Thursday, 17 February 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. M. Smith: I last had formal meetings with RACO and PDFORRA on 19 August 1999 and 25 May 1999, respectively. Both associations have recently submitted requests for meetings with me. These meetings are arranged for next week. In addition, I attended the delegate conferences of both associations late last year.
The conciliation and arbitration scheme provides a mechanism within which issues which come within the associations' remit can and should be addressed. The scheme provides a range of fora to the associations from formal council and sub-committee meetings to less formal meetings and contacts. In addition, the civil and military staff of the conciliation and arbitration sections of the Department are available to the associations at all times and are, I understand, in almost daily contact with them.
Mr. Timmins: I thank the Minister for his reply. May and August 1999 seem a long time ago. Have  the representative associations requested a meeting with the Minister and, if so, when did they make this request? Without going into intimate details, what does the Minister talk to them about? He stated earlier that the issues in the White Paper did not come within their remit. Does he agree that the welfare of the Defence Forces personnel should come under their remit? Does he also agree that if there is a reduction of 10% in personnel it will impact on their welfare and that they should, therefore, have a say in the White Paper?
Mr. M. Smith: They have already had a say. They were one of the 45 groups or associations which made a major submission to the White Paper process. They subsequently sought additional time to give further consideration to their submission. They were afforded the opportunity to give an oral presentation to the civil and military personnel. Both associations published their submissions.
Although I did not establish the associations or have any input into the legislation which underpins what they do, we talk about everything. We usually break some of the rules. We will continue to work and go forward together. I hope the meetings next week will continue that good relationship. They have a day to day association on a range of issues in relation to arbitration and conciliation with officials in my Department, which I welcome. They only want to meet me when they experience difficulties. When they had difficulties last year I was able to sort them out for them and they appreciated that. I also attend their conferences and meet them at different places throughout the country.
Mr. Timmins: I am not sure whether it is PDFORRA or RACO the Minister has not met since May. Does he agree it might help if he had a more definitive schedule and agreed to meet them every quarter rather than leaving it to the representative associations to request a meeting with him?
Mr. M. Smith: Perhaps we could consider that, although the associations have not requested it. They are busy doing their work through the normal channels. They only want the Minister to intervene when they come up against a stumbling block which they are not able to overcome. I am always available to help.
An Ceann Comhairle: That concludes Priority Questions. We now move to ordinary questions to the Minister for Defence. I remind the House that the Minister's initial reply shall not exceed two minutes and Members' supplementary questions and the Minister's supplementary replies should not exceed one minute.
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