282. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to fund the replacement of Cessna 172H aircraft for the Air Corps which are over 45 years old; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44519/17 asked on 19 Oct 2017 - 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 Army, Air Corps and Naval Service is maintained to the greatest extent possible so as to enable the Defence Forces to carry out their roles as assigned by Government as set out on the White Paper on Defence. Equipment priorities for the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps are being considered in the context of the lifetime o...

28. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the action he plans to take on foot of the recent review (details supplied) of Air Corps whistleblower claims; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44189/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Air Corps)

Deputy Lisa Chambers: I wish to ask the Minister the action he plans to take on foot of the recent review of the Air Corps whistleblower claims. I ask him to outline to the House what exactly was the purpose of that exercise, given that we now know Mr. O’Toole, who conducted that review, was not in a position actually to carry out the review as per the terms of reference. I further ask the Minister to confirm that Mr. O’Toole flagged that fact with him.
 ...

29. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if a commission of investigation into serious allegations of an ineffective or non-existent health and safety regime in the Air Corps will be established in view of the fact that a person (details supplied) stated in their report that the allegations made by the three whistleblowers could not be adequately dealt with in the type of informal review they were tasked with carrying out. (Question 44083/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Investigations)

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Given that the Minister of State has now received the O’Toole investigation report, he is clearly attempting to fudge the issue as the report clearly states that the issues raised by the whistleblowers could not be adequately addressed. In light of this, will the Minister of State now set up an inquiry into the virtually non-existent health and safety regime in the Air Corps? In the past this absence of a regime exposed hundreds of Air Corps members to highly toxic, d...

30. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence how he plans to address the concerns regarding working conditions in the Defence Forces raised at the recent PDFORRA conference; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44190/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Representative Organisations)

Deputy Lisa Chambers: I note and commend the work of Defence Forces personnel in responding to the damage inflicted by Storm Ophelia and in assisting citizens across the country. The work of the Defence Forces should be commended, particularly in light of the diminished numbers and resources with which they are dealing.
A number of issues of concern were outlined at the recent PDFORRA conference. I know they were not new to the Minister of State in any way. What are his plans to address the c...

31. Deputy Bríd Smith asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to address the chronic staff shortages in the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44188/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Strength)

Deputy Bríd Smith: The Minister of State will probably repeat much of what he said to other Deputies. I ask him to outline how he will try to improve the chronic staff shortages in his Department. What steps will he take to ensure more recruitment takes place and staff shortages are addressed?
 ...

32. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he has satisfied himself that all correct procedures were followed prior to the nomination of a person (details supplied) for election to the position of chair of the European Union Military Committee. (Question 44216/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - EU Bodies)

Deputy Clare Daly: My question is about the procedures followed in making the decision to nominate the Chief of Staff as chair of the European Union Military Committee. The decision was taken on 18 September, two days before we resumed after the summer break, without any consultation with the Dáil. There was an arrogance in the timing and the fact that the House had not been consulted. No doubt the Minister of State will tell me that, strictly, no rules were broken, but it was an affront to o...

33. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the involvement of members of the Defence Forces, including members of the Naval Service, in the training of the Libyan coast guard in conjunction with the European Union’s Operation Sophia; the details of the training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44038/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Operations)

Deputy Mick Wallace: Operation Pontus, the search and rescue mission, was established as a humanitarian mission with the primary focus being on saving lives. Wonderful work was done and almost 16,000 lives were saved in the Mediterranean. The recent Dáil motion to bring Operation Pontus within the remit of Operation Sophia was a terrible development. The day before the motion was considered, a House of Lords inquiry in the United Kingdom concluded that Operation Sophia had failed in its manda...

34. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on the training exercise which recently took place in Sweden and the outcomes from this training in respect of a new air defence system; the cost of the system; the threats against which this system is directed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44047/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Training)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The Defence Forces attended a live firing practice of the RBS 70 surface to air missile system in Karlskoga, Sweden in May 2017. The main purpose of the live firing shoot, which involved the firing of Defence Forces RBS 70 missiles, was to validate the training and capability of on island Ground Based Air Defence training.
These RBS 70 missiles cannot be test fired on island due to firing range restrictions. Participation in l...

35. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he has considered the reintroduction of the fixed period promotion and service commitment scheme which were successful initiatives up to their withdrawal by his Department in 2013.; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44023/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Personnel)

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Given the major shortfalls emerging in the Defence Forces at certain grades, will the Minister of State consider the reintroduction of at least one mechanism that worked in the past, namely, the fixed period promotion and service commitment scheme, which was done away with by the Department in 2013?
 ...

36. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans on aligning the Defence Forces industrial relations with that of the initial findings of the Garda Síochána working group which was recently approved by Cabinet; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44021/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Representative Organisations)

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: This question relates to the Minister of State’s position on the findings of the senior Garda management report on industrial relations and whether it has implications in regard to the Defence Forces. If the proposals of Garda senior management were adopted by the Defence Forces, does he believe it would be contrary to the European court decision regarding the right to representation?
 ...

37. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views regarding the nomination of a person (details supplied) as chair of the European Union military committee, in particular the way in which this nomination fits with Ireland’s stated military neutrality; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 43973/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Military Neutrality)

Deputy Clare Daly: This question is similar to my earlier one but such is the bounce of the ball in the Priority Question lottery. It relates to the nomination of the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces to the position of chair of the European Union military committee. When the nomination was announced, the Minister of State told us proudly that Ireland is one of the strongest contributors to common security and defence policy operations and that the nomination provides a positive and valuabl...

38. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on a person’s (details supplied) contention contained within their report on health and safety procedures at Casement Aerodrome that they lacked the powers, experience and competence to investigate the allegations made by the whistleblowers; the reason the scope of a review was so limited despite assurances made by him in Dáil Éireann that the review would adequately deal with the allegations made in the protective disclosures received by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44025/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Protected Disclosures)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 38, 47 and 65 together.
The health and welfare of the men and women of the Defence Forces are a priority for me; that is why I ensured that protected disclosures alleging exposure to chemical and toxic substances were investigated by an independent third party. The reviewer’s report has indicated that he felt that given the breadth of the remit of the Terms of Reference he commented in general t...

40. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence when he anticipates the Reserve Defence Force achieving the overall establishment personnel number of 4,169; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 43996/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Reserve Strength)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The White Paper on Defence confirms that the primary role of the Reserve is to augment the Permanent Defence Force in times of crisis. In non-crisis situations, the main focus will be on training to prepare for this role. The Government appreciates the service of the members of the Reserve and the White Paper on Defence is clear that there is a continued requirement to retain and develop the Reserve.
Under the current phase of...

41. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of ceremonial public events that the Defence Forces have participated in alongside members of other military forces, excluding those events associated with our peacekeeping obligations, to date in 2017; the locations where these events took place; the military forces involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 43812/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Ceremonies)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The Defence Forces have provided ceremonial support alongside members of other military forces in a number of ceremonial public events both here and abroad to date in 2017.
The level of participation is determined by my Department in consultation with the Military authorities and is dependent on the scale of the event in question and the availability of Military resources.
On 30 March 2017 in Ballyhaunis, the Defence Forces part...

42. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if there will be a particular emphasis on the Border region due to Brexit in the Army recruitment campaign. (Question 44070/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Recruitment)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): As part of a whole of Government approach, the Department of Defence is engaged in forward planning for the UK exit from the EU. While the full implications for the border will emerge during the course of the negotiations, it is this Government’s stated goal to try to ensure that the current on-island border arrangements are maintained to the greatest extent possible. From the defence perspective, the fact of a UK exit from th...

43. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on the claim that a combined 146,000 days annual leave were lost to members of the Defence Forces in the past five years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 43993/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Allowances)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 43, 58 and 73 together. 
Depending on rank, the annual leave entitlement for officers varies from 31 to 43 days and for non-commissioned officers and privates from 28 to 30 days. Non-Commissioned Officers or Privates filling appointments as Instrumentalists in the establishments of the Defence Forces School of Music may be granted 31 days annual leave and members of the Naval Service serving af...

44. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of members of the Defence Forces who have sought to buy their discharge since January 2016; the reason for this; the response he and senior defence force personnel made to this; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44049/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Strength)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 53 together.
Since January 2016, 446 enlisted personnel have been discharged by purchase (as of 31 August 2017). Almost half of this figure, that is 205, were Recruits. Discharge by Purchase is governed by Defence Forces Regulation A10, which sets out the payment scale in relation to such discharges.
When assessing issues such as turnover of personnel, cognisance must be made of the fact...

45. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on the fact that the 2012 reorganisation of the Defence Forces has meant many personnel have much longer commutes to work, which is a strain on them and their families; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 43994/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Reorganisation)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The current Defence Forces organisational structures have now been in place for almost five years and followed a series of barrack closures (which continued the a rationalisation agenda initiated by previous Governments). The re-organisation of the Defence Forces resulted in a fundamental restructuring of Army Formations and Units across the country including a number of operational posts. This and previous barrack closures we...

46. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the contacts he and his Department have had with the EU institutions and also with other EU member states in the past six months; the nature of their discussions on defence matters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 43811/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Common Security and Defence Policy)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): There is significant ongoing engagement by Ireland with the EU Institutions and with other EU member States on the important area of security and defence. These meetings take place both bilaterally, and within the institutional framework of the European External Action Service, the EU Military Committee and the European Defence Agency.
My officials participate in all meetings of the Political and Security Committee (PSC), the P...

47. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to commission a second review of claims by former Air Corps staff that say their exposure to toxic chemicals from the late 1980s to the early 2000s caused chronic illnesses in view of the fact that the person commissioned to perform the first review (details supplied) has stated that they were not in a position to consider the substances in use or implications for human health arising from such use in view of the fact these issues are outside their competence. (Question 43976/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Protected Disclosures)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 38, 47 and 65 together.
The health and welfare of the men and women of the Defence Forces are a priority for me; that is why I ensured that protected disclosures alleging exposure to chemical and toxic substances were investigated by an independent third party. The reviewer’s report has indicated that he felt that given the breadth of the remit of the Terms of Reference he commented in general t...

48. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to introduce retention policies to reduce the numbers leaving the Permanent Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 43800/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Strength)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 48, 63, 68, 72 and 74 together.
The Government is committed to maintaining the establishment of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel. The rank distribution within the 9,500 PDF establishment was set in 2012 on foot of a reorganisation of the Defence Forces. The White Paper on Defence (2015) confirmed that this organisational structure continues to meet Defence needs. A key challenge ...

49. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the position regarding the new Army recruitment campaign; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44069/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Recruitment)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): I propose to take Questions Nos. 49 and 217 together. 
The Government is committed to maintaining the establishment of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel, comprising of 7,520 Army, 886 Air Corps and 1,094 Naval Service, as stated in the 2015 White Paper on Defence. 
The manpower requirements of the Permanent Defence Force are monitored on an ongoing basis in accordance with the operational requirements of the three ...

50. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on the participation of the Defence Forces in Operation Sophia; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 43974/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Operations)

Deputy Mick Wallace: Operation Pontus, the search and rescue mission, was established as a humanitarian mission with the primary focus being on saving lives. Wonderful work was done and almost 16,000 lives were saved in the Mediterranean. The recent Dáil motion to bring Operation Pontus within the remit of Operation Sophia was a terrible development. The day before the motion was considered, a House of Lords inquiry in the United Kingdom concluded that Operation Sophia had failed in its manda...

51. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans for a peace and leadership institute in the Curragh; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44032/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - White Paper on Defence)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): As you will be aware from my response to your previous PQ 23328/17 on 17 May 2017, the White Paper on Defence included a commitment to evaluating the potential development of a new Institute for Peace Support and Leadership Training at the Defence Forces Training Centre in The Curragh. The Programme for a Partnership Government also included a commitment to developing this Institute. It is foreseen that the new Institute will ...

52. Deputy Brendan Ryan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will report on the results of campaigns to encourage the recruitment of more women into the Defence Forces; if these campaigns are proving successful; his plans to continue these campaigns into 2018; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 44048/17 asked on 18 Oct 2017 - Defence Forces Recruitment)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The Government is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for men and women in the Defence Forces and to the full participation by women in all aspects of Defence Forces activities. This is underlined by a commitment in the Programme for Government to increase the level of female participation in the Defence Forces. A number of specific initiatives have been implemented to increase the level of female participation. These ...