Thursday, 11 December 1969
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: asked the Minister for Defence if he will explain the procedure adopted in all promotions in the Defence Forces; and if such promotions are on a strict merit basis of service and efficiency.
Mr. J. Gibbons: In accordance with Defence Force Regulations an Officer of the permanent Defence Force may, on the recommendation of the chief of staff, be promoted by me, as Minister, from one rank to the next higher rank. The regulations specify in detail the factors to which the chief of staff must have regard in recommending an officer for promotion. These include his fitness to fill an appointment in the higher rank to which he is to be promoted, his reliability, devotion to duty, zeal, industry and initiative. The chief of staff must also take account of such things as the courses which the officer has successfully completed, his health record and, except in what are known as fixed period promotions, the officer's place in the seniority list.
Under the arrangements for fixed period promotions officers in certain ranks may, after specified periods in those ranks, be promoted to the next higher rank—subject always to their being otherwise qualified and suitable for promotion. Generally fixed period promotions apply only up to the rank of captain but in the case of certain professional officers such as medical officers and engineer officers there is provision for fixed period promotion up to the rank of commandant.
The regulations prescribe that, apart from fixed period promotions, officers may be promoted only to fill vacancies in establishments. There are general regulations and detailed instructions relating to promotion in the non-commissioned ranks of the permanent Defence Force. Promotion in these ranks can be authorised by prescribed military authorities. The prescribed authority for promotion to the rank of sergeant and higher non-commissioned officer rank is the adjutant-general.
Among the factors which must be taken into account in considering men for promotion are length and nature of service, seniority, courses successfully  completed, tests and examinations passed, age, physical fitness, conduct and character. Promotion to the rank of sergeant and higher non-commissioned officer rank is made through the medium of interview boards who examine and place those found suitable for promotion in order of merit. Promotions can be made only to fill authorised vacancies in establishments.
What I have said applies specifically to promotion in the permanent Defence Force. There are separate Defence Force regulations governing promotion in the reserve Defence Force which comprises the first line reserve, An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil and An Slua Muirí. However, the broad principles governing promotion in the permanent Defence Force also apply to promotion in the reserve.
Mr. O.J. Flanagan: May I ask the Minister whether complaints have been received by the Army authorities, and transmitted to the Minister, in connection with promotion and, further, would the Minister explain what he means by authorised promotions? By whom are the promotions authorised? Is it by the Minister, by the chief of staff, or by whom?
Mr. J. Gibbons: The answer to the first supplementary is that I have not received any complaints about promotion. As to the authorising of promotions, I have given the most detailed reply about the actual mechanism of promotion and I do not consider it necessary to expand on it.
Mr. J. Gibbons: Not only do I not agree with what Deputy Flanagan has said but I must say that what does stink is his suggestion that there is anything wrong about promotions in the Army. It is a disgrace that it should come from the Fine Gael benches or from any bench in this House. It is totally untrue and it is a grave reflection on the chief of staff and on the Army generally.
Mr. J. Gibbons: I must deplore this attempt by the Fine Gael Deputies to suggest there is something wrong with the process of promotions in the Army. If there is something wrong with the mechanism of promotions, if there is something questionable about those promotions, let the Deputies bring those things which are questionable in here where they can be examined; but those vague, blanket accusations of something being wrong without any substantiation is a disgrace on the part of any person elected to represent the people in this country.
Mr. Desmond: Would the Minister be prepared to state unequivocally, as is the practice in one major State-sponsored body, Aer Lingus, that where political representations are made in writing to him or to his Department by, say, a Member of a House of the Oireachtas requesting special consideration in terms of promotion, automatically such a person or such an officer referred to would be debarred from consideration?
Mr. J. Gibbons: As I have said in my reply, the recommendations are made to me by the chief of staff in the matter of the promotion of officers. The final responsibility rests with me and I am very glad to say that neither I nor my predecessor has interfered in any way in the manner of the promotion of the most suitable officer for every vacancy except in so far as the Minister sees that justice is done and that the Army promotion procedure and the officer structure of the Army are maintained at their very high level. If Deputies of the Fine Gael Party or the Labour Party want to suggest to me that we could attain an officer corps in the Irish Army of such a superlatively high level as we  have got at the present time under a system which is in any way corrupt I think it is a very unbecoming suggestion to make.
Mr. J. Gibbons: Deputy Flanagan's question derives from Deputy Byrne's suggestion that there is something intrinsically wrong and that there is some kind of improper influence in the matter of Army promotions. It is a disgrace and they should be ashamed of themselves for making those allegations.
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