Tuesday, 1 March 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
91. Mr. J. O’Keeffe asked the Minister for Defence the current strength of the reserve Defence Forces; the type of operations they are engaged in; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6737/05]
On 26 July 2004 my predecessor the former Minister, Deputy Michael Smith, officially launched the Reserve Defence Force review implementation plan which is the start of a process that will radically change the structure and configuration of the reserve while preserving its traditional strengths. These include such things as the spirit of voluntary commitment, the maintaining of strong links with local communities and a nationwide geographical spread.
An important change recommended by the study of the reserve is that members of the FCA and Naval Service Reserve should be considered for participation in overseas peace support missions subject to suitable qualifications, personal availability and appropriate advance training. In other countries service by reservists on overseas peace support missions is quite common.
As specified in the reserve Defence Force implementation plan, any such participation is likely to be in specialist areas such as medical, transport, engineering and communications and information services. This service will be dependent on extended pre-deployment training. General criteria governing selection for overseas service come within the scope of representation and any matters relating to overseas service by members of the reserve, which come within the scope of representation, will be raised with the representative associations at the appropriate forum. The question of the security of civilian employment, for the members of the reserve who may wish to serve overseas, will be considered as part of the ongoing implementation process.
While there are no immediate plans for participation by members of the reserve Defence Force in overseas missions, policies to support the selection of reserve personnel for overseas duties will be developed over the lifetime of the reserve Defence Force implementation plan. The military authorities have advised that the strength of the reserve Defence Force, including An Slua Muirí, is 12,038.
The Permanent Defence Force is now organised in a three-brigade structure and a Defence Forces training centre. The reserve Defence Force will be similarly reorganised and restructured and it is envisaged that the implementation of this plan will take place over the course of the next six years.
The plan defines the organisational framework of the new Army Reserve and provides for a greater concentration of units within each Army brigade area. There will be mergers both at battalion and company level as well as between sister technical support units. This will be the key to providing enhanced training facilities and opportunities for each member of the reserve.
In producing detailed proposals for the restructuring of reserve units within each brigade area, the military authorities have taken due cognisance of the existing FCA presence within communities. Consultation and communication have been a priority throughout the development of the plan. They will continue to be important if the changes now proposed are to be carried through smoothly and effectively. Reserve units will be kept informed of developments on a regular basis.
As part of this reorganisation Cahir in County Tipperary which is currently the B company headquarters of the 13th Infantry Battalion which has an existing strength of 31 personnel will become a troop centre, which is similar to a platoon, with an establishment of 33 personnel. Accordingly, the strength of the reserve in Cahir will not suffer as a result of this change.
Members of the FCA are already seeing the benefits of the re-organisation process in terms of better clothing and improved equipment and more and better quality training. As the process develops we will see additional benefits in terms of a clearer role for the reserve, a better overall organisation structure, and opportunities for suitably qualified personnel to serve overseas. We will also see benefits from the closer integration of the reserve with the Army.
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