Written answers

Tuesday, 2 July 2024

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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144. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which issues relating to pay and conditions with the Defence Forces have been resolved or are under review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28354/24]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Over the last number of years members of the Defence Forces have benefitted from a range of pay increases associated with national pay agreements. In addition to these pay increases, members of the Defence Forces have further benefitted from specific recommendations arising from an independent Commission on the Defence Forces (CoDF), which was established by Government in December 2020.

One area the Commission on the Defence Forces was tasked with examining was the evolution of all remuneration systems and structures, currently in place in the Defence Forces, noting that the current Programme for Government recommends the establishment of a Permanent Pay Review Body.

In its report to Government, the CoDF recommended the "introduction of a mechanism to provide for ongoing review of of the application of existing specialist pay rates and allowances to groups and categories of military personnel, and to make recommendations, within public pay policy parameters, where adjustments are required" . It is important to note, in the context of this CoDF recommendation, that public sector pay policy falls within the remit of the Minister for Public Expenditure, NDP Delivery and Reform.

The government has progressed a number of key measures arising from the Commission on the Defence Forces Report to address pay and recruitment issues in the Defence Forces. These include a number of projects undertaken to bolster the attractiveness of a career in the Defence Forces, and cover a range of measures which improve pay and conditions.

The Commission on the Defence Forces made a number of recommendations concerning pay structures, which have been implemented including:

  • Removal of the requirement for a Private 3 Star/Able Seaman to ‘mark time’ for the first three years at that rank (as detailed above in terms starting pay rates);
  • Payment of the full rate of Military Service Allowance (MSA) applicable to the rank of all Private 3 Star/Able Seaman personnel.
Furthermore, in 2023 I, as Minister for Defence, announced the extension of private secondary medical care to all Defence Forces personnel, a measure which commenced in September 2023. Previously, various benefits applied to Commissioned Officers only. It now applies to all personnel. In addition to the comprehensive range of primary care currently provided, this new measure facilitates referrals to private consultants, as well as the costs of any diagnostic tests.

In addition to the above, I introduced changes 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 double after ten days at sea. This measure took effect from 1 January 2024. It will result in the daily rate from 1 June 2024 increasing from €66.79 to €133.58 for an officer, and from €66.38 to €132.76 for an enlisted person, after ten days at sea.

Having due regard to all of the measures mentioned it is therefore important to note that significant progress has been delivered on pay and conditions, for the Defence Forces, in recent years. Following the implementation of the Commission on Defence Forces recommendations, as well as the ratification of a new public service pay agreement in 2024 (which included a 2.25% wage adjustment from 1 January and a 1% from 1 June, thus far in 2024) the cumulative effect of these measures means that recruits, on completion of training (which takes approximately 24 weeks), will start at:
  • €39,714 in year 1
  • €41,125 in year 2, and
  • €42,425 in year 3
In terms of Officers, a school-leaver Cadet - on commissioning as an Officer- is paid €43,222. This is a second Lieutenant position. After 2 years they are promoted to Lieutenant and their pay rises to €48,505. Where a graduate joins – the pay rate on commissioning as a Lieutenant begins at €48,505. These rates all include pensionable military service allowance, which is an allowance that is paid to all ranks up to and including the rank of Colonel, for the unpredictable nature of the work encountered by the Defence Forces.

Remuneration for individual members of the Defence Forces is dependent on a range of factors relating to the role and duties they perform. The minimum payment for trained personnel is comprised of Basic Pay and Military Service Allowance. Defence Force personnel also have access to other remuneration streams, such as technical and specialist pay, while at the same time a wide range of duties attract additional allowances.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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145. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which optimum strength in the Defence Forces is being maintained with equal reference to the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28355/24]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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146. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which updating of training procedures continues within the Defence Forces at all levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28356/24]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The primary function of training in the Defence Forces is to develop and maintain the capabilities necessary to enable them to fulfil the roles laid down by Government.

The Defence Forces conduct training under four broad categories, namely: Leadership, Skills, Career, and Collective. Leadership Training is the medium through which the Defence Forces ensure that personnel are prepared for exercising command authority across the full range of military functions both at home and overseas in international operations. Skills Training ensures that Defence Forces personnel have the requisite individual, specialist, and crew skills. Career Training, and education, provides the organisation with the necessary pool of leaders and commanders at all levels. Collective Training allows military personnel to use their individual, crew, specialist and career training together, to develop integrated and coherent combat forces.

The scheduling of training in the Defence Forces, including the Reserve, is underpinned by an analysis of training required to meet operational output and capability development requirements.

The Defence Forces seek to constantly benchmark training across all three arms of the organisation against best military and academic practice. Military best practice is ensured by implementing a policy of standardisation that is in line with EU and NATO/Partnership for Peace partners. Academic best practice is ensured by benchmarking courses through accreditation under the National Framework of Qualifications which is validated by Quality and Qualifications Ireland.

The Defence Forces deliver military programmes and modules meeting national and international standards and engage with external educational institutions in order to facilitate organisational learning. This engagement with national and international educational institutions, military and civilian, aims to ensure that the Defence Forces retain currency with regards to best international practice and employ all relevant modern training methods.

I remain committed to ensuring that all personnel of the Defence Forces continue to be trained to appropriate standards.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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147. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which part-time members of the Defence Forces are given opportunities to upgrade their skills on an annual basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28357/24]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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As the Permanent Defence Force does not have part-time members, I am assuming that the Deputy is referring to the Reserve Defence Force, namely, the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve.

Members of the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve are volunteers who undertake training in their spare time. In order to facilitate the voluntary nature of Reserve Service and to maximise attendance of Reserve personnel, training continues to be organised both in and out of normal working hours, at weekends and during academic and traditional holiday periods.

The primary function of training and education in both the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) and the Reserve Defence Force (RDF) is to develop and maintain capabilities necessary to enable personnel to fulfil the roles laid down by Government. The scheduling of training in the Defence Forces, including the Reserve, is underpinned by an analysis of training needed to meet operational output requirements and capability development needs.

In addition, the Commission on the Defence Forces (CODF) Report sets out a developmental path for the Reserve and confirms that the primary role of the RDF has been to augment the PDF in crisis situations and will now also include the utilisation of the RDF on a voluntary basis, nationally and overseas in support of the PDF, where it is in the best interests of the PDF to do so.

The Deputy will also be aware that as part of taking forward recommendations in the CODF Report, a Regeneration Plan and Development Plan to revitalise the RDF is currently being finalised by the Office of Reserve Affairs (ORA) and is due to be submitted to me very shortly.

For the current year, a budget of €2.35 million is provided for paid training by members of the Reserve. Within this budget, seven days annual paid training is provided for in respect of each effective member of the Reserve. The budget also provides for fourteen days paid training for all additional personnel recruited to the Reserve in 2024 along with career and specialist courses for selected members of the Reserve in line with Reserve priorities. This provision is considered sufficient having regard to the existing strength of the RDF and the voluntary nature of Reserve training.

I am satisfied that members of the Amy Reserve and Naval Service Reserve are afforded the opportunity to avail of training and update their skills on an ongoing basis.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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148. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the degree to which he remains satisfied regarding the strength of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps with particular reference to ensuring the maintenance of recommended levels of strength throughout all branches; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28358/24]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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149. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which equipment in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps continue to be upgraded through the standards equal to the best; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28359/24]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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150. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the numbers of women applying for and enlisting in the Defence Forces with equal respect to the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28360/24]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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151. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the extent to which he remains satisfied that the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps remain sufficiently equipped to deal with any emergency or natural disaster that might arise; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28361/24]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Defence Forces continue to carry out the roles assigned by Government, including security operations, critical supports to An Garda Síochána and ATCA supports to other Government Departments and Principal Response Agencies.

I am committed to ensuring that the personnel of the Defence Forces continue to be equipped and trained to best international standards and I can confirm that the Defence Forces keep their operational plans and response capabilities for dealing with a wide range of threats and emergencies under constant review. I am satisfied that the Defence Forces are equipped to respond, as appropriate, to any such events were they to occur in this State.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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152. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of vacant posts remaining to be filled at all levels in the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28362/24]

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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153. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the total number of Irish military personnel serving at various locations overseas; the level of future deployments if known; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28363/24]

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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As of 5 June 2024, Ireland is contributing 430 Defence Forces personnel to overseas missions and locations, which reflects the Government's continued commitment to our responsibilities in the area of international peace and security. The main mission in which personnel are currently deployed is the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) with 344 personnel.

Ireland also contributes personnel to two other UN missions located in the Middle East, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation (UNTSO) Israel & Syria with 11 personnel, and the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in Syria, with 4 personnel. Observers and staff are also deployed to various United Nations and OSCE missions and in addition, Defence Forces personnel hold staff appointments at UN, EU, NATO/PfP and OSCE headquarters.

With regard to any future deployments of Defence Forces personnel overseas, Ireland receives requests from time to time in relation to participation in various missions and these are considered on a case-by-case basis. The changing nature of demands and potential future mission profiles need to be considered in the context of assets and capabilities which can be made available by the Defence Forces for overseas deployment, given existing operational demands at home and overseas. Full details of all personnel currently serving in missions overseas are listed below.

MEMBERS OF THE PERMANENT DEFENCE FORCE SERVING OVERSEAS

As of 05 June 2024

UN MISSIONS
UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) HQ

UNIFIL 124th Infantry Battalion

UNIFIL Sector West HQ
8

332

4
UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation) Israel & Syria 11
UNDOF (COS Staff/FHQ Staff - Camp Faouar - Bravo side) 4
TOTAL 359
UN MANDATED MISSIONS
EUFOR (EU-led Operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina) 5
KFOR (International Security Presence in Kosovo) HQ 13
Naval Service EU Naval Mission (Op Irini) OHQ/FHQ (Op Irini HQ - 5 in OHQ)(1 in FHQ) 6
TOTAL NUMBER OF PERSONNEL SERVING WITH UN MISSIONS 383
ORGANISATION FOR SECURITY AND CO-OPERATION IN EUROPE (OSCE)
Staff Officer, High Level Planning Group, Vienna 1
EU MILITARY STAFF (EUMS)
Brussels 8
EU BATTLE GROUP (EUBG)
German Led Battle Group 2024-2,FHQ , Stadtallendorf 9
MILITARY REPRESENTATIVES/ADVISERS/STAFF
Military Adviser, Permanent Mission to UN, New York 1
Military Adviser, Irish Delegation to OSCE, Vienna 1
Military Representative to EU (Brussels) 5
Liaison Officer of Ireland, NATO /PfP (Brussels) 3
EU OHQ Operation Althea, Mons, Belgium 1
Irish Liaison Officer to SHAPE & Military Co-Op Division, Mons, Belgium 1
Military C-IED Expert, UNMAS, UN Training Entebbe 1
EUMAM UA 16
TOTAL NUMBER OF DEFENCE FORCES PERSONNEL SERVING OVERSEAS 430

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