Written answers

Thursday, 16 May 2024

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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35. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which issues within the Defence Forces have been resolved as per recommendations in the report of the Commission on the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22091/24]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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103. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which he continues in his efforts to ensure the full implementation of all aspects of the report of Commission on the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22325/24]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 35 and 103 together.

As Minister, I am deeply committed to the transformation of the Defence Forces into a modern fit for purpose organisation to defend the State and meet the challenges of today and the future.

The Commission on the Defence Forces was established on foot of a commitment in the Programme for Government, and its report was published on the 9th of February 2022. There were 69 main recommendations and with sub recommendations there were 130 recommendations in total. The Commission undertook a significant body of work, encompassing wide-ranging terms of reference. It recommended significant changes for the Defence Forces and Defence provision in Ireland. It covered high-level Defence Forces structures, defence capabilities, organisation, culture and human resources, the Reserve Defence Force and funding.

Given the significant recommendations contained in the Report, detailed consideration of these recommendations was undertaken over a period of 5 months by the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces. Following this engagement, a High Level Action Plan (HLAP) and a Memo for Government were brought to Government and approved on July 12th 2022. This involved the approval of a move to ‘Level of Ambition 2’ (LOA2), as set out in the capability framework devised by the Commission on the Defence Forces. The move to LOA2 is due to be complete by 2028. This will result in the Defence budget rising from €1.1 billion to €1.5 billion, in 2022 prices, by 2028, the largest increase in Defence funding in the history of the State. This will allow for the required substantial transformation and investment in recruitment and equipment that were identified by the Commission.

The Detailed Implementation Plan for the Report of the Commission on the Defence Forces, was published on the 21st of November last. This plan sets out an ambitious programme of work to move to ‘Level of Ambition 2’ (LOA 2) by 2028 and the significant and fundamental change for the Defence Forces that will be delivered across the Commission’s recommendations which span:

  • Strategic HR and Cultural Change;
  • New Command and Control and Joint Structures to be established;
  • Services to be reformed and restructured;
  • Reserve Defence Force to be revitalised; and
  • Joint Capability Development to be implemented
Much progress has been achieved since the Commission’s report was published, with 21 recommendations completed and work ongoing across many others. Government noted that, in light of the Commission’s report, there is an urgent need for HR and cultural transformation in the Defence Forces and this will be prioritised.

While we are still in the early stages of the transformation process, a number of recommendations that have been implemented to-date have had a significant impact on members of the Defence Forces.

Changes have been made to the existing Naval Service allowances, as a means of simplifying current structures, by consolidating the daily allowance and the sea-going commitment scheme into one enhanced allowance. This is in line with the Commission on Defence Forces recommendation to replace existing sea-going allowances with less complex measures. The sea-going commitment scheme was abolished from the end of 2023.

Specifically, the current Patrol Duty Allowance, paid to Naval Service personnel, will be doubled after ten days at sea. This measure has taken effect from 1 January 2024.

In addition to this, extension of private secondary healthcare to enlisted ranks was implemented in September 2023.

Also, all personnel of Private 3 Star/Able Seaman rank are now paid the full rate of Military Service Allowance (MSA) applicable to the rank, and, the requirement for that cohort to ‘mark time’ for the first three years at that rank has been removed.

However a great deal of work still needs to be done and it will need concerted effort by all involved.

The Detailed Implementation Plan sets out the significant progress that is expected in 2024. By the end of this year it is anticipated that 54 of the Commission's recommendations will be fully implemented, with many more being progressed over the course of the year.

Transformation efforts of this magnitude take time, and can only be successful if they are built on solid foundations. I have confidence that the structures that have been put in place and progress to date will ensure the successful delivery of the transformation effort.

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, so it would be fully understandable to everyone.

The Strategic Framework, which I published in September 2023, brings together into one overarching document, the immediate actions to be taken to support the transformation of the Defence Forces.

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;
  • where mutual respect becomes a dominant feature;
  • where all members are treated with dignity;
  • in an organisation that continuously evolves to deliver positive change.
Against the reality of the current global and European threat landscape, it is more important than ever that Ireland has a well-functioning, professional and well-equipped Defence Forces.

I am confident and determined that through the Strategic Framework, and the Detailed Implementation Plan, we will realise our shared ambition for the transformation of the Defence Forces accompanied with clear and irrefutable evidence of change on the ground for serving members.


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