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)

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 has the ability to perform the duties expected of them.

Defence Force Regulation A.12 Medical Treatment (Paragraph 75) provides that all members of the Permanent Defence Force shall undergo an annual medical examination. The Defence Forces have advised that some such examinations have occurred outside of the 12 month period but this has not been the case of any personnel over the age of 40 years. In addition, it is necessary to ensure that both new entrants and those deploying overseas are given priority for medical examination. There is no difference in the examination that is carried out before and after attaining the age of 40 years. The outcome of a medical examination may lead to the medical re-classification of the individual concerned by a Medical Board.

The medical examination and classification process within the Permanent Defence Force is important given the challenging nature of the job and the duties associated with military service. It ensures that that operational capability and effectiveness are not compromised in any way. I am advised by the Military Authorities that medical decisions are arrived at with the well-being of the individual being a key concern.

The medical examination is an important health and safety feature and there are no plans to change the current requirements as this could impinge directly on the health and well-being of the individual and, by extension, the capabilities of the Defence Forces.