorities. In line with the focus on the recovery phase of the COVID-19 response, induction training can now be facilitated. 23 additional new members have been inducted into the AR so far this year, with further induction training planned to commence shortly.

While the Government remains committed to restoring the strength of the RDF, given the competing recruitment demands at present, Permanent Defence Force (PDF) recruitment is and should remain a priority. I would add that the same personnel and resources are utilised for both PDF and RDF recruitment. Nonetheless, RDF recruitment will also be progressed to the greatest extent possible and it is hoped that the more streamlined processes now in place will yield positive outcomes.

The Deputy will be aware of the recent publication of the Report of the Commission on the Defence Forces containing many detailed recommendations, including on the future structure and role of the RDF.

There is a process underway to consider these recommendations in consultation with Ministerial colleagues and stakeholders. The intent is to revert to Government with a proposed response and a high-level action plan in advance of the summer recess. It would be inappropriate therefore, for me to pre-empt this deliberative process in advance of the Government's consideration.

The Deputy will also be aware that the Defence (Amendment) Act 2021 has now been signed into law, which serves to update the Defence Legislation on the use of the RDF on a voluntary basis, on-island and overseas in support of the PDF.

I wish to reiterate again that the Government remains committed to the RDF, with continued support for the requirement to retain and develop the Reserve Defence Force.

Photo of Paul McAuliffePaul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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14. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the current strength of the Reserve Defence Force in each of the services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23507/22]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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I wish to reiterate that the Government remains absolutely committed to the advancement of the RDF. The White Paper on Defence is quite clear that there is a continued requirement to retain and develop the Reserve and that requirement will be addressed.

The Reserve Defence Force (RDF) is comprised of the First Line Reserve, the Army Reserve (AR) and the Naval Service Reserve (NSR). The White Paper on Defence is clear that there is a continued requirement to retain and develop the RDF and confirms that its primary role is to augment the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) in crisis situations.

The strength of the Reserve Defence Force, as of 31 March 2022, is set out below:

Service Total Effective Personnel
Army Reserve 1380
Naval Reserve 114
First Line Reserve 271

While the commitment to restoring the strength of the RDF is not in doubt, the same personnel and resources are utilised for both PDF and RDF recruitment. Given the competing recruitment demands at present, PDF recruitment is, and will remain a priority. However, RDF recruitment will continue to be progressed to the greatest extent possible.

I should add that the ability to conduct RDF inductions during 2021 was however severely impacted by the COVID-19 public health pandemic. Nevertheless, 41 additional new members were inducted during 2021. In addition, a RDF recruitment drive was launched earlier this year and there have been 23 inductions to date in 2022.

The Deputy will be aware that the Report of the Commission on the Defence Forces, published last January, contains many detailed recommendations, including on the future structure and role of the RDF.

There is a process underway to consider these recommendations in consultation with Ministerial colleagues and stakeholders. The intent is to revert to Government with a proposed response and a high-level action plan in advance of the summer recess. It would be inappropriate therefore, for me to pre-empt this deliberative process in advance of the Government's consideration.

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