1. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the 2012 restructuring of the Defence Forces will be reviewed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20687/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Reorganisation)

Deputy Jack Chambers: I echo the Leas-Cheann Comhairle’s welcome to the delegation.
My question is to ask the Minister of State at the Department of Defence if he will review the 2012 restructuring of the Defence Forces and if he will make a statement on the matter. As the Minister of State knows, we had the first southern brigade headquarters in Cork, the second eastern headquarters in Dublin and the fourth western headquarters in Athlone. That consolidation was done on the basis of claimed e...

2. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if Naval Service vessels, as part of Operation Sophia (details supplied), have observed or have been prevented by the Libyan Coast Guard from going to the aid of migrants in distress in international waters in view of the fact that it has threatened, shot at persons at sea and in the sea contrary to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea. (Question 20510/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Naval Service Operations)

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: This question relates to the role of the Naval Service in Operation Sophia when it changed from Operation Pontus. Is the Navy contributing to an ongoing immigration problem and abuse of human rights, particularly in detention centres in Libya?
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3. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason the personnel strength of the Defence Forces was lower at the end of February 2018 than at the end of February 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20688/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Strength)

Deputy Jack Chambers: What are the reasons the personnel strength of the Defence Forces was lower at the end of February 2018 than at the end of February 2017? Will the Minister of State make a statement on the matter? As he knows, the Defence Forces face a full-blown retention crisis. Despite attempts to enhance recruitment we are haemorrhaging massive numbers. Why does the Minister of State believe that despite the recruitment campaign he is trying to promote, almost the same number of peo...

4. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will address concerns that Ireland’s neutrality is being compromised by participation in Permanent Structured Co-Operation, PESCO; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 19811/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Permanent Structured Co-operation)

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Will the Minister of State address serious concerns that Ireland’s neutrality is being compromised by participation in PESCO? People are genuinely concerned, including the families of Defence Forces personnel.
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5. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the meetings he has had with European counterparts in respect of PESCO; the timeline for Irish participation in PESCO projects; and the way in which he plans to inform Dáil Éireann on the progress of and details relating to such projects. (Question 20744/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Permanent Structured Co-operation)

Deputy Eamon Ryan: I am interested in knowing the detail of how Ireland is operating within PESCO. I am particularly interested in knowing how we, as a Dáil, can get transparency and openness regarding every aspect of the agreement, specific projects, budget and Council meetings and how we will integrate with NATO. I am keen that the Minister of State should set out the means by which Deputies can get clarity regarding what is happening. We regularly hear him refer to Ireland’s neutrality but...

6. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to stop the purchase of Israeli-made drones by the Defence Forces. (Question 20430/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Equipment)

Deputy Gino Kenny: I would like the Minister of State to comment on the continuing purchase of Israeli drones by the Irish Defence Forces.
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7. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the Chemical Exposure Report 1994-2005 will be released in order to provide former members of the Air Corps who are now chronically ill with information relating to the level of exposure they suffered in view of his recent call for candour and transparency in cases regarding the health of persons; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20216/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - State Claims Agency)

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: This relates to a matter that has been ongoing for a while. Given the current controversy around the checks for cervical cancer, there is a need for transparency in publishing reports that will help people suffering health consequences so they can manage future health needs.
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8. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the details of contracts with Israel for the purchase of arms to be used by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20432/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Equipment)

Deputy Gino Kenny: I would like the Minister of State to comment on the continuing purchase of Israeli drones by the Irish Defence Forces.
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9. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence to outline his views on whether the threat level against Irish troops serving on the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon has increased since a person (details supplied) attended a major Israeli military and state public propaganda event on 18 April 2018, an event that coincided with the anniversary of the 1996 Qana massacre (details supplied) and at a time when Israeli soldiers are regularly targeting and firing at Palestinian civilians and wounding or killing them. (Question 20215/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Overseas Missions)

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: I asked the Minister of State at a joint committee meeting recently whether he believed it was appropriate for Major General Michael Beary, who is the head of mission of the UN in Lebanon, to attend an Israeli celebration at Mount Herzl and whether that attendance had put the lives of Irish troops at risk.
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10. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence further to the fact that the Attorney General is examining the possibility of settling pending cervical smear claims following the successful legal action of a person (details supplied), if a similar approach is being taken regarding outstanding Lariam cases in view of the successful legal action in the first Lariam case before the courts in 2017. (Question 20410/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Medicinal Products)

Deputy Clare Daly: The Minister of State is aware that in December last year the State settled the first case for Lariam damage brought by a member of the Defence Forces. No witnesses were called and there was no evidence to defend the case. The man was attacked and it took him four long years before he got the settlement. In light of the decision of the Taoiseach to request the Attorney General to consider withdrawing from the legal actions in the cervical cancer cases, has the Minister of S...

11. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to introduce flexible working time and shift arrangements to improve the work-life balance for Defence Forces members in particular for those who have family commitments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20437/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Personnel)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The achievement of an effective balance between the demands of the workplace and the home is important for the long-term welfare and development of the Defence Forces. Family-friendly working conditions and operational effectiveness are both possible. The Defence Forces will continue to develop appropriate work-life balance initiatives to assist personnel whilst ensuring that defence capability is maintained. A range of initiati...

12. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the purpose of the presence of three Royal Navy patrol and training ships in Haulbowline on 27 and 28 March 2018. (Question 20411/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Foreign Naval Vessels)

Deputy Clare Daly: This question relates to the presence of three British Royal Navy patrol and training ships in Haulbowline in March. It is part of a thread of visits involving vessels from foreign navies, including NATO warships. We had a visit from HMS Illustrious, an Invincible class aircraft carried which was involved in the Iraq war, and, in 2016, a flotilla of NATO warships was present during the centenary celebration for the 1916 Rising, which was quite ironic. Why are we allowing Ir...

13. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of his Department’s preparations for Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20213/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Brexit Issues)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The outcome of the vote of 23 June 2016 in the UK will have implications across all aspects of the business of the European Union. While the vote does not give rise to fundamental strategic issues for Defence Forces operations or for Ireland’s continuing engagement within the EU in the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), it is expected that Brexit will have an impact on future developments in the Defence sphere. 
Structur...

14. Deputy James Browne asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the supports provided for members of the Defence Forces who undergo traumatic experiences while serving on UN mandated missions. (Question 20397/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Personnel Data)

Taoiseach and Minister for Defence (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I can assure the Deputy that the Defence Forces are fully aware of the importance of providing robust supports for personnel who require them, whatever the reason.
A range of medical and non-medical services are provided to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are medically fit to undertake the duties assigned to them and to treat any medical condition that may arise.
As a matter of policy, psychiatric and psychological services, as well ...

15. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Defence Forces involvement in peacekeeping missions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20290/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Commemorative Events)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): This year marks significant anniversaries in relation to Ireland’s United Nations peacekeeping role. It will be the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s first participation in a United Nations peacekeeping mission and it is the 40th anniversary of our first deployment to Lebanon as part of the UNIFIL mission.
Commemorative events are being planned to mark this year’s important milestones in the history of Ireland’s participation in Un...

16. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to change the need for compulsory medical examinations for serving Defence Forces members over 40 years of age; the rationale for compulsory medical examinations for persons over 40 years of age; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20435/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Medical Services)

Taoiseach and Minister for Defence (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I can assure the Deputy that the health and safety of the men and women of the Defence Forces is a high priority for me. Given the robust nature of military life and the unique physical and psychological demands it places on individuals, it is necessary that the members of the Defence Forces are physically and mentally prepared to meet the challenges of all military operations. The State has a duty of care to ensure that each individual ...

17. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to scrap or lower intelligence tests which are used to select recruits to the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20387/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Recruitment)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I am aware of recent media reports that Psychometric Tests may be scrapped for Defence Forces recruitment and that the Department of Defence is “looking at dropping or lowering the bar on psychometric testing”. This is factually incorrect and misleading.
The Defence Forces utilise Psychometric Tests, as distinct from intelligence tests, during the recruitment process. They have advised that, according to the latest research, psy...

18. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to mark the 40th anniversary of Ireland’s participation in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20424/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Commemorative Events)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): This year marks significant anniversaries in relation to Ireland’s UN peacekeeping role. It will be the 60th anniversary of Ireland’s first participation in a UN peacekeeping mission and it is the 40th anniversary of the first deployment of Defence Force personnel to Lebanon as part of the UNIFIL mission.
Ireland has made a huge commitment to supporting peace and security in the Middle East region and has participated in the UN...

19. Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of Defence Forces personnel deployments both nationally and in County Louth with reference to Storm Emma. (Question 20425/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Deployment)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): In accordance with the Framework for Major Emergency Management, primary responsibility for responding to a severe weather event rests with the three designated Principal Response Agencies, namely the relevant Local Authority, An Garda Siochána, and the Health Service Executive. The Defence Forces provide the fullest possible assistance to the appropriate Lead Department in the event of a natural disaster or an emergency in its...

20. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of progress on items included in the work programme of the Curragh forum for 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20382/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Curragh Plains Representative Forum)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 20 and 29 together.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Curragh Forum was established to provide an opportunity for key stakeholders to consider and progress a wide range of issues regarding the use and management of the Curragh Plains.
The most recent meeting of the Forum took place in January 2018. It was attended by representatives of the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces, An Garda Síochá...

21. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he is satisfied that the public and the Houses of the Oireachtas were sufficiently informed in regard to overseas missions (details supplied) as to the make-up of the Defence Forces contingents serving on those missions in view of the fact that in cases in which motions pursuant to section 2 of the Defence (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1960 were passed approving the despatch of Defence Forces members on overseas missions did not refer to Army Ranger Wing involvement. (Question 20412/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Overseas Missions)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 21 and 42 together.
The Army Ranger Wing (ARW) are the Special Operations Forces of the Defence Forces.
Defence Forces personnel, including ARW personnel, are deployed to United Nations peacekeeping missions in accordance with the provisions of the Defence Acts.
The statutory authority for the despatch of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force for service overseas is set out in Section 2 of t...

22. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the position regarding a review of pay and the other issues PDFORRA were seeking to have through the conciliation process regarding the terms and conditions for members of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20429/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Remuneration)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): Rates of pay and conditions of employment in the Defence Forces have traditionally been set by reference to, inter alia, relative levels of pay across the various sectors of the Irish public service. Defence Forces pay is increasing in line with recent public sector pay agreements. The focus of these increases is weighted in favour of those on lower pay.
Members of the Defence Forces received increases in pay in 2017 under the L...

23. Deputy Hildegarde Naughton asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of the review of the conciliation and arbitration scheme; and when it will be completed. (Question 20295/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Representative Organisations)

Taoiseach and Minister for Defence (Deputy Leo Varadkar): The Conciliation and Arbitration scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force provides a formal mechanism for the Permanent Defence Force Representative Associations, that is PDFORRA and RACO, to engage with the Official side.
Having regard to commitments made under pay agreements, members of the Permanent Defence Force can make representations in relation to their pay and conditions of service through their representative bodies. 
T...

24. Deputy Alan Farrell asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of the purchase of new aircraft for the Air Corps; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 20292/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Air Corps Equipment)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): My priority as Minister with Responsibility for Defence is to ensure that the operational capability of the Defence Forces is maintained to the greatest extent possible so as to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government.
The White Paper on Defence provides for the replacement of the current Cessna fleet with three larger aircraft which will be equipped for Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acq...

25. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to improve the pay and conditions of Defence Forces members. (Question 20422/18 asked on 10 May 2018 - Defence Forces Remuneration)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 25, 32 and 34 together.
Rates of pay and conditions of employment in the Defence Forces have traditionally been set by reference to, inter alia, relative levels of pay across the various sectors of the Irish public service. Defence Forces pay is increasing in line with recent public sector pay agreements. The focus of these increases is weighted in favour of those on lower pay. 
Members of the De...