659. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the number of vacancies currently in the Naval Service; his plans to expand the service up to 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 8431/17 asked on 21 Feb 2017)

Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Deputy Paul Kehoe) (Deputy Paul Kehoe): The numerical establishment of the Naval Service is 1,094 personnel. As of the 17th February, 2017, the strength figure stood at 1,056. Plans are in place to run new General Service and Cadet recruitment competitions in the coming weeks. The recruits from these competitions will help fill current vacancies and help reach the overall establishment figure of 9,500 personnel for the combined elements of the Defence Forces. In addition Direct Entry Competitions are held as required so as to fill specialist appointments.

The current Naval Service Ship replacement programme has already seen the replacement of three Naval Service vessels. The White Paper underpins the ongoing replacement of the Naval Service fleet. An agreement was reached in June 2016 for the provision of an additional ship for the Naval Service to be built to the same specifications as the three newest vessels. This ship is scheduled for delivery in mid 2018. The delivery of future Naval Service capabilities is being planned as part of the White Paper project planning process.