Dáil Éireann - Volume 647 - 19 February, 2008

Written Answers. - Defence Forces Recruitment.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Defence the progress made by the chief of staff in regard to his previous review of recruitment into the Defence Forces at all levels and implementing changes that will facilitate recruitment from among cultural and ethnic minorities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6332/08]

  Deputy Willie O’Dea: The question of the recruitment of foreign-nationals to the Defence Forces is not a new one. Defence Force Regulations have always allowed for the recruitment of foreign-nationals to the Defence Forces. People from diverse backgrounds have already been employed in the Defence Forces, but this has mainly been in certain specialised areas. This has worked well — albeit on a limited scale. Currently my emphasis is on ensuring that there are no barriers to ethnic minorities or foreign nationals joining the Defence Forces.

Entry to the Permanent Defence Force is either through the Cadetship Competition, Apprenticeship Competition, General Service Enlistment or Direct Entry Competitions which are held to fill vacancies in specialist appointments. All applicants for each of these entry streams are required to meet qualifying criteria.

The Cadet Competition is the entry level for recruitment as an Officer of the Defence Forces. As you are aware, I have made changes to the Cadet competition to broaden the entry criteria thereby making it easier for qualifying foreign nationals to apply for cadetships.

The Chief of Staff has undertaken a review of enlistment into the Defence Forces at all levels and as a result the Defence Forces have begun to implement a number of changes, which will further facilitate the recruitment and retention of people from ethnic and cultural minorities:

A strategy for Cultural Diversity Management is currently being put in place. Many organisations in Ireland have experience in this area including the Health Service Executive and the Garda Síochána. The Defence Forces is liaison with these organisations to ensure that its strategy reflects accepted strategies across the Public Service.

The Defence Forces are currently establishing links with ethical and cultural community groups based in Ireland, in order to brief the groups on the Defence Forces and its current entry requirements. The groups will be invited to forward submissions to the Defence Forces on their views of service in the Defence Forces and to highlight any barriers to recruitment, which they feel may exist.

A new Defence Forces advertising campaign is being designed to reflect its strategy for cultural diversity.

[616] In order to ensure best practice in respect of recruitment and retention of personnel from diverse groups the Human Resource Management Recruitment Officer has joined the Employers Diversity Network established by the Public Appointments Service and the Irish Management Institutes Cultural Diversity Bizlab.

On the 30 November 2007, the Defence Forces issued their Equality, Diversity and Equal Status Policies. This document includes the Defence Forces:

Gender Equality Policy,

Anti Racism Equality Policy,

Discrimination and Promotion Policy,

Equality of Opportunity in Recruitment and Advertising of Jobs,

Equal Opportunities in the Interview Process,

Equality of Opportunity in Job Orientation and Job Induction,

Equality of Opportunity in Overseas Service,

Career Promotion and Progression.

A Dignity Charter has also been put in place, which clearly identifies the requirement for Defence Force personnel to uphold the values of tolerance, dignity and understanding and to respect the right of each individual to dignity in their work environment.

In relation to recruitment there are generally more applicants for positions in the Defence Forces than places available. My Department and the Defence Forces are fully committed to ensuring that all suitably qualified candidates who wish to do so are given the opportunity to join the Defence Forces. The primary focus in recruitment is to attract people with the core competencies required by the Defence Forces.

Question No. 162 answered with Question No. 147.