Home > Dáil Éireann debate. Questions 92 & 93 – Defence Forces [42591/23] [42549/23].

[Oireachtas] Dáil Éireann debate. Questions 92 & 93 – Defence Forces [42591/23] [42549/23]. (03 Oct 2023)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/question/2023...

  1. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Defence when he expects to have the staffing capacity to have more than one naval vessel at sea; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


  1. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Defence the plans he has to strengthen the Irish Naval Service and Air Corps so that they can properly patrol Irish waters in relation to intercepting drug consignments being transported through our waters, enforcing fishery laws as well as assisting in search and rescue missions off our coast; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


Micheál Martin, Tánaiste and Minister for Defence: I propose to take Questions Nos. 92 and 93 together.


Staffing difficulties in the Defence Forces and, in particular in the Naval Service, have been acknowledged. There are specific challenges in the recruitment and retention of specialists as there are competing demands from other sectors. This is particularly evident in the Naval Service where the skills developed by the highly trained personnel are in very high demand in a buoyant employment market.


Notwithstanding this, the Naval Service, which is tasked with a variety of defence and other roles assigned by Government, continues to fulfil these roles. These include fishery protection in accordance with our obligations as a member of the EU, and a range of other tasks including contraband interdiction duties, search and rescue, and maritime defence and security operations. This activity is augmented by the Air Corps Maritime Patrol Squadron) using the two CASA CN 235 maritime patrol aircraft, equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance and communication equipment.


My officials and their Defence Forces colleagues also continue to engage with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications in relation to the protection of Ireland’s offshore infrastructure. This undertaking also requires international cooperation, shared responsibilities, and mutual trust. To this end, Ireland is engaged in three PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) projects, which aim to identify gaps in capabilities, and develop a technological solution for the protection of undersea infrastructure, sea lines of communication and harbour protection.


I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the excellent work of the Joint Task Force last week in the successful detention of the cargo vessel MV MATTHEW. Working with the Revenue Customs Service and An Garda Síochána, who have overall responsibility for the prevention of drug trafficking and crime, the Defence Forces, across the three services demonstrated their unique skills and professionalism in providing key roles to successfully deliver this operation.


To counter staffing challenges in the Defence Forces, a range of measures continue to be implemented including ongoing General Service and Direct entry specialist recruitment. Specific targeted initiatives for the Air Corps have seen a dedicated General Service recruitment initiative, and more recently a Trainee Military Aircraft Systems Technician competition.


The Naval Service, in an effort to maximise the recruit pool, has paused psychometric testing for Naval Service General Service recruitment pilot basis for 6 months with an analysis of the revised approach to follow. A specific Naval Service recruitment campaign is in train, and a contract has recently been awarded to a marine specialist recruitment body to target individuals with the skills and expertise required by the Naval Service. A specialist external company has recently been engaged to validate and assess the Defence Forces current recruitment process and to identify possible opportunities for improvement of the current Defence Forces process. Initial focus will be on the Naval Service.


Government has also introduced a range of financial and non-financial retention measures such as service commitment schemes in the Air Corps and the Naval Service, tax measures, the extension of private secondary medical care to all Defence Forces personnel, and significant progress on pay, which compares favourably with other areas in the Public Service.

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