Vote 46: Defence.

Tuesday, 28 February 1978

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 304 No. 3

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Minister for Defence (Mr. Molloy): Information on Robert Molloy  Zoom on Robert Molloy  I move:

That a sum not exceeding £100,201,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1978, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Defence, including certain services administered by that Office; for the pay and expenses of the Defence Forces; and for payment of certain grants-in-aid.

The Estimate for Defence for the financial year 1978 is a sum of £100,201,000 of which the sum of £72,229,000 is provided for pay and allowances. By way of comparison, the original net estimate for the financial year 1977 was £85,223,000 which was increased to £87,386,000 by reason of a transfer of £2,163,000 from the Vote for Remuneration to meet the cost of pay increases during 1977. [428] The Estimate is, in effect, £12,815,000 more than the provision for last year. Of this sum, increased pay and allowances and increased army strengths account for £7,278,000 and the balance of £5,537,000 is attributable mainly to increased provisions for stores and equipment and increased prices.

The Estimate provides for an average strength of 1,450 officers, 113 cadets and 13,500 men, that is a total of 15,063, in the Permanent Defence Force. At the end of December last the strength figure was slightly over 14,700. I am glad to say that the health of the troops is good, discipline is satisfactory and morale is high. To all components of the Defence Forces —the Regulars, the Army Nursing Service, and the Reserve—I am very glad to pay tribute for the excellent manner in which they carried out their duties. They have the gratitude and appreciation of the Government and, I feel sure, of the House and of the community generally.

The terms of the 1977 National Agreement have been applied to the pay of all ranks and the current rates for men range from £51.71 a week for a recruit to £88.43 a week for a Sergeant-Major. The pay of single and married officers was fully equalised during 1977 in line with similar adjustments elsewhere in the Public Service. Single men's pay was consolidated last year and they now receive the same rates of pay as their married counter-parts, deductions being made from the single men living in barracks, in respect of food and accommodation. Children's allowances were increased for all ranks in 1977 and now stand at £55 a year for each eligible child. Allowances are paid to all personnel for Border duty and special security duties outside the Border area.

Proposals in regard to the reorganisation of the Defence Forces have been under examination for some time past. Arising from this examination the military command areas were re-drawn in 1977 so as to provide for a new Curragh Command, comprising the former Curragh Training Camp and the southern area of the former Eastern Command. The remaining proposals for reorganisation are at an advanced stage in my Department. Urgent consideration in [429] this regard is being given to the position of the Air Corps and Naval Service because of their commitments to patrol the much enlarged maritime area resulting from the extension of the fishery limits.

The question of establishing a Women's Service Corps as part of the Defence Forces is under active consideration. It is likely that I will be introducing an amending Defence Bill on this subject in the near future.

No effort is being spared to improve the general levels of education and technical training in the Defence Forces. A total of 124 cadets and officers are pursuing full-time degree courses at University College, Galway. Members of the Permanent Defence Force who attend third level courses of education in their own time are refunded the tuition and examination fees involved. Non-commissioned officers and privates who undergo courses leading to the Department of Education day group certificate examination are refunded the cost of books and examination fees. A scheme also exists whereby personnel are registered with AnCO as apprentices in various trades such as fitter, motor mechanic, sheet metal worker, brick-layer, plasterer and painter-decorater. These personnel attend either full-time off-the-job training courses or day release courses. I am at present examining other schemes with a view to providing additional educational opportunities for non-commissioned officers and privates.

In order to ensure that the Defence Forces are kept abreast of modern military developments in techniques and equipment, members of the Permanent Defence Force are assigned to courses in other countries. During 1977 courses were attended in Britain, Germany, France and the United States and it is proposed that further such courses will be attended in the current year.

Forty-eight cadets were appointed from competitions held during 1977 for the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service. There are at present 115 cadets in training, about 60 of whom are expected to be commissioned later in the year; 96 apprenticeships in the [430] Army and Air Corps were awarded during 1977.

Games and physical training have a special place in Army life. Sports competitions are held at Unit and Command level and, where possible, matches are arranged with representative sides such as the Garda, universities, and others. As an indication of the importance which I attach to sports and athletics I have included a provision of £40,000 under subhead 01 for the purchase of sports equipment. A sum of £20,000 is included under subhead DD in respect of the acquisition of lands and premises specifically for sporting purposes.

An Army team took part in an international orienteering competition in Switzerland in 1977. It is expected that Army teams will participate in further competitions during 1978 organised by CISM, the International Military Sports Council. It is also proposed that the CISM cross-country championships should be held in this country in 1979.

All-Army gymnastic competitions are held annually and adventure training clubs have been established in each Command. Adventure training includes activities such as sub-aqua swimming, mountaineering, boating, sailing and canoeing. Swimming baths are hired regularly and swimming instruction is included in the recruit training syllabus.

A provision of £175,000 has been made for the Equitation School (subhead N) including £100,000 for the purchase of horses. Last year eight horses were purchased at a cost of £98,400. During 1977 Army riders and horses competed in international shows at Dublin, Chepstow, Erkrath (Germany), Vienna. Rotterdam, Ostende, Hickstead, Aachen, Le Baule, Wembley, Munich and Waldeck and in an international three day event at Wylye. Our riders obtained 17 first places at the various shows including the winning of the Nations' Cup at Dublin and Rotterdam. In addition, 48 horse shows, gymkanas and three day events were attended at home. The total prize money won in 1977 was about £16,000.

The helicopter service, as well as playing an important role in security operations, has provided its customary rescue, ambulance and other services. [431] In search and rescue 28 missions were flown last year as a result of which nine lives were directly saved. Ninety-six ambulance missions were completed. A major activity of the Defence Forces during 1977 involved the provision of assistance to the Garda Síochána. The prime duty of a democratically elected Government is to ensure that the people of the State can go about their legitimate business in safety. The Government are resolved to take all necessary measures to discharge this duty.

The extent to which the Army were involved in security duties during 1977 may be gleaned from the following statistics: (a) About 5,700 military parties were supplied for checkpoint duties and they helped gardaí to set up over 10,700 joint Garda-Army checkpoints; (b) More than 13,300 patrols were sent out into the road network along the Border. These patrols are equipped with radio and can be directed to the scene of a Border incident by radio; (c) Escorts for explosives and blasting operations were provided on about 1,200 occasions; (d) About 300 requests for bomb disposal teams were handled during the year. In addition, a number of vital non-military installations are under permanent military guard and others are protected by military patrols.

The Army also provide guards and escorts for civilian prisoners and help in searches for arms, ammunition and explosives. These duties impose heavy demands on the Permanent Forces and I would like to take this opportunity of acknowledging the assistance available from An Fóras Cosanta Áitiúil an An Slua Muirí in meeting these demands. I am sure Deputies will join with me in expressing appreciation of the efforts of the members of these forces. Their unselfish giving up of their free time to serve their country is a first class example to our youth and I would urge as many young men as possible to join An Fórsa or An Slua.

The increased level of expenditure on stores and equipment in the past few years has strengthened the capability of the Defence Forces. Further substantial purchases are provided for in the present Estimate. The gross sum [432] included in the Estimate for items other than pay and allowances is £30,859,000, that is, an increase of £7,664,000 on the provision for 1977. The increases arise mainly under the following subheads: subhead J, Defensive Equipment (£1.807 million); subhead J, Mechanical Transport (£0.500 million); subhead K, Provisions (£0.573 million); subhead 01, General Stores (£1.577 million); subhead 02, Helicopters (£0.360 million); subhead P, Naval Stores (£0.575 million); and subhead S, Buildings (£0.850 million).

The provision of £2,887,000 under Appropriations-in-Aid shows an increase of £2,127,000 as compared with 1977 due mainly to increased receipts in respect of rations and accommodation arising from the consolidation of single men's pay.

The defensive equipment which is being provided for this year includes five armoured personnel carriers which are being manufactured by Adtec Teoranta, Gibbstown, County Meath. I am particularly happy about this breakthrough for home industry and its consequent effect on the maintenance of employment.

Also included under this heading is a provision of £200,000 as a down payment on four tanks. Deputies will appreciate that it is essential that the Army be familiar with and, as far as possible, be provided with modern weapons. The purchase of the tanks, as proposed will ensure that knowledge and skill in the uses of up-to-date tracked armoured vehicles can be developed among Army personnel. They will also, of course, provide an added operational capability. Last year ten new trainer aircraft were delivered to the Air Corps. A programme to improve aerodrome facilities is under way and provision is included for the continuation of a scheme which will provide more modern navigational facilities at Casement Aerodrome.

In the past year the Naval Service has been called on to perform a much more positive and vigorous role in its special task of fishery protection, a task made all the more difficult because of the greatly expanded area to be patrolled as a result of the introduction of a 200-mile fishery limit. [433] Immediate back-up surveillance was provided by the Air Corps by means of an aircraft specially chartered for this purpose.

I have given much thought to the needs of both the Naval Service and the Air Corps in the context of their increased duties. A second all-weather fishery protection vessel was brought into commission in January this year and I have arranged for the construction by Verolme Cork Dockyard Ltd. of a third vessel of similar design which I anticipate will be delivered by mid-1979. I am pleased to say this order was of significant help in the maintenance of employment at Verolme. The short term measures taken last year, that is the chartering of a ship and an aircraft, will of course be continued this year to augment existing resources.

I would regard the third vessel contracted for as another phase of an expansion programme which would provide a total of eight specially designed protection vessels. By that stage I expect the three minesweepers will have been withdrawn from patrol duties. It is also proposed to expand the Air Corps capability for air surveillance by the acquisition over the same period of aircraft suitably equipped for this purpose. An additional sum of over £2 million is being provided in the Estimates this year further to expand our fishery protection capability. The net allocation this year for building and maintenance works is £2.850 million. This represents a substantial increase on last year's net provision of £2 million and will enable a valuable contribution to be made towards the Government's job-creation programme.

Many works to improve standards of accommodation and facilities for the Defence Forces both at work and when off-duty were carried out last year. These included the completion of six new men's billets, each with recreational space, and an aircraft landing strip at Finner Camp, County Donegal, a new system built apprentice school at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, alterations and improvements to the NCOs and officers' messes at McKee Barracks, Dublin, and the continuation of a programme [434] to improve standards in men's billets in Collins Barracks, Cork.

Some of the more significant works in progress at present include the construction of 50 houses for married soldiers at the Curragh Camp, County Kildare, an apprentices' canteen at Devoy Barracks, Naas, new billets at Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy, the provision of two squash courts at the naval base, Haulbowline, the second stage of a programme of major building works at Dundalk Barracks, and works at Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel, to repair runways and hangars and replace existing water mains.

Among the works planned to commence during 1978 are provision of new married quarters at McGee Barracks, Kildare, and Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin, further billets and a sports centre at Finner Camp, a new dininghall and cookhouse for MacDonagh and Pearse Barracks, Curragh, a new billet block at Dún Uí Mhaoiliosa, Galway, the provision of central heating for Collins Barracks, Dublin, the provision of two billet blocks, new sewerage system and a central heating boiler house at Gormanston Camp, the third stage of the development programme at Dundalk Barracks including the building of a three storey men's billet block and a new cookhouse and dininghall, the provision of central heating for men's billets at Collins Barracks, Cork, and the building of a further billet at Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy. It is also planned to provide houses for married soldiers stationed at Dún Uí Mhaoiliosa, Galway. There is no suitable housing site on State lands at the barracks, but the Department are exploring the possibility of obtaining serviced sites from the Galway Country Manager on local authority lands at Ballybaan.

In addition, the building of a new billet block at the Curragh Camp, for the Women's Service Corps is under active consideration. Plans for the reconstruction of Ceannt Barracks, Curragh, and the provision of workshops to improve the facilities available in each command for vehicle maintenance are currently being formulated I take this opportunity to acknowledge the co-operation shown [435] by various local authorities in allocating houses to serving soldiers.

In subhead G. of the Defence Estimate provision for a net sum of £504,000 for Civil Defence. The amount voted last year was £401,000. Civil Defence is an inescapable obligation in the context of overall national defence. The importance the Government attach to it was emphasised recently by the appointment of a Minister of State at the Department of Defence and the delegation to him of the sole responsibility, in the defence area, for Civil Defence.

The Civil Defence organisation, made up as it is of volunteer personnel, deserves every encouragement and I am glad to acknowledge here the contribution made by the local authorities in its development and organisation. Country managers recently attended a seminar on Civil Defence which was held at the Civil Defence school in the Phoenix Park. From the proceedings there I am happy to say that it is clear that we can continue to rely on their wholehearted co-operation in the future development of the service.

£388,000 of the sum provided is accounted for by the cost of grants to local authorities at the rate of 70 per cent of their outlay on Civil Defence functional administration, on the recruitment and training of volunteers and on the storage, servicing and maintenance of equipment and so on. The subhead also provides for the purchase of new Civil Defence uniforms and equipment and for the replacement of existing equipment. The co-operation of the Irish Red Cross Society, the Order of Malta and the St. John's Ambulance Brigade with the Civil Defence organisation has continued to be most effective and I am grateful to those societies for their contribution.

The sail training vessel Creidne will again carry out a full programme of sail training cruises this year and about 300 boys and girls will have the worth-while experience of a cruise on the vessel. In May Creidne will be participating in an international rally of sail training vessels in Scotland and in August the vessel will be taking part [436] in the big event of this year's season— an international race from Yarmouth to Oslo Fjord which will be followed by a parade of sail of tall ships from Horten in the Oslo Fjord to Oslo. These international events will provide the young people on Creidne with an opportunity of competing against and mixing with their contemporaries on sail training vessels from other countries.

My Department recently entered into a contract with John Tyrrell and Sons Ltd. to have the proposed new sail training vessel built by the company. I understand that building will commence about April and will be completed in 1980. It has been decided that the vessel will be named Asgard II. Rigged as a brigantine, it will be a fine vessel of timber hull and masts, measuring 84 feet in length overall and 21 feet in beam with a draft of 9½ feet. Capable of carrying a complement of 25 persons, Asgard II will add a new dimension to sail training in this country and will be a vessel of which we can all be very proud, particularly when she represents us at international sail training events abroad.

The question of arranging for the future of the historic yacht, Asgard, which is no longer seaworthy, is under active consideration in my Department. A number of possibilities are being examined and a decision will be made shortly.

Mar is eol do Theachtaí, bunaíodh an Chéad Chathlán atá ag cur fúthu i mBeairic na Rinne Móire, Gaillimh, mar aonad a labhraíonn Gaeilge i gcoitinne. Úsáidtear ouid mhaith Gaeilge faoi láthair í ngníomhaíochtaí an Airm ó lá go lá ach ba mhaith liom í a fheiceáil á húsáid níos minicí. F aoi láthair tá moltaí faoi mo bhráid chun tuilleadh cainteoirí dúchais a thógáil sa Chéad Chathlán agus chun na críche sin tá mo Roinn chun feachtas earcaíochta a thosú go gairid a bheidh dírithe go príomha ar na nuachtáin áitiúla agus ar Radio na Gaeltachta. Tá moltaí faoi mo bhráid freisin chun úsáid na Gaeilge a spreagadh ar fud an Airm fré chéile.

I would like to mention that personnel of the Permanent Defence Force continue to serve abroad with United Nations peace-keeping missions. [437] Twenty officers are attached as observers to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation in the Middle East. A further officer is serving in the post of senior staff officer in that organisation. One officer and four non-commissioned officers continue to serve in staff appointments with the United Nations Peace-keeping Force in Cyprus. In addition, as Deputies are aware, Major-General James Quinn of the Permanent Defence Force fills the top appointment of Commander of the United Nations Force in Cyprus.

As regards the recoupment of expenses the position in regard to participation in the Cyprus force is that claims to the total value of about £4.600 million have been made and payments totalling £3.700 million have been received. This leaves a sum of £900,000 outstanding. I should perhaps, mention that during the financial year 1977 payments totalling over £50,000 were received.

Under the special financial arrangements governing the United Nations Emergency Force in the Middle East, with which Irish Defence Forces contingents served from October 1973 to May 1974, a sum of slightly over £500,000 has been received covering pay, allowances and personal equipment. Claims in respect of contingent stores and equipment have been presented and are the subject of discussions with the United Nations authorities. A satisfactory outcome is expected.

The Army Pensions Estimate, which is also before the House, is for a net sum of £14,282,000. The corresponding figure for last year—including a supplementary Estimate of £250,000—was £13,270,000. This represents a net increase of £1,012,000. Included in the Estimate is a sum of £264,000 to meet the cost of the increase in pensions and allowances which will take effect from the 1 July 1978, in accordance with the principle of maintaining parity in public service pensions.

The main increases in the Estimate as compared with last year are £149,000 for wound and disability pensions in subhead B, £182,000 in subhead C, allowances and gratuities to dependants, [438] and £1,492,000 for new pensions and gratuities in subhead E for members of the Permanent Defence Force. Subhead E provides also for payment of the pensions under the new contributory and ex-gratia scheme for the widows and children of soldiers.

Subhead M—Free Travel, Free Electricity and Television Licences— shows an increase of £99,000, due mainly to the increased cost of bus and rail fares which came into effect last year.

These increases are offset by a reduction of £153,000 in subhead H, a decrease of £72,000 in subhead D and an estimated increase of £718,857 in Appropriations-in-Aid. The additional Appropriations-in-Aid represent the contributions to the new pension scheme for the widows and children of soldiers which will be payable by members of the scheme by means of deductions from pay and gratuity.

Deputies may be interested to know that under subhead C provision is made for 4,300 widows of military service pensioners who receive allowances equal to one-half of their deceased husbands' pensions, calculated by reference to current rates and subject to a minimum of £138.12 a year The average rate of allowance is £205 a year.

In subhead H the number of special allowances payable to veterans of the War of Independence continues to show a downward trend. Regrettably the number of deaths is in excess of new awards. There are at present 7,600 on pay and the average rate of allowance works out at £291 a year.

As Deputies are aware from the budget statement of the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, the following additional concessions will be provided from July 1978, in the case of veteran of the War of Independence: (a) ex tension of free travel to the spouses o veterans in their own right; (b) an increase in the funeral grant from £50 to £100; (c) telephone rental subsidy scheme on the same conditions a apply to old age pensioners.

Towards the end of last year I in troduced new pension schemes—con tributory and ex-gratia—for the widow and children of deceased soldiers Membership of the contributor [439] scheme is optional for all soldiers who were seving at any time between 1 June 1977 and 31 January 1978 and is compulsory for all soldiers enlisting on or after 1 February 1978. The ex-gratia scheme which came into operation on 1 January 1978 applies to the widows of soldiers who (a) died in service before 1 June 1977 with not less than five years' service, or; (b) retired on pension or or before 1 June 1977. Six widows have been awarded contributory pensions and 619 widows have been awarded ex-gratia pensions to date.

If there are any matters on which Deputies require further information I will be glad to supply the necessary details in the course of my reply to the debate.

Mr. White: Information on James White  Zoom on James White  I welcome this, my first opportunity in my capacity as spokesman on Defence, to contribute to a debate on Defence matters. At the outset I compliment the Minister on the script he prepared. It is not my intention to knock the Minister in any way but rather to be as constructive as possible in any criticism I may put forward. It is my hope that the Minister and I can work together, with the common interest of the betterment of the men of the armed forces, the Navy and the Air Corps.

I wish too, to express my gratitude to the Department of Defence for the co-operation they have given me so far and also putting at my disposal the services of a competent civil servant. In this regard perhaps other Ministers have a lot to learn. The Minister's decision to make this civil servant available may have come from his experience in Opposition and from his realising that the proper back-up service is not available to enable us to talk on broad and varied subjects. I trust that other Ministers will take note of what this Minister has done to help remedy that situation. It may be good propaganda on the part of the Minister to have begun in this way because the more we know the less we will have to ask about. However, each of us should know as much as possible about the subjects in which we are interested.

[440] Having said that, it may appear now as if I am going on to criticise the Minister but so far as any criticism on my part is concerned, I am only trying to be helpful. There are some matters in respect of which I am disappointed. I am referring to the promises in the Fianna Fáil manifesto in regard to Defence but perhaps I should allow for the time element involved since the Minister has not been in office for very long. There were six items in this sphere that were referred to in the manifesto. First, there was the promise of a new code of administration in relation to military law. The Minister has touched briefly on that. Secondly, there was promised the establishment of a women's service corps and that is something I shall be referring to later. Thirdly, the manifesto referred to the introduction of a new and fair system of promotion. That was introduced by the last Government but Fianna Fáil have so far done nothing in this regard. Fourthly, there was an undertaking to reduce the age limits to more realistic levels. I am very disappointed that there has been no reference to that item. Fifthly, there was a promise to provide for access to Army hospitals for retired servicemen and, sixthly, there was promised a training scheme to prepare those due for discharge for outside employment and for assistance for educational grants to help those who are discharged. Only two of those items have been touched on. The last one mentioned is certainly not the least important. More time should be devoted to preparing people for life outside the Army. The change in life-style can be difficult in many cases because these men have been protected to some extent from the outside world by reason of their living in Army accommodation and so on.

I have always maintained that an army in any country is an insurance policy. During the past seven or eight years our Army has proved to be a very good insurance policy. We should express our appreciation of the job done during those difficult times by the Army, the Naval Service and the Air Corps.

The Estimate this year is for just more than £100 million. In addition, there is a sum of £14,500,000 for Army [441] pensions. I note that of the £100 million about 72 per cent would go towards pay and conditions. This is welcome but the remaining sum is not enough. I will deal with this point later on. It is worth mentioning that the 1969-70 Estimate was for £14.4 million. It is an absolute disgrace that up to that time the Defence Forces were treated like an earthworm. They had no head and nobody told them where they were going. They were working on a very limited budget. It is due in no small measure to Deputy Flanagan and Deputy Donegan that we now have an Estimate of £114 million. This sum is still not enough. In countries not much bigger than this they spend sums of this size on one item of equipment. We still do not have the necessary modern equipment.

Since 1973 our strength has risen by just over 3,000 and the establishment to this year was just 14,000. I welcome the fact that the establishment is now to be increased to over 15,000. According to my information, on I December 1977 the strength of the Army was 13,400, the strength of the Naval Service was 650 and of the Air Corps 720, giving a total of 14,783. We have First Line defences of 488 and reserves stand at 18,787.

I should like to ask the Minister what the function of our Defence Forces will be in future years. Our strength is now 15,000, but this is a comparative peacetime effort. Does the Minister envisage, if the peacetime effort continues, that the Army will be extended to more than 15,000? I will deal with the matter of the Naval Service and the Air Corps later on. If the Minister envisages that the Army will be extended, what function will they have? Will we send more of our people abroad on UN missions or does the Minister envisage that the establishment will be decreased instead of increased? The Army has been a cinderella department and I am delighted to see that a lot more money is being provided now.

Probably our Army have the worst accommodation of any army in Europe. I note that new billets are being arranged in different places but conditions in some of the barracks I have visited were shocking. Whether [442] I am Opposition spokesman or whether I am on that side of the House, I say it is the duty of the Minister to see that more money is spent on improving facilities. If we are to have a good Army, we must give them the best possible facilities. At least one of our barracks was built in Napoleonic times, about a couple of hundred years ago.

I had the pleasure of visiting the naval base at Haulbowline. I was impressed up to a point but I was distressed to see that no planning had gone into the Naval Service until about four years ago. We are now faced with a situation comparable to the hen and the egg. If we get more boats we have not the men to man them and if we get more men we may not have enough boats. This is a shocking situation. What will be the specific role of the Naval Service in future years? The men in that service expect to know. Will they be mainly concerned with fishery protection and in the foreseeable future will their job be the protection of our 200-mile fishing limit? It is unbelievable that up to four years ago our Naval Service was just allowed to drift. Deputy Donegan saw that this service would need a lot of attention.

One of the greatest worries in Haulbowline concerns the number of trainees who opt out for better jobs, particularly in the Cork area, once they are trained. Whether this training is provided by AnCO or by the Naval Service, we should double or treble the number of trainees. This is an investment in the future. If some of them opt out the country will benefit indirectly, even if the Department of Defence do not get the direct benefit. Possibly an arrangement could be made whereby the Department of Labour would give some money to the Department of Defence so that they could train 200 or 300 more people than at present. If there are vacancies we should train people to fill them.

I am disappointed about the number of cadets taken into the Naval Service last year. According to my information there were only ten. If we are serious, not just about the military role of the Naval Service but about manning the ships which are on order, we must increase our cadet force substantially.

I had the pleasure of visiting minesweepers [443]Setanta, Deirde and Eimear. Everybody welcomes these new boats. The Eimear was built for fishery protection within a 200-mile zone and I cannot understand why a helicopter pad was not provided. I would ask the Minister to see that the new ship to be completed in 1979 will have a helicopter pad. Two hundred miles is quite a distance from our shores and if a trawler or one of our own boats get into trouble we will have to launch a rescue operation. We need helicopter pads in order to help people who are in trouble. The Minister and I come from seafaring areas and we appreciate that at times trawlers and other boats get into trouble and we need the facilities to help them.

I welcome the two squash courts mentioned by the Minister. He also referred to sub-aqua diving. I was disappointed to learn that at Haulbowline they have not a full-time diving instructor. When we are training our young people to man our ships they should be given diving instructions and also training in sub-aqua diving so that they can look after any problems they may have under water. I do not see any money provided for the naval pier at Cobh during the coming year. Some of the workshops need to be modernised. The facilities there are not what we would expect to see when people are fitting out and preparing modern ships such as we expect they will have to do in the future.

Our radio and radar services could be improved. I realise there is a lot of liaison between the air corps and the naval units. I am disappointed that the 75 per cent grant we are getting on the boats is not being spent on buying equipment for fishery protection. It is not being extended to the running costs of helicopters, planes and the fishery protection units. When the Minister for Fisheries spoke on the Estimate he seemed to hold out this big carrot of £30 million that he was getting from the EEC. I believe he sold our souls when he went to Brussels. That £30 million has been given over a period of at least five years. We are talking about £6 million a year for five years and this may have to extend even further.

[444] What exactly is the Minister for Fisheries talking about? He said we would have to patrol a few hours' steaming from our ports. This leaves out altogether the 200-mile zone. I understand that this few hours' steaming means that we will be talking about a six-, a 12- or a 15-mile limit. Can the Minister for Defence tell me what he has got to see patrolled as far as a few hours' steaming is concerned? Does he envisage that he will have to patrol a 200-mile limit? If a boat leaves Killybegs and takes two hours to sail ten miles or 15 miles out to sea that could still mean that it would be only be a mile out from the Mayo coast. I want to know exactly what the Minister for Fisheries is talking about when he talks about a few hours' steaming.

I realise what he is talking about when he talks about the size of the boat. If the boats are bigger than the size mentioned, is it the duty of the Department of Defence to take in our EEC boats and bring them through the courts here? The Minister spoke about quotas. Is it our job to check up on the different quotas? If we are told that a country has now got its quota do we ban, for example, all the French boats within the 200-mile limit? Is it then our job to bring all the French boats into our port and summons them? What is the Minister for Fisheries talking about? If ever there was anything dangerous for the country it was the danger of Fianna Fáil getting so many seats in the last election. We saw an example of it two weeks ago when the Minister for Fisheries steamrolled his way through the Dáil. He did not give one iota as far as the fishermen are concerned. I respectfully suggest that if Fianna Fáil only had a majority of two or three our 50-mile limit would not be gone. We have sold out one of the best natural resources we had.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Deputy can deal with patrols and protection but he certainly cannot go into fisheries. That is a job for another Minister.

Mr. White: Information on James White  Zoom on James White  As far as this Estimate is concerned we are talking about fishery protection vessels.

[445]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Deputy is moving away from it.

Mr. White: Information on James White  Zoom on James White  I will try to stay within the 200-mile limit. I have made my point as far as fishery protection is concerned. What does a few hours' steaming mean? I want to know about the size of the boats and I want to know if it is the duty of the Department of Defence to summons the people who have gone over the quotas concerned? The British took their own action but we did not take ours. I am sure the Chair will be glad to know that I intend to go on to the Air Corps now and leave the fishery protection units alone.

I had the pleasure of visiting Baldonnel. I was delighted to visit such a historic airfield. This goes back in the history of aviation as far as America-to-Ireland flying is concerned. I do not want to repeat myself but I could not believe the lack of planning as far as the Department of Defence are concerned. I am not blaming the Minister as he is only in office for nine months. I hope by the time his period in office is over that I will be able to compliment him instead of saying that the lack of planning in all sections is unbelievable.

A lot of new sleeping accommodation is required. I was disappointed to see the small number of cadets that have been taken on over the last few years. There is a fine fishery protection patrol plane at Baldonnel. I am very disappointed that the Minister has not announced that another one has been ordered. We have heard a lot of talk about this wonderful subvention of £30 million. We should see that we buy the next fishery protection aircraft instead of chartering one. It should be parallel to the one we have.

I am sure that every Deputy knows that a lot of maintenance of planes is required. Another one of those planes, which seem to be very suitable for patrolling our fisheries, should be provided within the next few months before we talk about patrolling a 200-mile limit. Photographic equipment should be provided in those planes so that they can then show something they have seen.

[446] I am disappointed that some consideration has not been given to dual-purpose helicopters. I do not want to harp so much on fishery protection but if we are talking about boats getting into difficulties we have to talk about dual-purpose helicopters. We have to talk about the helicopter that can come down on the sea, fly off in a couple of minutes and come down on land as well. I know these machines are expensive. Recently I saw one abroad and they seem to be first-class machines. So far, we have only talked of single-rotor helicopters. I also saw the French aircraft which I believe are very good. Everybody seems to think they are well worth while.

As regards the Air Corps and Finner Camp which is the next constituency to mine, more thought should be given to the erection of a proper radio-control tower there with proper radio equipment. I take it we shall be talking on the basis that the main function, more or less, of the Air Corps in future years will be that of fishery protection. Probably it is a pity that this happened and possibly the Minister when replying will enlighten me in regards to the Air Corps.

As regards training more pilots. I realise that in the past 18 months or so quite a few of our Air Corps pilots have opted out and joined civilian concerns such as Aer Lingus. This is only reasonable. The conditions have not been as good as in civilian life. We must seriously consider that if we are to train top pilots for serious and perhaps dangerous work, travelling in all kinds of weather, there should be a complete review of the pay structure. We shall have to consider giving the same rates as they can get in civilian work. It is unfair to think that we could keep good men if we do not give them good pay and conditions. A good deal of thought and probably action is required there.

Many Army billets are certainly not up to modern standards, with bad, cold conditions and leaking roofs. Bad accommodation seems to be the greatest complaint I found when I visited different parts. Possibly an even greater complaint is that the Department [447] have not studied the problem of permanent housing in relation to the Army. There are different problems here. First, the Department supply houses on Department land and this is fine until the officers or men have to leave. They are then expected to find other accommodation which is very hard to get. Secondly, Army personnel are often expected to find their own accommodation outside the camp, as they are doing. Many of them seem to live in small flats and may have one or two in the family. They are not high enough on the priority list to be housed by urban or county councils. The Minister should consider a new housing scheme for the Army. This can and should be done. There is nothing to stop somebody who is signing on with the Army for a period having a deposit paid by the Department and the deeds being signed over to the Department until the deposit is repaid. All the houses do not have to be on what we may call Army land. The Department could show initiative, show that their men deserve good houses. The only way they can get good houses is by buying outside sites because the Department have not got land. Some scheme could be worked out whereby the NBA or some such body would guarantee payment. They have the means at their disposal to see that people who get into this kind of transaction would not run away because the deeds could be transferred. I am dealing very briefly with the matter now but next time when the Estimate comes up I shall expect the Minister to be looking ahead to see that the men are properly housed and not living in the terrible conditions in which many of them now seem to live.

I was disappointed that last year— again, I cannot blame the Minister— the number of cadets went down from about 60 to about 30. I hope that number will be substantially increased in the coming year. I know many young men at present are very interested in joining the cadets and should be given the opportunity. I believe in trying to get as many young men as possible into the Army; it seems to make men out of them.

[448] As regards Army weapons, I welcome the Minister's decision to order Timoney carriers and I am also glad that he told me in reply to a question that these carriers will have revolving turrets and will not be used merely as a sort of land rover to carry soldiers from one place to another. I think the time has gone to talk of land rovers in relation to the Army. I also welcome the announcement that money has been allocated for the buying of tanks. In my travels recently I noticed that very suitable tanks are produced in Sweden. Their main attribute in relation to this country is that they are very suitable for crossing wet land in contrast to some tanks which are too heavy for this purpose. I am told the Swedish tank is very suitable. I believe that the British Chieftain is a tank which is also good in the Middle East and if any area knows what weapons are all about the Middle East should know. Again, probably the Minister has it in mind but I would like to take the opportunity during the summer of visiting places in the Middle East and seeing the type of arms and sophisticated machinery they have. I do not say we need this type of equipment but by seeing this type of thing we get ideas and find out what is what. Recently, in Northern Ireland we saw that some of the M 60 guns—I think that is how they are known—have been brought in and these seem to be ahead of even what some of the British have. I would prefer the Army to provide less equipment and have more modern equipment. At present we are talking about 25-pounder guns and things like that which are leftovers from the 1939-45 war. It is disgraceful that our Army should have to tolerate guns and ammunition of that period. We should buy better equipment even if we have to buy less.

The Minister spoke about the soldier and NCO getting extra money for night security work but my information is that the extra money they get is £1.50 per night while a man doing less dangerous work in the Garda Síochána gets about £10 of £12 per night. If my figure of £1.50 is right it should be examined because it would be a disgrace to offer a young [449] man out on the beat in probably the roughest conditions—nobody knows the conditions better than I do—that meagre amount per night.

The rank structure in the Army needs to be looked at and a complete reorganisation carried out. I welcome what has been said about promotions and hope they will be made on merit because this is the only way a modern army can exist.

I saw recently that the Civil Defence were helping the people in Wicklow during the heavy snow. This is one of the jobs they do very well. In emergencies like that they should be empowered to help people in trouble. What function does the Minister see for our 18,787 FCA men? At present they do not know where they stand. This is on second-line reserve. When the troubles broke out their guns and weapons were withdrawn and are being held in different Army barracks. It is fair to say that about 99 per cent of these people have proved their worth over the last six or seven troubled years, but there has been a massive slump in morale because they do not know what the real policy on the FCA is. Some of them have even gone as far as to say that all they are there for is a recruiting drive for the regular Army. In my opinion the FCA could be made into something worth while.

The greatest advantage they have is that they are local people who know their own terrain. They also know all the local people living in their areas. Over the last five or six years it has been proved that it is very important to know exactly what is going on, particularly in Border areas the FCA have been given only a limited amount of work. I would ask the Minister to tell me exactly what function he sees the FCA filling. I hope his answers will not be the usual diplomatic kind which mean nothing. I hope he spells it out for me, as I tried to do for him, without pulling any punches.

I welcome the new Army pension scheme and the fact that the date has been extended, giving the option to join. When a new scheme is introduced it is only fair that a person who has served 15 or 16 years should not be [450] asked to pay as much as the new recruit. I suggest that the Department pay the difference over a ten-year period. Naturally a person joining for up to ten years has to pay, but for a person serving over ten years the Department could pay the difference. It is very hard for a man of 45 or 50 years of age to double his repayments over a period of 15 years.

I would like to speak briefly on the Women's Corps. I hoped the Minister would be able to give much more information about it. I understand from an interview he gave some time ago that the establishment would be in the region of 400. If so, there are a few questions I would like to have answered. What will be the age limit? Will it be from 17 to 24, or does he envisage that being women, regardless of age, they will be allowed to join? I also understand from the same interview that he proposes the highest rank will not be higher than Lieutenant-Colonel.

The Minister mentioned that work on new accommodation in the Curragh will be started shortly. The quicker this work starts the better. Such work should have been started in other places many years ago. We could find ourselves in the same predicament as the Air Corps and the Naval Service found themselves: we could have a Women's Corps with no accommodation for them. If that is the case I suggest we put them up in Donegal or somewhere like that because by that time I hope we will have peace.

I would also like to know if the uniform will be Irish made. Is it envisaged that the women will wear slacks or a skirt? I am worried also about their duties. I would like to make it clear that this Women's Corps is not a civilian corps and therefore they should not be doing civilian duties. At present civilians are doing cooking, waitressing and such duties. This Women's Corps, which I welcome, should be doing such jobs as radio operators, transport and typing duties. I would also like to know if they will be out on manoeuvres in the same way as the men. I hope the barracks will be completely separate from the men's.

[451] I expect the Minister has people looking at Women's Corps in other parts of the world. During the last war the WRENS did a wonderful job in Britain, but I suggest we go a lot further than Britain. We should be looking at Israel which has the best women's corps in the world today. Before the commission report back to the Minister they should visit Israel and I am sure the Minister would not mind going with them on such a nice trip.

The Minister spoke about the great work our forces are doing in Cyprus. I and other Deputies had the opportunity to visit Cyprus recently. Like any Irishman I felt proud to see Major General Quinn, Commander of the United Nations Forces, doing a wonderful job. I was very proud to meet the many officers serving there and to hear how highly other people spoke about their service with the United Nations Forces. It was suggested that a sum of £500 should be available in Cyprus so that the men could buy replacement clothes instead of having to send bills home to Ireland. Perhaps the Minister would look into this. We are talking about a relatively small sum of £500 which would make life a lot easier for our men serving with the United Nations Forces in the Middle East and Cyprus.

If anybody wants to talk about partition—and I mean partition—this is the place to go. There you can see what partition means. It is very sad indeed.

The Minister spoke about the equestrian centre. This is one of my pet interests. It is about time we transferred the horse section from the Department of Agriculture to this Department where I have no doubt a much better job would be done. Our annual exports of thoroughbreds bring in a total of £5 million. Half-breds account for £5 million and on betting levies we get £7.5 million annually. From the three sections I have mentioned we have a yield of nearly £20 million annually and we are only at the tip of the iceberg. The Minister announced our wins last year at Rotterdam and the RDS. Anyone who goes abroad appreciates immediately the international interest there is in our horse [452] industry. If we put enough dedication and professionalism into this industry we could be thinking of finishing No. 1 in the next Olympics.

I hope the Minister will be able to answer my questions when he is concluding. I welcome the co-operation I have received from him so far. I hope that does not make him think I will not criticise him from time to time if he deserves it.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  I join in the congratulations to the Minister on his appointment and on the format of his introductory statement. I come from a constituency steeped in army tradition where the people are proud of the Army, where the Army contribute a big part of the social life of the constituency. Both sides can be proud of their co-operation. I should like to point out that I am not the official spokesman for my party on this matter: I have been asked to stand in at short notice because of the unavoidable absence of Deputy Kerrigan. In the short time at my disposal I will deal with some of the things I know of in my constituency in which Army headquarters are located at the Curragh.

I was glad to see yesterday that a number of new houses are in the course of construction for the Army on the Curragh Camp. Such activity was begun a few years ago by the previous Minister and it is good to see it being continued by Deputy Molloy. It was necessary to rehouse our serving soldiers because many of the buildings which have been serving as soldiers' accommodation are substandard, some of them having been built hundreds of years ago. The vast majority of them need replacement.

I was disappointed not to read anything in the Minister's statement about alleviating the position of overholders in the Army, particularly at the Curragh. I have raised this matter year after year with successive Ministers. I was on a deputation about it to the previous Fianna Fáil Minister for Defence and I have raised it on every possible occasion by way of Parliamentary Questions. I must again stress the difficulties Army overholders are suffering. They are men who have served their country for up to 30 [453] years and when they retire and are still living in married quarters they have nowhere to go. Yet if they continue to live in Army accommodation they cannot draw their pensions. The Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach in reply to a question by me recently said that some discussions were going on between the Departments of the Environment and Defence to try to remedy the position. I do not see any reference to these discussions in the Minister for Defence's statement today. If something is not being done in this respect the Army are neglecting their duty and their obligation to these men who have served so well for so long.

Of course the official answer is that this is the responsibility of the local authorities. There are many restrictions on local authorities in the matter of rehousing such people. Army people live in fit accommodation when they are housed by the Army—perhaps some such houses are not—and surely it could not be expected that a local authority with a long list of housing applications from people living in unfit dwellings could build houses for such Army people. If money is provided, and it does not matter from which Department it comes, for the provision of houses for overholders at the Curragh, Kildare County Council will be glad to do the work. As a guarantee of their interest in the matter Kildare County Council gave a number of houses to the Army authorities and asked them to give them to the overholders who were most in need. This happened in three or four housing schemes. The Army appointed the tenants and it was a satisfactory arrangement. We expected something from the Department of Defence but we got nothing. Kildare County Council did not get any extra money to provide for these people, some of whom were in this situation for many years.

I would ask the Minister to give the House his views on this matter. Does he intend to make money available to rehouse those people who, through no fault of their own, cannot draw their pensions or obtain civilian [454] employment in the Curragh while they are in those houses? This matter has been raised on many occasions in the Dáil during the years but nothing has been done about it. It is an injustice to those who have given faithful service in the Army.

The Minister is young and I hope he has a different outlook on this matter. If that is so I shall be the first to congratulate him on a good day's work. Something must be done to remedy the situation. It is a direct result of the action of the Department of Defence in bringing people to live there for 20 or 25 years and then telling them they must leave, without pensions or employment. The only benefit available is social welfare. In cases of hardship the previous Minister and the present Minister have given some help. This is a serious problem for overholders in Kildare town and on the Curragh Camp. The Minister should have a conference between officials of his Department, the Department of the Environment and Kildare County Council. He might be able to hammer out some solution. If the backlog of cases could be dealt with, perhaps it would be possible for the local authority to deal with current cases. The backlog of cases has existed for a considerable time—I think there are perhaps 40 people in this situation. I will leave that subject in the hope that there will be some response from the powers that be.

I welcome the proposal of the Minister to set up a Women's Service Corps. I hope that action will be taken on this matter. When these women are recruited as permanent members of our Defence Forces, I hope they will not displace females who are already employed in a civilian capacity in the various Army camps. Some of the female civilian employees are worried about this matter. Many of them have been employed by the Army for several years and they are worried that they may lose their employment. I hope this will not be the case.

The Minister should spell out clearly his future plans regarding the size and strength of the Army. We have a fairly strong Army now, although five or six years ago it was very run down. [455] During what we call the Emergency we had a strong Army but since then the various Governments have adopted a stop-go policy with regard to recruitment. Perhaps this was done for financial reasons. At the moment there are approximately 14,000 people serving in the Army and we should decide now our target regarding the strength of the force. Is there a recruiting drive at the moment or is it being played down? I have a feeling it is being played down. There is no quicker or better way of giving immediate employment than recruitment to the Army. I realise that it is necessary to have services, equipment and accommodation available but this is what we should be doing. I think our Army is too small and we should be getting accommodation for extra personnel. Now is the time to say clearly what we intend to do.

In my constituency there is the Curragh which is a military town. Soldiers serving on the Curragh have full medical services for themselves and their families provided they live on the Curragh Camp. However, if a soldier lives in Newbridge, Naas, Athy or any other area outside the camp he has no such medical services for his family. They will be made available if he brings his family to the military hospital but he has a grievance when he compares this with the treatment given to soldiers who live on the Curragh Camp. This is a serious bone of contention with military personnel in my constituency. I have asked many questions about this matter and have made representations about it but the answer is always the same. Nothing has been done to remedy the situation. A soldier should not be penalised because he has to travel further to his duties than the soldier who lives on the camp. He has a just reason for a chip on his shoulder. Be that as it may, the families of soldiers serving on the Curragh, and living outside in Athy, Newbridge, Naas or Kildare, should have the same services as the people living on the Curragh Camp. I ask the Minister to have a look at this.

I want to say a word about civilian employment by the Department of [456] Defence in my constituency, in the Kildare-Newbridge-Curragh area. Much of the work on the Curragh could be done by civilians and in present circumstances it should be. The work is there to be done and the people are there to do it. The money provided for this would be well spent in taking people off the unemployment list. The Government should consider this seriously. The employment of civilians in the various Army camps would be one way of expanding employment in general.

I join with the previous speaker in praise of the foreign service rendered by our troops in the Middle East, Cyprus and everywhere else they have been. They certainly brought great honour and credit to our country and are doing so still. I too had the honour to visit some of our Army personnel in Cyprus and I was very proud when I arrived there to find that an Irishman, in the person of Commandant Quinn, was Commander-in-Chief of the United Nations Forces in Cyprus. When I learned of the esteem in which he and all Irish troops and people have been held by the people of that country down the years I said that Commandant Quinn was one of the best ambassadors this country had.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  It is not usual to mention persons by their names.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  The Minister and one or two other Deputies mentioned people by their names and I am no different from them.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  Two wrongs do not make a right.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  Names were mentioned by the Minister and also by two of us. That is three wrongs and I am the first to be checked. However, I am proud to be associated with that gentleman and I enjoyed his company when I visited Cyprus. This foreign service by our troops is something that we should always be ready to give to the United Nations. Our soldiers and officers have indeed brought honour to our country. All the serving soldiers that I know look forward with hope to the prospect of [457] being asked to serve in this capacity. We should always be ready to avail of any opportunity to send them abroad and if we lose a little on it it is still worth buying, not alone for the battle-hardening and experience which our troops will obtain thereby, but also because we can always be sure our Army will do us proud when they go on foreign service.

Mention has been made of security duties and the allowance paid for them. I have heard about a single man who was away from his home on security duty for a certain number of nights in a week. Apparently he got some ration while on duty and after the price of that and tax had been stopped from his allowance for his week's duty he said that he would be ashamed to offer what was left for a tip. The extra he received for security duties was pitiful indeed.

I am not going to avail of the full hour-and-a-half which the Leas-Cheann Comhairle has indicated I am entitled to. I do not need that length of time. Anyone who does is indeed juggling with words. Finally I want to speak about Civil Defence. This is one of the things that we should develop and it is something we should be proud to be associated with. The right kind of people are not always attracted in sufficient numbers to Civil Defence. Civil Defence should be used to continue the training of people who have already spent a couple of years in the Army and who have left it. This would keep them fully trained and up-to-date with techniques. A person's training should not be allowed to be wasted because he leaves the Army. He should be in Civil Defence continuing his training and available at a moment's notice. That does not really happen and I do not know why. I am not saying that there are not the finest people in Civil Defence. There are many people who have done a short stint of some two years or so in the Army but they have not gone on to incorporate that training with training in civil defence so that services of that kind can be brought completely up to date.

I have a few words to say about the Army Apprentice School in Naas. The teachers are supplied by the VEC. [458] I want to pay tribute to the teachers there. I know some of them and I can say in all sincerity that they are the finest teachers we have. They are restricted in their teaching from the point of view of inadequacy of equipment. That is no reflection on the present Minister. That situation has obtained for a number of years. There has been some improvement but not nearly enough of the right kind of equipment is available to give these apprentices the kind of training they should really get. The equipment does not compare with the kind of equipment available in purely civilian schools. I trust the Minister will look into that and take steps to ensure that the apprentices get a proper training with the most up-to-date equipment available. There should be no restriction on equipment.

I want to pay tribute to our Army Jumping Team. Like the officers and men serving in foreign fields they have done a great day's work as ambassadors for this country. They have made the Irish horse a very valuable commodity indeed.

Would the Minister tell us what he intends to do about military custody on the Curragh? This was supposed to be a temporary measure. I suppose ordinary prisons were full and possibly that problem still exists, but is it intended to continue the detention centre for civilian prisoners at the Curragh?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  That would be a matter appropriate to the Estimate for the Department of Justice.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  The centre is under military control and, in fairness, I think I should be entitled to refer to it.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I will allow the Deputy a brief reference.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  I am on the visiting committee. The officers and men are very fine people but military detention of civilian prisoners is not the right approach. Circumstances may make it inevitable or there may be a shortage of space.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  This would be a matter for the Department of Justice.

[459]Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  Fair enough. What does the Minister intend to do with the new detention centre, a huge building, still unoccupied after several years? Will he transfer prisoners there? Will it be a permanent centre? Detention on the Curragh has caused some strain in relationships between the people inside the camp and those outside it. I do not suggest that the civilians are in any way sympathetic towards the prisoners in custody there but there is restriction on movement within the camp. While the relationship between the military and the civilian population is good, as it has always been, restriction on movement may lead to strain and stress.

I congratulate the Minister on his appointment and I thank him for his outline policy. I believe the amount provided for equipment by the Army is not enough. There is no indication of a further recruiting drive. How better can we solve unemployment than by bringing young men into the Army? The Minister should initiate a recruiting drive immediately. Such a drive would also lead to an increase in civilian employment in the Army.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  Our party spokesman, Deputy White, has covered most points but, as this is the first opportunity I have of speaking on the Estimate for the Department of Defence, it is my duty to express in a most affectionate way and with all the sincerity at my command my very deep gratitude to the Chief of Staff, the officers and men, the Secretary of the Department and the staff of the Department for the outstanding loyalty, co-operation and affection I received from them during the period in which I was Minister for Defence.

During that period my affection, esteem and respect for the Army grew enormously. I entered the Department knowing little of its activities or of the role and responsibilities of the members of our Defence Forces. But I left with a very lasting impression, one of an outstanding group of men, well trained, highly disciplined, with one aim, that of serving their country. I cannot express adequately what I feel about the men of all grades and ranks in our Defence Forces. An opportunity [460] has not arisen previously but I should like to avail of this one to express my thanks and appreciation of their wonderful co-operation, for the respect I received from them and the co-operation which obtained during my period in office.

There appeared to be from the year 1945 onwards a lessening of interest by successive Fianna Fáil Governments in the Department of Defence. I would make a sincere plea to the Minister and every member of the Government that the lack of interest displayed prior to the period of the two Inter-Party Governments should not recur but rather that the sincerity displayed by the Coalition Government in strengthening the forces, providing equipment, the finances, indeed the recruiting drive of the end of 1972 and early 1973, when there were approximately 9,000 personnel in the Defence Forces should be maintained. Today I think the Minister gave a figure of approximately 14,700. That did not happen accidentally.

The role of the Army is evident to each citizen. Every independent, sovereign, State, as a matter of necessity, should have a strong Army; the stronger the Army in a democracy the lesser are the opportunities of that democracy failing. We in recent years appear to take for granted the freedom we enjoy to live in a democracy, to have our parliaments freely elected, our citizens free to go about their business without hindrance. In order to maintain this position, to uphold our institutions of State, a freely-elected parliament, in order that free people may live their lives freely without hindrance the Army must play an important role. In the world today there is no Army more committed to those principles of ensuring that democracy reigns, that our institutions of State are safeguarded and that the rights and liberties of our people be protected. What greater responsibility could rest on the shoulders of any Army than the protection of the rights and liberties of the people of the State?

It is my wish that we have here a highly-trained, well-equipped Army of a very high educational standard. Here

[461] I should place on record that there was a time in this country in which it was generally believed that a citizen who was a failure in other walks of life joined the Defence Forces. All of us of all parties in this House are happy to say that that day has long since passed. The Army today can be selective in their educational standards. Indeed it is a great source of gratification to any army officer, civil servant, and particularly any Minister, to see the very high educational standards prevailing in the Army today, an outstanding credit to everyone responsible for their attainment. I am convinced that the best of our citizens, well-educated, will join our Defence Forces rendering the country the noble service it deserves.

It is encouraging to hear from the Minister that the health of the troops is good, their discipline satisfactory and their morale high. The numbers in the Defence Forces are perhaps the highest in 30 years. The happiness and peace prevailing amongst the Defence Forces personnel reflects the provision of moneys by the Coalition Government particularly for barrack buildings and their improvement throughout the country. If we want men to give of their best we must provide the best in accommodation, training facilities, equipment and, above all, food. I want to pay tribute to the staff of the various cookhouses I have seen throughout the country where food of the highest possible standard was served to members of the Defence Forces. A word of thanks and appreciation is due to them. This is something our men deserve and is now readily available to them under the best possible hygienic conditions. In all the barracks throughout the country I inspected never once did an occasion arise on which there was ground for any complaint in relation to the food or accommodation available to the men.

I visited Rockhill Barracks in Letter-kenny and I have retained a memory of that place. I thought about the men there during the recent snow. I remember the ancient turf stoves close by where the men were sleeping. I spoke to an officer of the Department immediately after my visit and said that [462] steps should be taken with the least possible delay to have the place centrally heated for the comfort of the men living there. Something ought to be done rapidly to improve living conditions there. I appreciate that it is a very old large house which would be extremely difficult to equip with central heating. If work has not yet commenced I would ask the Minister to rectify the position there as I would consider the old turf stoves very dangerous. When these fires are extinguished late at night I imagine that the atmosphere becomes extremely cold in the winter.

There is no comparison between the rates of pay payable when the Coalition Government took office and the rates of pay available today. The Minister can comment on the fact that the terms of the 1977 National Wage Agreement were applied to the pay of all ranks, when we see that the rates for men ranged from £51 per week for a recruit to £88 a week for a sergeant major. The pay and conditions were not very encouraging prior to the 1972-73 period. Now that we have national wage agreements there is no longer any need for Army pay to drag behind.

I am glad to see that the new Curragh Command is in existence and I am glad that the Air Corps and the Naval Service continues to develop. For many years our Naval Service was there in name only. Now that we have responsibility for the protection of 200 miles of sea for our fishermen we must continue to build up the Naval Service by providing ships and the highest degree of technical training. In a country such as this, surrounded by sea, there will be ample scope for a considerable increase in the numbers to be recruited to the navy.

The Minister referred to Asgard II. I presume he is referring to the training vessel which was known as the Brendan in my time. I was deeply impressed by the case put forward for the Brendan by the Sail Training Committee, of which I was chairman that time. I was satisfied that the Creidne which had performed a very valuable national service, was insufficient to give the type of training needed to the members. One of the last files I dealt with as [463] Minister for Defence related to the provision of money for the construction of the St. Brendan, otherwise Asgard II. This will be a very great asset. It will give the training so greatly sought. Those who will be selected to avail of training on this new ship would otherwise have never had the opportunity of sailing. For that reason it is desirable that we should give the very best that the country can provide by way of a sail training vessel. I have every confidence that Messrs. Tyrrell of Arklow, in accordance with their international reputation, will provide us with a vessel of which we can be extremely proud.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  The Deputy should not mention commercial firms.

Mr. O.J. Flanagan: Information on Oliver J. Flanagan  Zoom on Oliver J. Flanagan  The tribute I am paying could not be misconstrued as a slander on the firm, and I am sure their reputation is well known.

We have outstanding young men in the Navy, the Air Corps and the Army. Our Defence Forces today are a typical example of true sincere Irish manhood. They are the type of men needed in the Army. I pay tribute to the bravery and courage of the Bomb Disposal Unit. I am sure the Minister has seen this unit in operation. They are highly technical and they have great courage, determination and accuracy. They deserve our deepest appreciation. It takes great courage to be a member of such a unit. Their efforts and activities have been recognised by many other countries and they have won international admiration.

Like other Deputies I want to refer to the role of our forces in the United Nations. During my period in office I was glad and happy to do everything in my power to ensure that, when called upon by the Department of Foreign Affairs, we would have a contingent ready to leave for United Nations service. Our men who have served with the United Nations brought great credit to us. The knowledge they gained was of great help to the Army personnel. I hope every effort will be made to ensure that the largest possible contingent will be available for service with [464] the United Nations so that our men can experience foreign service which is good for their morale, their techniques, their knowledge and the country in general. I want to express my admiration for those men who have served with the United Nations with such courage and with such good effect.

I heartily welcome the reference to the establishment of a Women's Service Corps. There is a place in the Army for our girls, just as there is a place for them in the Garda. The Ban Garda play an excellent role and I am sure the “ban shaighdiúirí”, or whatever they will be called at a later stage, will give equally as good an account of themselves. Deputy White mentioned the women's corps in Israel. I visited Israel recently and I was amazed at the high standards and the quality of the young girls serving in that army with such dignity. They are very well trained. Their uniform is extremely attractive. They appear to be extremely happy and very involved in their work.

We can provide places in our Army for between 700 and 1,000 girls who would be prepared to serve in present conditions and in improved conditions. I am sure there is quite an amount of clerical work which they could undertake. There are many duties which could be performed very efficiently by a Women's Service Corps and they would gain the same respect and affection as the Ban Garda. I wish the Minister success in the formation of this new corps. While I was Minister for Defence this crossed my mind but I suppose I was not long enough there to develop the idea. I have always felt there was a place for women in the Army. Apart from the wonderful services given by the Army nurses, we have excellent drivers and, if girls want to be associated with the transport section, I have no doubt suitable posts will be readily available for them.

I want to make a point now and I do not want to embarrass the Minister in any way. I want to make it deliberately. The general election took place on 16 June and between that date and 4 July the morning and evening newspapers printed headlines [465] to the effect that a number of political promotions would be made in the Army. I was the victim of this deliberate, mischievous, callous and false propaganda. To suggest that political promotions were made in the Army during my term in office is wrong. It is a slander on the Army officers who got promotion to suggest that. No single promotion was made by me without the approval and recommendation of the Army authorities. In the discharge of my ministerial duties I would never allow my political feelings to interfere in any way with the rightful promotion of any individual serving in the Army.

In answer to that false newspaper propaganda—perhaps six or eight months late—inspired by whom I do not know, but evilly written by evilly disposed persons, to undermine confidence in the Minister and in the Army administration, to cast a reflection on those who were being promoted on merit and on merit alone, I want to say I saw no Army promotion other than ones which were well deserved and well due and which were the entitlement of the recipients. During my period of office in the Department of Defence I never heard political affiliation mentioned. Never once did I raise it and never once was it raised with me. Propaganda of that kind, aimed at the Minister for the time being, can only harm and damage Army personnel, all of whom gave excellent service. They may or may not have had their own private political affiliations. I did not know and I cared less.

Newspapers and the media should exercise more discretion in dealing with important and vital matters such as Army promotions. They are interested in a good story and the selling of papers but they do not seem to display any interest in the feelings of the people involved in those stories. I was prepared to listen to any criticism, deserved or otherwise, but I felt for the people who were named at that time. During those weeks we witnessed disgraceful journalism, false propaganda evilly disposed to do no good to me as Minister or to the independent [466] Army officers who were being promoted on the recommendation of the Army authorities alone. The Army authorities felt those officers were entitled to the promotion and all that was needed was the approval of the Minister for the time being.

Never once during my period in office was there a political promotion. I am sure the Minister will accept my word in that regard, as I would accept his word, because it is delivered in truth and sincerity. It was unfair that those Army officers who had earned promotion on their own devotion to service and on their high standard of qualification should have been subjected to unfair and unwarranted comment in the media. I did not get an opportunity to comment on this earlier. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Irish Independent, which was published, in connection with the matter. I want to assure the House that during my period in office in the case of a promotion in the Army political consideration was not involved. The records show that on every occasion I made a promotion it was made on the recommendation of the Army authorities.

I hope newspapers, the radio service and everybody connected with the dispatch of news will exercise a little more caution and consideration for the feelings of others when dealing with matters of this type, particularly when there is not a syllable of truth attached to the story. Army officers cannot defend themselves in public. To suggest that officers were promoted because of their political beliefs was wrong and unfair to the personnel involved. I hope we have heard the end of that. I carried out my function as Minister for Defence with strict integrity and impartiality.

I should now like to refer to the Army Equitation School. When I visited that school I was deeply impressed. I consider that school to be one of the most important centres we have. Army personnel, riding Army horses, competed at many international shows. Army riders captured 17 first prizes at shows abroad in recent years and, in addition, an Army rider was included in the Irish team which competed [467] in the Olympic Games at Montreal. The Army was also represented at 31 local shows in 1976. We are all proud of the Army jumping team. The Minister should oppose any effort to reduce the amount allocated to this school. Our greatest advertisement abroad is the Army Jumping Team. Since 1973 30 horses were purchased by the Army Equitation School at a cost of £350,000 and before I left the Department of Defence I made sure that a considerable sum would be available for the purchase of the best horses available for that school. I consider the purchase of good horses to be a sound investment. We should also bear in mind that in 1976 that team won prize money amounting to £13,000. The team deserves our appreciation and support and I hope the Government will co-operate with that school to the same degree the National Coalition did.

The time has come for a complete review and reorganisation of Civil Defence. I must pay tribute to county managers and local authority officials responsible for Civil Defence. We could have a greater degree of co-operation between the various units of Civil Defence and the Garda authorities. We all hope the occasion will never arise when, as a result of bombings or serious tragedies, we will have to call out Civil Defence units. But, even when there is no emergency, there is still an important role to be played by the Civil Defence.

The Minister should enter into consultations with the director of Civil Defence with a view to deciding on whether a more local role could be formulated for that organisation. This would involve the recruitment of many more members but would provide the members with the opportunity of engaging in the exercise of local functions. I am thinking of new functions, for instance, more co-operation with local authorities and with the security forces. Money spent on the expansion of the Civil Defence is money well spent. I have every confidence in the director of the Civil Defence. It is encouraging to note the numbers of competitions that have taken place [468] and to note also the element of rivalry that exists between the different units. That is to the credit of the Civil Defence. Much local effort is required to bring about such competition.

In the times in which we live, times in which the criminal appears to have a free hand, the local defence unit, in co-operation with the Army and the Garda, can be utilised to a much greater degree. I am talking about involvement in areas other than fire fighting and co-operation with the Red Cross and any normal role in which the Civil Defence take part already. In referring to circumstances here it is well to make the point that these are no different from the circumstances prevailing in other countries but from the local point of view the Civil Defence should be encouraged to play a greater role. This year the amount being provided for the Civil Defence is £504,000 compared with £401,000 last year. This is money that is being well spent.

There is a matter on which I should like information. If the Minister wishes to let me have this information, he may do so either publicly or privately. I am referring to inquiries into the deaths last May of five members of the Defence Forces in the Glen of Imaal. I understand that the Army announced the carrying out of a full-scale inquiry into the explosion which caused the deaths of these men, an accident with which I was much concerned at the time. I was very saddened that such an accident could occur and I am very anxious to know what was the outcome of any inquiry in that regard. I should like to know, for instance, whether the accident was caused by reason of the mortar used being defective or whether there was negligence in regard to the loading of the ammunition. At the time of the accident the nation expressed its sympathy with the relatives of the five victims. I am wondering whether as a result of the findings of any inquiry that has been carried out, a recurrence of that type of accident can be avoided in the future although I realise that no one can guarantee against accidents.

It would be remiss of me not to pay tribute to those military parties who were assigned to checkpoint duties in co-operation with the Garda and also to the patrols who were sent to undertake [469] duty on roads along the Border. This was very difficult work and to some extent unpleasant but I was very impressed by the courage and the bravery shown by these people at all times. The men engaged at those checkpoints had in many instances to endure very difficult conditions—long hours, bad weather and so on. It is only right that we would place on record our deep appreciation of them. I have referred already to the Army disposal units who have had so many requests to deal with suspect items.

I am sure that within the past six months the Minister has directed his attention to the new billets, the construction of which were in progress before I left office, at Finner Camp in Donegal and at Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy. The provision of separate rooms in these units for recreation purposes is to be welcomed. Indeed, there should be such facilities at all Army barracks. I was impressed by the standard of the recreation rooms in a number of barracks but it is desirable that recreation facilities are available for the men in all the barracks.

It is my wish to have conveyed to the Defence Forces the appreciation of the citizens generally for the work being carried out. No doubt the Minister hears often the question, how efficient is our Army compared with the armies of other countries? He has made reference to the fact that the only area in which a proper comparison can be made relates to the services of the UN Peace Keeping Force. On that basis we are proud to say that our Army is as efficient as any other in the world.

I appeal to the Minister to keep in mind the need for further development and expansion of the Naval Service, apart altogether from the emphasis on fishery protection but that is not in any way to denigrate the importance of this task. However, any country that is surrounded by water should have an up-to-date Naval Service.

I am also glad to note that the highest standard of equipment is being provided for the Army.

I wish to express my appreciation of the outstanding work done by the [470] helicopter service and by the Air Corps in general. They have been supplied with quite an amount of new and suitable aircraft and I hope that every effort will be made to extend and improve this service. While Baldonnel is the headquarters of the Air Corps, I feel that there should be a base in County Galway or in County Cork.

I am sure the general public are not aware of the high standard and quality of the men serving in our Defence Forces. I hope that every effort will be made in future to ensure that this high standard is maintained. To wear the uniform of one's country and to serve in the national Army is a great honour and distinction. The training one receives is of physical and mental benefit and one is in a position to be the custodian and guardian of the rights of the people. I doubt if there is a parliament in any democracy which could survive without an army to guard and protect it and to defend the cherished rights of freedom. I would prefer to be dead and buried rather than live in terror under a dictatorship. We hear people asking about the necessity of spending money on the Army and it should be pointed out that this is an insurance for the rights and liberties of our people.

I hope that Fianna Fáil will not allow the present high standards to deteriorate. Previous Fianna Fáil Governments were not over-generous in their allocations for the Defence Forces. I am sure that the present Minister is as good a democrat as I am, and all of us who cherish our freedom and believe in the functioning of this parliament agree that a strong Army is desirable. We must have a strong Army which is well-equipped and whose personnel have a high standard of education. This is in the interests of the people. The vast majority of people agree that the role of the Army is to safeguard our rights and liberties and privileges as free people. We must provide the Army with adequate pay, housing and sufficient allowances for their families. This is fundamental.

The Army is vital to our survival and it should always be borne in mind [471] that the function of a well-trained and well-equipped Army is to defend our liberties. In recent years there have been great successes in the School of Equitation, the Air Corps, the Naval Service and Civil Defence. It is my sincere wish that all their efforts and the efforts of those who have leadership amongst them would be crowned with the success they so richly deserve.

Mr. McCreevy: Information on Charlie McCreevy  Zoom on Charlie McCreevy  I congratulate the Minister for Defence on his appointment and wish him every success in the years ahead. I come from a constituency where we have been great beneficiaries of the strength of the Army. The Curragh is the headquarters of the Army and for many years they have been a wonderful employer of people in the area. There has been a great inflow of funds each week through wages which the Government provide through the Army. Although we have been a net beneficiary, there have been certain problems and some of them are becoming very pressing.

This is my first term in Dáil Éireann and I understand that in speaking on the Defence Estimate it has been customary for Deputies from the Kildare constituency to refer to the problem of overholding on the Curragh. This problem has remained unsolved for a number of years. There are two points of view. The Department have traditionally held the view that it is the responsibility of the local authority to house Army people if they consider that they are deserving of housing and if they fulfil the conditions and are ranked in order of priority. However, the local authority when allocating houses must give due recognition to all the people on the list and to their various circumstances. More often than not, people living in married quarters cannot be considered because their housing conditions are considered to be better than those of the people against whom they are competing. It is difficult to fault a council like Kildare County Council for not being in a position to house Army overholders. There are other people living in caravans and in very bad conditions and according to the regulations they must be housed.

[472] An overholder is a person who has served in the Army and lived in married quarters; when his period of service was over he left the Army but could not leave the house because he had nowhere to go. Army pay not having been over-generous at any time, a person with 20 years' service would not have an amount of money saved which would be sufficient to provide a private house in a county like Kildare. The gratuity and pension which would become payable to a person having left regular service in the Army are withheld if he retains his house or married quarters.

The local authority are often unable to provide housing for these people and they are in a very bad situation. It will get worse if we do not do something about it. The reasons are purely statistical. During the past four years recruitment into the Army has been at a very high level and the Army is now at record strength. These people will be living in Army quarters. They will leave the Army sometime in the future and will not be able to get houses in County Kildare, so they will have to stay in their married quarters. As more soldiers decide to remain in the Army, more Army housing will need to be provided. The problem of overholders therefore will have to be tackled very soon.

I believe a compromise will have to be reached between Kildare County Council and the Department of Defence. Kildare County Council have made a genuine effort to solve the problem. In the last few housing schemes they allocated three or four houses per housing scheme for overholders and said that the Army were the people who would say who was to get those houses. The Department of Defence will have to allocate a certain amount of money every year towards providing houses for people who have been overholders. I hope that the present Minister will do that. If so, it will go some way towards solving the problem. There is a lot of land in the Curragh and much of it is there to be used up. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a certain proportion of the land of the Curragh should be [473] allocated for housing. This would go some way towards solving the problem of overholding.

Very tricky problems are created for some people because of witholding the pension. I recently had a case of a widow with eight children. Her husband, who had been in active service in the Army, was 36 years of age when he died. She should be entitled to a good pension and her husband's gratuity, but she will not be able to get a house at short notice. Because of the Regulations, the Minister is prevented from giving her money, since she would be an overholder. I hope during the time of this Minister—previous Ministers failed to solve the problem of overholding in County Kildare—the problem will be solved.

I would like to refer to another bone of contention in my constituency: medical care for the wives and families of NCOs. Those who live in the Army get medical attention, but many Army people like to live in towns like Newbridge, Kildare and Naas. When their wives and families become ill they have to go to the Curragh to get medical attention. It is very difficult for a person who has pneumonia or a broken leg to get up and travel ten or 15 miles to the Curragh to get medical attention.

The Army regulations prevent the Army doctor from going out to attend a soldier's wife or children. If the serving soldier is sick the Army doctor can come to the house in Kildare or Newbridge and attend him. If the husband and wife are sick the Army doctor will come and attend the serving soldier but he is prevented from attending his wife. She has to go to the Curragh for medical attention. If an Army medical centre was provided in the town of Kildare for wives and children of serving soldiers this would be a tremendous concession. The Minister would be long remembered by all the people in the Army. Regulations like those cause a lot of concern. It would not take a lot of money to do this. It would make the families of serving soldiers feel their importance in Army life. A different regulation applies in the case of a wife and family of an officer. That regulation should [474] be changed in order to create a better atmosphere in the Army.

I am very glad that the Minister has introduced the new Army pensions scheme for NCOs. This was also a source of contention. There has been much talk about this over the years. The Minister is to be congratulated for introducing this scheme. It was one of the first things he did on taking up office as Minister for Defence.

In one of my first parliamentary questions I asked the Minister the number of cadetships, what percentage of cadetships came from sons of commissioned officers or retired commissioned officers. There is a feeling in my constituency that it is of great assistance to a lad leaving school when he applies for a cadetship if he is the son of a serving commissioned officer or a retired commissioned officer. Perhaps this is all rumour, and the report is based on hearsay. It is very difficult to gather from the figures what the percentage should be.

My question related to a comparison of the percentage of the number who applied who were sons of commissioned officers with those who were successful. The application forms do not contain that information. In 1975 17 per cent of those selected were sons of commissioned officers and in 1977 this was down to 3 per cent. I can tell the House of instances where young lads with six honours applied for cadetships in the Army but were unsuccessful and others with fewer honours and not as well qualified were successful. The only difference between their background was that one lot were sons of officers and the others were not.

The Minister should keep the regulations regarding interviews constantly under review. I accept that the Army authorities, in selecting their people, go for the higher standards and that the strictest criteria are applied. I emphasise to the Minister that he should ensure that such is always the case and is seen to be so. We cannot afford to have any contentious matter like that in the Army.

Some years ago the Army decided to build houses for people in the Curragh. They built 50 houses in Orchard Park. A further 50 houses will be built.

[475] Those houses were built by a building agency, but I am afraid their standard of workmanship was not the best. I have already made representations to the Minister regarding the various problems there and I am sure he will do something about the matter. I ask him to ensure that, when further houses are being built for the Army, very strict criteria are laid down in regard to the standard of workmanship. The Army people are precluded from protesting in a case like this, but if this was in any other housing estate in Ireland there would be a great uproar.

Some ridiculous things have happened in the 50 houses which have been erected. The estate is in the wrong place. It is in a swamp. The houses are not near a river, but when there was a big rainfall three of the houses were flooded. There are no fireplaces in them; there is a special central heating system run on gas and electricity. It is too expensive to turn on, but when it is switched on amazing things happen. A gale sweeps through a room and one is likely to be swept up in it. Apart from that, the heating system produces a type of fungus. I invite the Minister to come to these houses in Orchard Park and see the fungus. One man brought a sample for analysis and found that it is not very harmful but the walls are black. These things happen and it is not the fault of the present Minister or of any previous Minister. It is the fault of the workmanship and of the clerk of works who passed the scheme. Something definite will have to be done about this. I know the Minister is sympathetic about it, but I ask him to ensure that it does not occur in the 50 houses at present being built in Orchard Park. It is not fair to put people, whether they are civilians or Army personnel, into houses that are defective. We talk of having the highest standards in our Army and surely we should give them good houses to live in.

I wish to refer briefly to forthcoming officers' courses for NCOs. I understand that every couple of years NCOs are given the opportunity of becoming officers and this is very much welcomed by NCOs who reach a certain [476] rank. On this occasion it is intended to have an upper age limit of 35 years whereas previously it was 40 years, the Department's idea being that personnel would previously have had a chance of becoming officers and that the drop to 35 would mean nothing. I am told that different standards apply in different Commands such as in the Curragh Command and the Eastern Command regarding age limits and the ranks eligible. In some Commands you could go down as far as the rank of corporal for people applying for the officers' course. I do not think it is true to say that everyone between 35 and 40 would previously have had a chance. I ask the Minister to ensure that people between 35 and 40 who would have had a chance on previous occasions will not be left out through any change in the regulations.

Deputy Flanagan referred to promotions in the Army. I do not wish to get involved in any controversy that occurred during the time of the previous Government and I readily accept his word when he says he never appointed any person because of his political affiliations, just as I would accept an undertaking given by anybody in this House. I think that he was primarily referring to a campaign carried on in the newspapers between the date of the election of our party to Government and their coming into office on 5 July. I believe there should be a regulation to preclude all other Ministers, as well as Defence Ministers, from making any appointments or any radical change in policy between the date on which an existing Government are defeated and the new Government come into power. If people do not like what one of the present Ministers does between now and the next election, they have the opportunity of getting rid of him when the next election comes round. If they do not like what I do they can get rid of me also but they have no opportunity between the date on which the Government are defeated and the new Government come into power of reversing decisions the Government can make in that time. When people have shown that they do not want a Government I think there should be a prohibition on promotion of any kind in any [477] Department or any radical changes between the date on which a Government are defeated and the new Government come into office. That would prevent the type of thing that happened between 16 June and 5 July, whether it was right or not. People do not expect things like that to go on in the final two weeks of an outgoing Government. In the interests of democracy and fair play this would be very much worth while.

I would like to refer to the Army Equitation School and the honour it has brought to the country in the past couple of years. Coming from Kildare, I am very interested in horses whether they are owned by the Army or not, but I see some contradiction between the activities of the Army Equitation School and Bord na gCapall. If we are to have the best horses competing for Ireland and if we have two bodies competing to buy them we shall not be in a very satisfactory situation. The quality of the horses at the disposal of the Army up to a few years ago was not very high but in the past couple of years the position improved. I pay tribute to the previous Government for being sympathetic towards the purchase of the best horses for the Army and I hope that policy continues.

Sports facilities are very important in the Army. I know that young people in the Army, if they achieve a certain standard, are given every opportunity of developing their talents. They can be great ambassadors for us if we can have the right type of athletes developed in the Army. Greater encouragement should be given to those who want to make sport a career. Some countries develop athletics in their armies to a great extent and I think the Army is where we should have our best athletes. I know that in the past couple of years the Army have had a special section where personnel are given every opportunity to become great athletes.

I want to pay special tribute to the FCA and to the work they do. I was once a member, if not very active, of the FCA, but there are people who give up their time to it, attend courses and put great effort into it. I compliment [478] them for the enthusiasm they have built up in certain places in Kildare where there are FCA units and for giving their spare time to this work.

On the question of prisoners in military custody, Army personnel are not too happy to be acting as warders or on protection duty. They do not get any overtime. This, perhaps, is why a Government in times of economic stringency might decide that it would be more economic to employ members of the Army rather than gardaí for that purpose. In order to show the Army NCO that his contribution is appreciated I think a better rate of pay for overtime should be given to him when he has to do this duty.

I should like the Minister to examine various regulations in his Department and see if they need to be updated. There are regulations on various matters too tedious to go into but, at times, serving members of the Forces find them upsetting. This is not good for morale and I am asking the Minister to assign a section of his Department to the updating of regulations that have been there for a long time.

Tribute has been paid to the members of the Army serving abroad. Young people joining the Army are very anxious to be given the opportunity to serve abroad. This is a great attraction. I wish to pay a special tribute to ex-members and present members who served abroad with distinction. I can assure the Minister that the people I know in the Army are very anxious to go abroad as often as possible. Some months ago a number of Army personnel got the opportunity to serve abroad and the Army were inundated with applications.

I wish the Minister every success in his Department. Perhaps when we discuss the Defence Estimate on another occasion some of the problems I highlighted which exist in the Curragh will have been remedied and I will be able to congratulate the Minister as the man who did that.

Mr. Taylor: Information on Francis Taylor  Zoom on Francis Taylor  I wish the Minister a successful term in office. As an experienced Army officer, I hope he will ensure that his experience will be a real benefit to serving officers, NCOs and men. I cannot forget the service [479] his predecessors gave down the years since the foundation of the State. De puty Donegan and Deputy Flanagan gave distinguished service. Deputy Donegan gave a real boost to the morale of the Army by providing necessary equipment.

Unfortunately, the Estimate for Defence does not get the same recognition as other Estimates. It does not appear to hit the headlines, but in my opinion there is nothing more vital to a State than to have a Minister who is well balanced and has a good knowledge of his duties. Because of that combination the country expects stability. We can be very proud of our personnel at all levels—from the GHQ Chief of Staff and all members, and officers of the GHQ staff down. We can rely on policy for providing and recommending the provision of necessary equipment in the Army. I would not dream of suggesting the type of equipment required in this modern age. Such decisions can be left to the people I mentioned.

All the services combined, both regular and voluntary, give us that sense of security which all our citizens must feel and which is vital. There is one area which is causing grave concern. It is not a function of the Army to move there unless requested to do so by the civil powers, although on occasion they have been called in. I refer of course to the necessity to combat and counteract a wave of crime, robbery and violence which the security forces, both the Garda and the Army must overcome. If this wave continues I suggest that serious consideration be given to tactically deploying our Army to successfully eradicate those whose criminal tendencies are constantly disrupting the lawful and peaceful lives of our citizens and who are a daily threat to the security of our businesses and banking systems. This continuing trend is a source of worry. There is no way it can be overcome except by giving some serious consideration to the combination of the security forces I mentioned. The Garda and the Army are properly equipped and trained to deal with this situation.

Debate adjourned.


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