Written answers

Thursday, 9 May 2024

Photo of Chris AndrewsChris Andrews (Dublin Bay South, Sinn Fein)
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141. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the Government's plans for the future of the site at Cathal Brugha Barracks, Rathmines. [20951/24]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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At the outset, I wish to make it clear that no decision to locate or partially relocation Cathal Brugha Barracks has been made in respect of the sole operational military barracks in Dublin City Centre. My Department has conducted a cost benefit analysis and feasibility study, with involvement from the Defence Forces, to assess the viability or otherwise of relocating existing core Defence Forces operations to an alternative location, as well as exploring the potential of reorganising/reconfiguring current operations/functions within the footprint of Barracks. In parallel with this process, the LDA have carried out their own assessment to evaluate the potential for the site to be repurposed for residential development and/or other uses. The outcomes of these studies are currently being assessed and collated by the Inter-Departmental steering group.

Photo of Catherine ConnollyCatherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
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142. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence for a status update on the development of the revised Strategic Framework for the Defence Forces from 2025 onwards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21054/24]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Following the publication of the Report of the Independent Review Group on Dignity and Equality issues in the Defence Forces in March 2023, I set out my priority to develop one Strategic Framework for the transformation of the Defence Forces, fully understood by everyone, that has the appropriate governance and reporting mechanisms, and is properly resourced.

The purpose of the Strategic Framework is to bring together into one overarching document, from the multiplicity of plans developed, the immediate actions to be taken to support the transformation of the Defence Forces into a fit for purpose organisation to defend the State and meet the challenges of today and the future.

My priority within this transformation is cultural change above all else. The end goal of this cultural change is to ensure that the Defence Forces is an equal opportunities employer, reflective of contemporary Irish society and that is providing a safe workplace where self-worth is actively promoted, mutual respect becomes a dominant feature and all members are treated with dignity in an organisation that continuously evolves to deliver positive change.

I published the Strategic Framework for the Transformation of the Defence Forces in September 2023, and this document clearly sets out the actions to be delivered before the end of 2024 to implement the recommendations of the Commission on the Defence Forces (CoDF) and the Independent Review Group (IRG) Report. The Strategic Framework also sets out the actions to be delivered to support the recruitment to and retention of personnel to our Defence Forces, to enhance the physical working environment and equipment of our personnel and to make the legislative changes to underpin the transformation agenda.

While all the actions outlined in the Strategic Framework are important, my core priorities, as Tánaiste and Minister for Defence, up to the end of 2024 are:

  1. The specific actions to support cultural change within the Defence Forces are made. This will be implemented through a well-designed and expertly led culture change programme, led and driven convincingly from the leadership of the Defence Forces, and including initiatives grounded in the vision of the future Defence Forces. This will be monitored closely by the External Oversight Body.
  2. That the numbers of personnel in the Defence Forces are stabilised, and thereafter increasing the strength towards the level of ambition arising from the CoDF.
  3. The implementation of an agreed policy for the application of the Working Time Directive within the Defence Forces.
  4. To progress specific projects to enhance the physical working environment and equipment of our personnel including specific capability enhancements across all Services as set out in the CoDF.
  5. To set up a new independent, external complaints service for serving members of the Defence Forces and a new complaints process for civilians and civil servants.
  6. To introduce the legislative changes to support the transformation of the Defence Forces including the statutory underpinning for;
    1. The new high-level structures within the Defence Forces, and the consequential re-design of the governance and oversight framework for the new command structure;
    2. The new independent complaints mechanism; and
    3. The External Oversight Body.
  7. To set up the Judge led Tribunal of Inquiry to examine the effectiveness of the complaints processes in the Defence Forces into workplace issues relating to discrimination, bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.
The actions set out in the Strategic Framework are being actively progressed and monitored. I am pleased with the progress made on each of the core priorities, further details of which will be outlined in the first update report of the Strategic Framework which will be published imminently. This will be followed by the publication of a Revised Strategic Framework for 2025 and beyond, which is due to be published at the end of this year.

Photo of Jim O'CallaghanJim O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay South, Fianna Fail)
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143. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the plans he has for Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines, Dublin 6; whether part or all of it will be used for housing; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21061/24]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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At the outset, I wish to make it clear that no decision to locate or partially relocation Cathal Brugha Barracks has been made in respect of the sole operational military barracks in Dublin City Centre. My Department has conducted a cost benefit analysis and feasibility study, with involvement from the Defence Forces, to assess the viability or otherwise of relocating existing core Defence Forces operations to an alternative location, as well as exploring the potential of reorganising/reconfiguring current operations/functions within the footprint of Barracks. In parallel with this process, the LDA have carried out their own assessment to evaluate the potential for the site to be repurposed for residential development and/or other uses. The outcomes of these studies are currently being assessed and collated by the Inter-Departmental steering group.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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144. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence in view of the Government’s recent endorsement of the Joint Statement on Efforts to Counter the Proliferation and Misuse of Commercial Spyware, if she will now clarify whether our military intelligence services make use of commercial spyware and, if so, what oversight, transparency and redress processes are in place. [21110/24]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Ireland signed up to the Joint Statement on Efforts to Counter the Proliferation and Misuse of Commercial Spyware ahead of the third Summit for Democracy in the Republic of Korea in March.

Upon joining, Ireland issued a national statement (www.gov.ie/en/press-release/485aa-ireland-joins-international-efforts-to-counter-the-proliferation-and-misuse-of-commercial-spyware/), which made clear our commitment to play our role in achieving the objectives of this initiative.

Ireland administers and enforces a range of measures as part of an EU system of controls on the export of sensitive items as well as implementing EU trade related sanctions.

In follow up, we are engaging further with international partners to consider how we can best support effective collective action on these issues. The Government will implement and enforce agreed measures as and when required.

In relation to the Defence Forces' military intelligence function, there are a number of statutory provisions on which they rely for the collection and processing of intelligence, viz.

  • Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunication Messages (Regulation) Act 1993;
  • Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act 2009; and
  • Communications (Retention of Data) Act 2011.
Oversight of the use of the these statutory provisions by the Defence Forces (and An Garda Síochána) is performed by serving High Court judges appointed under the respective Acts for that purpose. Following his/her appointment, pursuant to the provisions of the Policing, Security and Community Safety Act 2024, the Independent Examiner of Security Legislation will assume the existing oversight roles carried out by the designated judges relating to the operation of the statutory frameworks for data retention, interception of communications and surveillance.

For security and operational reasons, I cannot comment on the specific means by which the Defence Forces collect and process intelligence pursuant to the statutory provisions listed above.

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