Seanad Éireann - Volume 91 - 14 February, 1979
Private Business. - Defence (Amendment) Bill, 1978: Second and Subsequent Stages.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time”.
Minister for Defence (Mr. Molloy) Robert Molloy
Minister for Defence (Mr. Molloy): The main purpose of the Bill is to make provision in the Defence Acts for the commissioned Army rank of brigadier-general, which rank is not provided for at present. On the seniority scale the new rank would come between the ranks of colonel and major-general. The Bill also provides that the existing naval rank of commodore shall correspond to the new Army rank of brigadier-general and for the creation of a new naval rank of rearadmiral corresponding to the existing Army rank of major-general.
As to my purpose in introducing the Bill at this time, I have had the rank structure at senior level in the Defence Forces under examination recently and I have found that certain changes are necessary. Arising from this examination, Senators will be aware that the ranks of the three principal military offices, namely chief of staff, adjutant-general and quartermaster-general, have already been upgraded—from major-general  to lieutenant-general in the case of the chief of staff and from colonel to major-general in the case of the adjutant-general and quartermaster-general.
It is also my intention that the ranks for the appointments of assistant chief of staff and officers commanding commands will be upgraded from the present rank of colonel to brigadier-general. These upgradings, together with those already effected to which I have referred, will, having regard to the relative levels of responsibility, result in a more rational rank structure at senior level in the Defence Forces and will, in particular, rectify the anomalous situation hitherto existing in which officers in the rank of colonel held appointments at three different levels of responsibility. The situation in this regard has been that a brigade commander reported to an officer commanding a command who, in turn, was subject to controls exercised by the adjutant-general and quartermaster-general. The rank of all those appointments was colonel until the recent upgrading of the appointments of adjutant-general and quartermaster-general. The provisions of this Bill will enable me to complete the task in relation to the appointments of officers commanding commands and the assistant chief of staff. Officers commanding commands are, of course, also subject to directions issued by the chief of staff but, in that case, the rank for the appointment of chief of staff was normally higher than colonel.
Precedence of rank is a very important factor in the Defence Forces. The situation is, of course, unique having regard to the fact that members of the Defence Forces are subject to a code of military law, the operation of which depends on a system of command, authority and discipline. The upgradings envisaged reflect this situation and are regarded as essential in the circumstances.
The new rank structure will provide a better promotion progression for military officers. It will also provide a pool of officers of general rank from which can be drawn officers for certain senior appointments with United Nations Forces. Under the present structure,  any such officer has to be promoted exceptionally if he is to enjoy the rank appropriate to the appointment. I trust that the purpose of the Bill is clear to Senators and I commend it to the Seanad.
Mr. Cooney Mr. Cooney
Mr. Cooney: On behalf of this party I welcome the Bill, because as the Minister has indicated, it clears up certain rank anomalies in the Defence Forces. Particularly as members of the Defence Forces are serving abroad more frequently, it is important that the ranks in our forces would correspond, possibly not exactly but fairly accurately, with the ranks of the other forces which might be within the United Nations Force.
There seems to me to be one anomaly still, but I do not know that it can be resolved. The Minister might help us when he is replying. It arises in the case of a brigade commander. I presume the origin of the title brigadier-general is that it refers to the officer who is commanding a brigade. In our Army structure we have brigades usually under the command of a colonel who ranks below the colonel commanding the command within which the brigade is situated. We will have the commander of brigades holding the rank of colonel and being junior to the brigadier-general who will be commanding the particular command. It seems to be slightly anomalous but, no doubt, there is a good explanation for it. I am sure it is not an anomaly. If it is an anomaly, or has the characteristics of an anomaly, the Minister would have used this Bill to cure that one as well. That is the only question I have to raise on it.
The Bill is generally welcome because, as the Minister said, it provides a pool of officers of general rank for promotions internally and to enable appointments within the United Nations to be filled. Any measure such as this is good for the morale of the Defence Forces. It is important that that morale be kept high. While one could say the matters dealt with in this Bill are peripheral to the question of morale, nevertheless they are a factor. Undoubtedly, the most significant  matter that touches morale is for members of the Defence Forces to be aware that the Government and Legislature are interested in them, and interested in the well-being and efficiency of the force.
The morale of the Defence Forces was brought to a very high pitch some years ago by the intensive recruiting drive carried out by the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Donegan, and by his insistence that the equipment, the clothing and transport of the Army should be improved appropriately. A considerable amount of money was spent in doing that. In addition, the living quarters were improved at many Army installations and the new barracks in Monaghan is a showpiece. The lift the Army got from that development should be maintained. I am glad to note the Minister has commenced recruiting again.
Speaking on a Bill concerning officer rank, I would urge the Minister to ensure that the system of making cadetships available to non-commissioned officers is persisted in and used to the widest degree possible. We have to be careful about the quality of the people coming into the Army and ensure that there are promotional outlets available to the very top. It is a comparatively new development to provide cadetships for non-commissioned officers but it is a good development. It should be expanded. I appreciate that the question of recruiting cadets will also have to continue but the ambition should be that the proportion of recruiting cadets and promoting cadets should be brought into line with each other. This could be done without any danger to the quality of the officers in the Army because the Minister knows and, coming from a garrison town, I know that there is a very high quality of young men joining the Army at all levels today. There are many non-commissioned officers who are well fit to be promoted to commissioned ranks and I would urge that on the Minister.
I also urge him to keep in mind and listen to the soldier's traditional prerogative of the “crib” because, very often, these cribs, as they are called in Army language, are indicative of strong feelings within the Army. Very often  they concern extra payments for extra duties. Some time ago extra payments for non-Border duties were provided for. These should be kept under review and they should be dealt with as generously as possible. The Army are always available. There is never any question of industrial disputes affecting the Army. There is a great tradition of service to the nation within the Army. The State, through the Government, should recognise that tradition and ensure that, in all their dealings with the members of the Defence Forces, generosity will be the keynote. I welcome the Bill and I hope the new promotions will work out satisfactorily.
Mr. Dowling Mr. Dowling
Mr. Dowling: I should like to add my voice to that of Senator Cooney in support of the Bill. The Minister said the new rank structure will provide a better promotion progression for military officers. In the Defence Forces far more than just officers are concerned. There is also the question of privates and NCOs. The whole question of promotional opportunities within the Defence Forces is an important one. When it comes to the promotion of senior officers, which will be by way of appointment and not promotion, or even by way of promotion, I hope the promotional opportunities will be fair and reasonable. In the not too distant past many factors were brought to light in relation to unfair opportunities for personnel, particularly in the senior ranks. I do not want to dwell on that.
The present Minister and the previous Minister, Deputy Donegan, did an immense amount of work to improve the situation within the Defence Forces. While some mistakes were made by the previous Minister—and I had many runins with him from time to time—he made very valuable contributions to the Army and made the service a better place for many soldiers. There are to be changes in the structure of authority. Changes in authority sometimes mean substantial changes in organisation. Changes in organisation may mean that there will be changes in the role of the Defence Forces. Sometimes one follows the other. If there are to be changes in the role of the Defence Forces because  of changes in authority and organisation, then we are moving into a new situation. Very often these changes have to take place before role changes take place. Will the Minister indicate if any change in role is anticipated for the Defence Forces?
I appreciate the problems and difficulties the Minister has at the moment in relation to the senior officer rank and the officer rank of the Defence Forces where problems can arise in relation to promotional opportunities. In the Defence Forces we should have a positive career structure so that careers could be planned over the next ten, 15 or 20 years. There should be a periodic factual assessment of officers to ensure that officers with potential would not be denied the opportunity of using the educational facilities that are available. If a man is a bad lieutenant he becomes a bad captain, a bad colonel and a bad major general or chief of staff or whatever rank he may rise to. There should be an assessment at an early stage so that a man can equip himself for the life for which he is ideally fitted.
Some people have been denied a promotional opportunity on assessment at a very late stage in their careers. That is wrong. The assessment must be made at an early stage so that a person can adapt himself to civilian life. Having given his allegiance to the nation he should be able to avail of the opportunities, educational and otherwise, to equip himself for life outside the Army. There should be greater emphasis on the educational aspect for officers, NCOs and men in the technical field. The soldier of tomorrow will be a technician, a technocrat. The courses given in general are not the type of courses which will be of the greatest benefit to the Defence Forces. In Galway University and elsewhere there are great opportunities for personnel but they must be directed in such a way that they will give the best and most beneficial service to the nation and to the Army. The career structure must be a positive career structure. Officers must know at an early stage what their assessment is and whether they can attain what they have set their sights on, or whether they will be diverted into a cul-de-sac and have no  educational opportunities. It is only right that people with ability and understanding and, indeed, people who are prepared to study and to compete, irrespective of their length of service, should be able to avail of educational opportunities. I believe length of service is a factor in promotion. We should give all the opportunities and all the information to the personnel so that they can equip themselves fully and effectively.
People in the upper limits of the service are mainly well insulated personnel in the senior officer rank. In many ways the senior officer rank in this Army, and indeed other armies, is a club and people operate in a small circle. The Minister for Defence has enormous difficulties in that he is caught between the senior officers, or the Army commander on the one side, and the civil service on the other. Few other Ministers are in the same difficult situation the Minister for Defence finds himself in.
We must start at the other end of the ladder also and consider the privates. At the moment many young men are being asked to joint the Defence Forces in the recruitment campaign. I support the recruitment campaign and consider service in the Defence Forces is well worth while. Again there must be a comprehensive career structure at that level because they too need to keep abreast of technical developments and modern requirements. They will be the technicians of the future, the military technicians. There are great opportunities but there will have to be changes in the basic situation at the lower level. Many young men lay their lives on the line when they decide to become members of the Defence Forces. What is the situation at the moment? Many young men whose fathers and other relatives have served in the Defence Forces are offering themselves for service. On too many occasions in the past after six or eight weeks in the barracks they were told they could go home, that they were not finally approved. This is a vicious type of situation. A young man tells his friends and parents he has joined the Defence Forces and, after six or eight weeks in the barracks, he is sent home  for some trivial conflict with the law. These are young men of 16, 17 or 18 years of age with no great police record. If a person breaks the military law, or is not prepared to conform to it, then the military assessment must be made and whatever action is necessary taken, whether it is a discharge or otherwise. Far too often because they were guilty of firing snowballs at a night watchman, or some silly offence such as that, people have been not fully approved and sent home. This is a very serious situation. People are entitled to equal opportunities under our Constitution. I fail to see how a young man with no record has been discharged and denied the opportunity——
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: The Senator is going a little wide of what is relevant to this Bill and I would like him to get back to what is in the Bill.
Mr. Dowling Mr. Dowling
Mr. Dowling: A soldier is a solider and if we are dealing with a soldier, whether he is a major-general, a lieutenant-colonel or a private soldier, he is a soldier as far as I am concerned. One cannot pigeonhole any aspect of defence because every aspect of defence has a bearing on the other. The man at the bottom is the person who will have to obey the orders and fit in with the changes. Any change within the structure of the Defence Forces is an overall change and not just something that affects the private soldier only. The private soldier I am speaking about may some day be the man who will fill a senior position. There were private soldiers who rose up through the ranks and attained very high positions in the Defence Forces—up to the rank of colonel and, indeed, other senior ranks. I cannot see that I am deviating from the whole question of the changes that are taking place.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: The Bill deals only with officer rank, I have allowed the Senator to refer to other ranks but he should now return to the Bill.
Mr. Dowling Mr. Dowling
Mr. Dowling: The question of promotional opportunities from the private to the officer rank is very wide-ranging. I want to deal with promotional  opportunities from the ranks to the officer status. This is important. During a recruitment period it is necessary and desirable to say something about the other people who will also be affected.
I take the Cathaoirleach's point and I will not dwell on the matter. I should, however, like to complete what I was saying as it may be taken out of context. When we have a recruitment campaign we must be positive about the people we take into the Defence Forces. They should be taken in and fully assessed. They should not be assessed by somebody else outside the Defence Forces. If they are to be subject to military law and military promotional opportunities, that is a matter for the Defence Forces.
There is one case which I should like to refer to. A young man who spent six weeks in the Curragh was sent home as being not fully approved. I wrote to the Minister in connection with this. Some time after I met the young man in the House and I said I was very sorry the Minister did not see his way to giving him the opportunity to serve the nation. I told him I would try again. He then told me he was working in the Department of Agriculture. He was good enough to work in a Department of State but he was not good enough to serve the nation as a private soldier. There is something wrong if a young man can be rejected by the Army on one hand and taken into a Department on the other. If his crime was not grave enough to deny him that opportunity, then it was not grave enough to deprive him of the opportunity of serving the nation.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: The Senator is disregarding the ruling already given.
Mr. Dowling Mr. Dowling
Mr. Dowling: To get back to the question of the officer rank. If this is the total increased promotional opportunity then it falls short of what I would expect. I would ask the Minister to give a clear indication that promotional opportunities in the senior officer rank are not the only promotional opportunities that will be developed within the armed services so that other people will have the opportunities  to display their skills and to get the merit and consideration to which they are entitled. I find it hard to differentiate between an NCO, an officer or a man. These senior officers are soldiers and so are the other ranks. When we refer to the Army, we refer to soldiers. We do not pick out a man of very high rank and refer to him all the time. He is part of a situation. Our people have given service on Border duties and in foreign service and have done credit to this nation over a period; some of them are senior officers now. It is sad that on occasions criticism was levelled against senior officers for accidents in the past; for their assessment of the situation on the facts relating to it. Armchair generals are removed from the situation but are there to condemn them. Factual assessment at all levels, times and places is desirable and necessary.
The Minister has the manoeuvrability; he can appoint an officer who will look at the situation in relation to the NCOs and men, to the present defects to the additional opportunities and upgrading in relation to the present technological age. I fully agree with the statements already made regarding the necessary and desirable opportunity to make the Army better and more effective. I hope there will be a change in emphasis in many directions; a change in military outlook. Basically, military outlook has not changed a lot since the forties. While equipment has been updated and personnel have been changed to meet this change, the general thinking in relation to military affairs has not changed a whole lot. I compliment the Minister on the recent equipment for the Defence Forces, a suitable type of personnel carrier and particularly equipment that meets the needs and requirements of the force. As a result of such developments, we shall ensure that the Air Corps and other branches of the Defence Forces are properly equipped and that we shall have the type of effective force that everyone considers necessary and desirable.
I feel that cavalry units are the answer to many of the problems because of the nature of our country.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: Sorry, Senator, if  you wish to discuss these things on a broader issue you will have to do so by way of a motion.
Mr. Dowling Mr. Dowling
Mr. Dowling: I suggest that the Minister might with the opportunity that is now available to him, direct somebody's attention to certain aspects of channelling personnel. I assume that the personnel who are appointed will be in a position to examine the new and developing situations that arise in an ever-changing world. I hope one of the senior officers, whose promotional opportunities will be increased, will look at the situation in relation to the discharge of personnel where there have been many grave defects over a long number of years. The Minister will have to devote some time and energy to ensuring that the problems of the past will be rectified.
There are very many aspects in relation to senior officers down along the line about which I would like to speak but it appears that we will not have the opportunity of a wide-ranging debate here, irrespective of the other important matters upon which Members must voice their opinion.
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: I am sorry to have to remind the Senator that that is quite true. The scope of this Bill is very limited and the Chair has already ruled to that effect.
Mr. Dowling Mr. Dowling
Mr. Dowling: Could the Minister clarify the situation in regard to the exact changes in structure and role that will take place and how personnel will be allocated new duties? If we had this information we could then be in a position fully and effectively to discuss the spinoff situation in relation to promotional opportunities. However, I will not detain the House any longer. There is much more that needs to be said in relation to the Army as a whole. I would like to wish the Minister well. I understand his difficulties and his problems, being caught between two sections, unlike other Ministers. Work that should have been done over the years has not been done, and for that reason a heavy load  rests on his shoulders. Again I would like to compliment the people who have served this nation wisely and well over the years and have given loyal service both here and abroad, without question.
I wish the Minister well in this piece of legislation. I hope those who have the good fortune to get promotion will be the best men for the jobs and that they will meet the ever-changing situation in the ever-changing world in which the military service operates.
Dr. West Dr. West
Dr. West: I also support very much what Senators Cooney and Dowling have said. I welcome this Bill. We should be grateful to Senator Dowling, even though he may have circumvented the rules of procedure somewhat because there is no doubt that he has personal knowledge of the Defence Forces, which is a very valuable thing. I think his speech was an excellent contribution to the debate. I feel that all the Members of the House will be proud of the record of our Defence Forces. Our Army is about 50 years old. After 1921 we had to build it from scratch, develop our own traditions and this was successfully done. We can be very proud of the Army's role, to which the Minister has referred, particularly that of service with the United Nations Forces. There may be a number of different reasons for the new rank structure but the Minister mentioned that:
The new rank structure will provide a better promotion progression for military officers. It will also provide a pool of officers of general rank from which can be drawn officers for certain senior appointments with United Nations forces. Under the present structure, any such officer has to be promoted exceptionally if he is to enjoy the rank appropriate to the appointment.
I welcome that and seeing that we have established this tradition of service in the United Nations, of which we should be very proud, the change along these lines is to be supported. The fact that we have been able to do this depended on our building up, maintaining and defending our neutrality. Otherwise we could not be invited by the United Nations to  provide forces in trouble spots around the world. That is something which we should be proud of and which we, in the Houses of the Oireachtas, should always strive to maintain. I welcome the efforts made by the Minister and by his predecessors to re-equip the Army and bring their equipment up to the most modern standards.
I should like at the same time to sound a note of warning because I think the Minister will be under pressure to make structural changes in our Defence Forces set-up for other reasons than those which would appear here. I do not think that in this case this applies but it is something that we must bear in mind when we look at any structural changes in the set-up of our Defence Forces. Ultimately the Parliament and the Government are responsible for the structure of the Defence Forces. The warning I should like to sound is that there is no question but that we are going to be under pressure to contribute to the defence of Europe as the Economic Community becomes more integrated. Our neutrality should come before everything and it is something we must——
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: Senator, that is slightly irrelevant as far as the Bill is concerned.
Dr. West Dr. West
Dr. West. It is not if it happens that changes are to be made because of the pressure from the European Economic Community. In this case changes are not being made because of pressure from the European Economic Community. But I think we will be under pressure to make alterations in the structure of our Defence Forces on those grounds. I do not think this Bill involves that but it is a danger and it is something of which the House should be aware. I am not going to dwell on this point but it is important that, when we are considering a Bill which concerns the Defence Forces and any changes of structure, we should examine the reasons why the changes are made. What worries me is that later on the Minister or perhaps his successor, may be under a great deal of pressure. I think we should maintain our neutrality and any sign of that slipping would be very serious. I regret to say  that two recent votes in the United Nations, or one, in the United Nations——
An Cathaoirleach An Cathaoirleach
An Cathaoirleach: Sorry, but there will be other opportunities for the Senator to raise all these matters but certainly not on this Bill.
Dr. West Dr. West
Dr. West: I am going to move away from that but I would like to say that there have been signs recently that our neutrality is being allowed to slip. I hope the Government will not allow this. It is up to the Government to maintain this position of neutrality.
I feel that the modernising of our forces, both in regard to equipment and to the structure of the ranks and the creation of a new rank, is to be welcomed. We must give our forces the maximum support. We must ensure, as Senators Cooney and Dowling have already said, that their conditions are the best. I know from my own experience that the forces are getting top quality recruits and are providing them with extremely valuable training. For some of them this is not a permanent training but the people we are talking about are permanent career soldiers and we must do everything we can to make their conditions the best. Along with every other Member of the House I am very proud of the record of our Defence Forces, both at home and serving with the United Nations. A Bill which puts that service into a better situation and which improves the opportunities for our senior officers serving at home or abroad is to be welcomed.
Professor Conroy Professor Conroy
Professor Conroy: I would like to join in welcoming the Bill and in welcoming the Minister to the House in his capacity as Minister for Defence. The Bill is a very short Bill and we could divide it into two main aspects. One is that it is intended, in effect, to increase and improve the efficiency of our officer rank structure primarily for the benefit of the proper functioning of the Army, both at home and abroad. It is a matter of great pride that our Army is playing such a very worthwhile role abroad. The days seem to be long since gone when people queried what was the role of our Army. We now realise sadly, that it is necessary at home and that we have a particular role to play in the maintenance of world  peace. Obviously, our role must not be one of having large numbers but one of acceptability and efficiency. Our officers and men abroad have done this admirably and as well as, if not better than, any other armed force. It is a source of great pride and joy that we are able to make such a very useful contribution.
On a purely practical basis this Bill will play some small part in that. This is a rank which is approximately suitable for the command of a small detachment on overseas service, or alternatively to play an administrtive role in relation to the United Nations during service abroad. This is over and above its practical uses here.
Secondly, one should note the fact that for the career structure of the Army officers themselves, for the officer cadets, it provides a very necessary and useful rank which completes the necessary organisation of officer ranks in the Army. Basically, what we are doing here is amending the Defence Act of 1954 under which the Department of Defence and our armed services function.
Hitherto we had as principal officers of the Defence Forces, and I quote from An Cosantóir, January 1977 issue. We had in the chief-of-staff branch a major-general, then a series of officers, assistant chief-of-staff, director of operations, director of training and so on, all held by officers of the rank of colonel. In the adjutant-general's branch, the adjutant-general, himself a colonel, one colonel assisting him as deputy-adjutant and so on down through the quarter-master-general's branch, technical and supply staff and various other establishments. From the point of view of organisation within the Army structure this situation, although it has in many ways functioned well because of the de facto acceptance and hard work of the officers concerned, in getting on well with one another and so on, nonetheless from the efficiency point of view, from the point of view of proper structures within an army is very much out of line with the normal procedure in most armed forces. This meant that there was a very wide gap between the rank of colonel and the very senior rank of major-general.
 There are very many obvious circumstances from this list of principal officers of the Defence Forces where it would be totally inappropriate to have someone of the rank of major general. Equally, it would be somewhat inappropriate to have someone of the rank of colonel undertaking duties which in any other armed forces would be undertaken by an officer of brigadier rank, a general officer in other words as it is, I understand, technically defined.
The functions of the Department of Defence—and I sometimes think we do not quite realise what a wide range of functions the Department of Defence covers—are given here in detail and in various Acts and so on. Many of these are very much of an administrative nature. We attempt, with what is a relatively small force, and a relatively small number of officers, to cover an extraordinarily wide range of functions and it must be a matter of pride that this is done so well and that our officers have acquitted themselves so well often, perhaps, not getting the credit which they deserve. It was only, perhaps, when these officers went overseas that it was realised that their efficiency, ability and training were, at the very least equal, and often superior, to those of many other forces. We realised then just what a high calibre of officers and men we have in the Irish forces. This is something in which we take great pride and is particularly due to the people themselves having often, in obscurity and with very little attention, worked extremely hard to improve their efficiency and ability.
One area which is very important is that of the Naval Service. The discussion so far has been almost entirely about the Army and that is, perhaps, natural. It has the traditional role in this country, a role which, despite that fact, is, nonetheless, a little odd when we consider that we are an island nation and that, perhaps, we should devote more attention to our Naval Service than we have hitherto. This in no way denigrates the importance of the Army. It is just that at times we have neglected the sea a little. Something which we do not, perhaps, fully realise is that from the point of view of fisheries and of other developments,  we now have, a very large and crucial sea area under our responsibility. It is important, therefore, that we should make provision in this Bill for a senior officer, the flag officer rank in the Navy. It does not necessarily mean that someone should be appointed to it forthwith but it does mean that the establishment and the possibility of appointment are there.
If I understand rightly, and perhaps the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, at present in our armed services we have approximately 700 men in the Naval Service. We do not differentitate in the sense that there is not a Naval Corps or an Air Corps or an Army Corps; they are all part of our Defence Forces; those who are part of the Naval Service at present number about 700. If I understand correctly, the new ships, which I am delighted to say that we are getting, will provide an opportunity for our Naval Service to play the role it should be playing and an opportunity for promotion and the other possibilities which Senator Dowling mentioned. The Naval Service will inevitably, with the number of ships that we already possess or are building or planning, require an increase in personnel to perhaps 3,000 to 4,000 men which means that we would be quadrupling the numbers in the Naval Service. One can very readily see that this new rank in the Naval Service may well become necessary and may well, I hope, be filled earlier than otherwise might have been the case.
I know that the Minister has taken a particular interest in the development of the Naval Services. I also realise that this is an exceptionally difficult service to develop rapidly. It is not just a question of placing advertisements in the newspapers and expecting to fill the vacancies with qualified people. Many of the officers involved are technical officers in very heavy demand already in civil life, industry or elsewhere and it is very good indeed, that we have brought in this new rank which will provide the possibility of an advancing career structure to those officers who join our Naval Service.
There has been some slight wonderment about the rank of brigadier. Many of us, perhaps, tend to associate it with  the sister country across the water. We talk about revising Irish history, which does badly need revising but in precisely the opposite direction to that fashionably wished by so many people at present. It is a fact, I understand, that the rank of brigadier is actually a French rank. It was brought in when they started to form army groups in which three regiments were grouped together and the senior colonel was called the brigadier. Indeed one of the very first brigadiers to be appointed in military history was, in fact, Lord Mountcashel, Brigadier of the Irish Brigade in France when the regiments of Mountcashel and Dillon, the other Irish regiment, were brought together to form the Irish Brigade in 1691. The term “brigade” is now a very normal one in many armies. It does not necessarily follow, of course, that the brigades which we have at present should necessarily be headed by a brigadier because we link together a small number of battalions, whereas, traditionally, it was the linking of regiments which themselves consist usually of at least two battalions. I am pleased to see this ancient title which our Army and officers are as entitled to as those in other armies, once again restored to our Armed Forces.
We have been inclined during this debate to go beyond the immediate confines of the precise changes in rank proposed in the Bill. I do not propose to go any further, but I cannot help thinking that a particularly appropriate subject for a Seanad debate is a debate on the Defence Forces. It is a debate which is of national importance and concern and perhaps, to a large extent we are inclined to put our heads in the sand and ignore many developments around us. It is, perhaps, very understandable that we should do so but defence, and the questions of neutrality, such as those Senator West raised, are matters which would seem very appropriate for a Seanad debate. They affect us in the country as a whole, perhaps more than in any particular constituency or area. It is very interesting to note the number of Senators who have been anxious and willing to join in this debate, and that we have found ourselves limited in the comments we can make about it. It shows our interest.
 In welcoming the Bill I should like to pay a tribute to the Minister for bringing it in and also for the quiet efficiency which he has brought to his job as Minister for Defence, the very best attributes in a Minister for Defence, and, in particular, his interest in developing our naval units.
Mr. Governey Mr. Governey
Mr. Governey: Like previous speakers, I should like to welcome the Bill and congratulate the Minister on making the changes contained in it. It is a short Bill, and the scope for discussion is very limited if we are to abide by the rules of the House. I am glad to see from it that our rank structures which have been different from those in Western European nations will be brought into line with those structures and with those of the United Nations Forces. That was necessary, and I can understand the difficulties which must have arisen at times when some of our Army officers went abroad. Indeed, I should like to say how proud we all feel of our Defence Forces. We feel very proud when they go abroad and join with peacekeeping forces.
I should like to place on record my feeling of appreciation of the improvements made in the conditions in our Defence Forces under the previous Minister for Defence, Deputy Donegan, and which are continuing under the guidance of the present Minister. It is very important that those who serve in the Defence Forces should have proper conditions and be treated financially in a proper manner. I noted when reading the brief explanatory memorandum accompanying the Bill that regarding the new post of brigadier-general there has been no mention as to what the salary will be for that post. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten us when replying.
I should like to know if the Minister feels satisfied that there are no changes necessary in the structure of the Air Corps? Under this Bill we will have changes within the Army and the Naval Service but there has not been any mention of any changes in the structure in the Air Corps.
I should like to be informed if the  Minister has any intention of making changes in the structure of the FCA, another relation of our Defence Forces of which we are all justly proud. At present the highest rank, as far as I am aware, is that of commandant, and I should like to hear from the Minister whether he intends making any changes in this structure.
When one mentions the Defence Forces generally people take it that we are speaking of the Army but of course we are covering here all the Defence Forces. I am glad the previous speaker mentioned that in this Bill there is also the change in the structure in our Naval Service. That is also right and proper.
The explanatory memorandum states that the new rank structures will provide a better promotion progression for military officers and provide a pool of officers of general rank from which can be drawn officers for certain senior appointments with the United Nations. That is terribly important. I welcome the Bill and wish the Minister every success in his efforts during his term of office to carry out improvements for our Defence Forces.
Mr. E. Ryan Mr. E. Ryan
Mr. E. Ryan: I welcome the Bill. There have been a number of anomalies in regard to ranks in the Army over the years which are gradually being eliminated. Up to approximately the late forties we had the rank of major in the Army which, in fact, corresponded with lieutenant-colonel in other armies, and we had no rank of lieutenant-colonel. We also had, of course, the rank of commandant which corresponded with that of major in most other armies. We changed the rank to eliminate major and introduced lieutenant-colonel, a very necessary change, and we left the rank of commandant because it had a rather historic association in the Defence Forces. On balance that was probably the right decision to make. In other armies the rank of commandant is an appointment rather than a rank but, nevertheless, on balance we were probably right to retain the rank of commandant. Now we are taking another step. The Department of Defence move pretty slowly in these matters but they gradually get around to them. I am glad  the Department decided to create the rank of brigadier-general and to eliminate the situation where, as the Minister said, a number of officers holding different responsibilities, responsibilities varying in importance, held the same rank. The rank of brigadier-general will eliminate that difficulty and ensure that officers holding certain appointments which are more onerous and carrying more responsibility that the ordinary rank of colonel, will, in fact, have the rank of brigadier-general.
I was interested in Senator Conroy's historical observations about the rank of brigadier-general. It is true that the rank of brigadier-general was created for an officer holding the appointment of brigadier and I hope this will not be forgotten. It is understandable at present when our Army is relatively small, that the rank of brigadier-general should not automatically be given to a brigade commander, that it should be reserved for the time being for command OCs and, possibly, a few other special appointments but I would hope, in the event of our forces being expanded, that the rank of brigadier-general should be given to brigade commanders, which, of course, is what the rank was originally created for.
I should also like to approve of the fact that certain changes are being made and extra ranks created in the Naval Service. Certainly, the rank of admiral is not likely to be used for the present or for some time to come but our Naval Service is expanding. It will expand very much in the next few years and it is only appropriate that this opportunity should be taken of changing the structure and adding additional ranks for the Naval Service so that when the time arrives appointments and promotions can be made. Possibly there will be an immediate appointment but certainly, in due course, these ranks will be availed of as our Naval Service increases in size because of their duties in regard to fishery protection and other duties.
Reference has been made to the situation with the United Nations and this is of particular relevance. I know that on occasions in the past the Defence Forces have been asked to provide officers to take very important commands with the  United Nations and although we had suitable officers, men who had the ability and the experience, and were in every way suitable for the appointments, they had not the appropriate rank. This created difficulties for the United Nations and embarrassment for the man concerned if he was appointed in spite of the fact that his rank was not really adequate. It is a great pity where we have men who are suitable for those appointments and in every other way not only as good as any other officer from any other army but, in fact, in many cases better than other possible appointees, that this embarrassment should arise. I am glad that we have created the rank of brigadier-general. We have, in fact, upgraded a number of our senior officers and that will ensure that in the future when senior officers are required for the United Nations appointments they will have the appropriate rank and will be eligible and suitable in that and every other regard for the appointment. From that point of view I welcome this Bill and I am glad that the Minister has taken this step. I have no doubt that it will give satisfaction in many respects and in many areas as far as the Defence Forces are concerned.
Mr. Harte Mr. Harte
Mr. Harte: On behalf of the Labour Party I should like to welcome the Bill. The Army are never in a very strong position such as many other professional groups in our society are and who, when the chips are down, can make their voices heard and see that they get their full whack in consultation, and get a full hearing of any of their grievances. Therefore, it is welcome when the Minister takes the initiative and gives the Army some advantage that seems from time to time to be overlooked. It is very much the norm in industry, in the services and at other professional levels to force situations which can bring about upgrading. Of course, the Army is not in that happy position. The fact that the Defence Forces are not in this happy position makes it all the more pleasing that somebody does, from time to time, take some interest in them. In this case I am delighted the Minister has ensured that some development as taken place on this question of ranking and upgrading.  Reading the Dáil Debates I was glad to note the welcome the Bill had in the other House and I am also glad to note the great welcome it is getting here.
We tend to overlook outside factors. I am glad Senator E. Ryan drew attention to the quality of the officers and the fact that they have to take up very onerous and difficult positions abroad, and not only with the United Nations. Because of the world situation, if we were called on we would have to come to some agreement to supply officers for training, and so on. It is very welcome to see a development like this. Unfortunately the public do not have a full appreciation of the very useful and difficult role soldiers have to play. This is because the Army do not have pressure groups and they are not very often in the position to flex their muscles. It is up to us, and to the Minister in particular, to keep an eye on the situation and see that some developments take place that will make the Army realise that they are appreciated and that we as Members of this House understand the wonderful job they do, the onerous tasks that they perform and the honour they bring to Ireland when they are abroad—taking command and so on.
When people die in the Congo, or somewhere like that, it has an immediate impact but once emotion dies down I do not think people fully understand what the Army are being called on to do. As someone who was involved in guerilla warfare, as an ex-soldier, I can readily understand what the soldiers and officers abroad are going through. It is worse than war because in a war you have some idea where you are going and where the danger lies. The soldiers are really up against it. I am delighted to see that this alteration in the line structure has taken place because it has been out of line with all the other western European countries. As I said earlier, people do not fully appreciate the situations the Army have to deal with.
I would ask the Minister—I know it is not possible within the terms of this Bill—to have regard to the new role the soldier is playing and to look at his rates of pay compared with the pay of some  of the other security people who are doing much better financially, even having regard to the fact that the soldiers are bedded down, have their meals and so on. When you look at their rates of pay and the onerous task they take on, in fairness there is a case there. The Minister might have another look at this. Perhaps in the middle of the hurly-burly that may grow out of either a new initiative on a national wage agreement or free-for-all negotiations, something would emerge for the lower ranks.
I would like to go on record as thanking the Minister for increasing the allowances of the people serving abroad who were badly treated. This is a good development.
Mr. Lanigan Mr. Lanigan
Mr. Lanigan: I too welcome the introduction of this Bill. The creation of this new rank will have repercussions right through the officer ranks and, hopefully, right down through the noncommissioned officers and other ranks. The role of the Army has been changing for very many years. I wonder, in today's circumstances, if the structure we have is the type of structure that is needed. As has been said by some of the earlier speakers, there are very heavy and onerous duties on the administrative side connected with the officer ranks. The Army of today is basically an army which does not have the working conditions the armies of the past had to work in. The Army of today is a technical army. It is an army which needs very high degrees of skill in the technical area—communications, the knowledge of where your enemy is going to come from, how to deal with the massive technological changes that have taken place in aircraft, submarines, ships, in the armaments themselves, and so on.
I wonder should there be more emphasis placed on the provision of an officer grade, an officer who is highly technically oriented rather than the present situation where the majority of officers come up through the system of recruitment which we have had since the formation of the State, that is, recruitment at cadet level. I believe there should be a change in the full method of recruitment. The cadet grade should be abolished and everybody who joins the  Army should have the opportunity to go right through and be promoted from the initial recruitment stage to the top officer grade. It can be said that this happened in the past, that people who had gone in as privates have risen to the very highest level in the officer grade, but this is the exception rather than the rule, and I think there is a need for change. People who completed their secondary education are now joining the Army. Their educational standards are as high as the people who go in at the cadet grade, but it takes much longer for a person who goes in at the private grade to attain officership than it does for a person with the same educational standards who goes in at cadet grade. I do not think this is fair. In the present day industrial sector I do not think that would be allowed to happen. In industry a person with a degree would not have better opportunities than the person without a degree.
Now that we have this new grade of officer hopefully it will create a situation where there will be more officers available to review the needs of the Army in total. This review must take place from within the Army itself. I do not think it should take place from the Department of Defence. There is a need for a review of the conditions down along the line, whether it be in the lower officer grades, or in the noncommissioned and ordinary private grades. As Senator Harte said, there are problems vis-a-vis the other forces which we ask to look after this country for us. We can see the difference when the Army go on duty in the prisons in particular. They work in worse conditions than prisons officers and gardaí because they are the people who are armed——
An Leas-Chathaoirleach An Leas-Chathaoirleach
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I want to remind the Senator to keep within the scope of the Bill.
Mr. Lanigan Mr. Lanigan
Mr. Lanigan: I am suggesting that within the new officer grade possibly one of his duties should be to have a review carried out of the conditions throughout the Army. I was reiterating what was said previously by Senator Harte in connection with the differences that are there as between other grades of gardaí  and prison officers in that particular area.
There is a need also for a review, and it might be something that might be taken up by this new officer grade, of the methods by which punishments are carried out in the Army. A person can be up for courtmartial and be waiting for that courtmartial for one month, six weeks or many months. The sentence has to be reviewed afterwards and that can take a very long time. This is an area that this new officer grade could look into.
It has also been said that there has been an increasing awareness in our Defence Forces and thankfully that has happened. There is a new awareness that we have a highly skilled force of men available. They are highly trained and can go to any country where they are needed to do a very highly skilled job in very difficult circumstances. Thankfully the conditions under which they work are improving but there is a grave need for further improvement. I am happy to see that the Minister for Finance has provided extra money for accommodation for married quarters in many barracks and, hopefully, these accommodations will be brought up to the standards that exist in outside areas.
An Leas-Chathaoirleach An Leas-Chathaoirleach
An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Again I would like to remind the Senator that much of what he has been saying throughout his speech has been irrelevant.
Mr. Lanigan Mr. Lanigan
Mr. Lanigan: I accept that I may be drifting a little and I beg the Chair's indulgence. A review is necessary within the officer grade itself of the methods for airing grievances. Too often you will find that it is very hard for an officer to get his complaint through because, inevitably, it has to go through his superior officers. If the grievance is with the superior officer it is very hard to get it to the stage where he can get justice done. These are areas in which reviews could be carried out by this new officer grade.
The impact the Army has on a city or a town where they are stationed is great. In Kilkenny it is the biggest “industry” we have—it is as big as the biggest industry,  but it is often not treated in that way. The review I would like to see take place is of the total structure of the needs of a rapidly-changing Army. The day of the foot soldier has gone. The day of the highly skilled technical officer and man is here. We will have to provide the type of training that is needed to bring these officers and men up to the level of skill which is necessary in any country. They are working in foreign countries with very highly skilled armies who come from countries which are wealthier than we are, and they are expected to do the same job as the forces from these countries. There will have to be an increase in the amount of money allocated for training in technical areas.
I would like to thank the Minister for the interest that he is taking in the Army since he became Minister. From what we have seen, he deals with a difficult situation. As has been said he is caught between the civil service and the Army and he has a difficult job at times trying to decide which area is the one that needs the most attention. We should look after the men and the officers in the Army and let the Department of Defence look after the political end. I should like to thank the Minister for bringing this Bill in and I feel that it will have an impact on the force in general.
Minister for Defence (Mr. Molloy) Robert Molloy
Minister for Defence (Mr. Molloy): Ar dtús be mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil dos na Seanadóirí ar fad as ucht an fáilte atá tugtha acu don Bhille seo—An Bille Cosanta (Leasú) 1978. Cé go bhfuil a lán caint déanta anseo agus a lán moltaí déanta níl sa Bhille seo ach céim nua a cheapadh san Arm agus céim nua a cheapadh sa Seirbhís Cabhlaigh—an céim nua, ná briogáidire—ghinearál san Arm agus Seach-Aimiréal sa Seirbhís Cabhlaigh. Beidh and briogáidire—ghinearál ar comhchéim leis an ceannasóir agus beidh an céim nua sa Seirbhís Cabhlaigh —Seach-Aimiréil—ar chomhchéim le Maor Ghinearál san Arm.
I would like to thank Senators from all sides of the House for the welcome they have given to this Bill which establishes new ranks in the Army and the  Naval Service, that of brigadier-general in the Army and rear-admiral in the Navy. As I stated in my few introductory words, it is proposed immediately on the passing of this Bill to appoint the command OCs to the new rank of brigadier-general and also to promote the assistant chief of staff to this new rank of brigadier-general.
Even though I propose to add to the list of naval ranks by the addition of rear-admiral, I do not have any immediate proposals for the filling of that rank in the Naval Service. I felt it is appropriate to include the rank now because this Bill gives me that opportunity, but I do not have any immediate plans for the filling of it. The reason for that is fairly obvious. The establishment in the Naval Service when I was appointed Minister was 600 and since then, in a year-and-a-half, I have increased that establishment to 800. The establishment figure is not filled; there are many vacancies in the Naval Service. The actual strength at the moment is nearer to 700, or indeed less than 700. We have a long way to go to fill the establishment figure of 800.
Reference has been made to the need for rapid growth in the Naval Service. Presuming that our plans succeed and that that growth becomes a reality, it might be possible that in the future we will fill the rank of rear-admiral. At the moment it stands in the Defence Acts merely as a spare rank over and above the rank of commodore which has been granted, and which might be used as the rank for OC of the Naval Service in the future. It is wise to have a spare rank as we have for Army ranks—we have this in the Defence Acts, as can be seen under the Schedule to this Bill, the rank of general.
Senators raised certain points during the course of the debate and I will try to reply to them as fully as possible. I do not often get the opportunity to discuss defence matters in the Seanad, or indeed in the Dáil, and for that reason I am pleased that this Bill has given me the opportunity to hear the views of Members of the Seanad on the Defence Forces. It is obvious that they all hold those who serve and have served in the Defence Forces in very high esteem. The  Seanad today expressed very great appreciation of the excellent loyal service that has been, and is being, given both at home and abroad by the men serving in the Irish Defence Forces. May I on their behalf thank Senators most sincerely for their words of encouragement and appreciation as expressed here today?
An interesting point was raised by Senator Cooney which was repeated by other Senators regarding brigade commands. Senator Conroy very interestingly gave us the historical background to the origins of the rank of brigadier-general, and I am very grateful to him for that. I should explain that in this country military command is given to the command OC by the Minister and that a brigade is commanded by a colonel who is responsible to the command OCs. It would not be appropriate in our circumstances to attach the rank of brigadier-general to the brigade commander because the military commander for his area of operations is in fact the command OC. As I already informed the Seanad I propose to promote the command OCs to this rank. It is possible that it is unique to the Irish situation, but in all circumstances I think all will agree that this is the most reasonable and proper step for me to take. I am satisfied that the rank of colonel is appropriate for the brigade commander and that the rank of brigadier-general is more suitable for the command OC.
Senator Cooney mentioned the question of remuneration of our troops, particularly in relation to those on security duties and other special duties. Since my appointment as Minister, I have arranged for increases in the security duty allowances and in the allowances paid for those who do duty at the military detention barracks at the Curragh. As was mentioned by Senator Harte, allowances for overseas services in all the theatres of operation have also been substantially increased. As an example, allowances for services in the Lebanon have been increased from £3.80 a day to £7.30 a day for the private and the figure ranges up to £11.88 a day for a senior officer. I want to assure Senators who expressed concern at the level of remuneration that all these allowances are kept constantly under review and  any adjustments regarded as necessary will be made. I consider it my responsibility to ensure that those matters are kept constantly under review and that steps are taken to bring about improvements wherever necessary.
Comparisons are made from time to time with regard to remuneration of the Garda who seem at particular times to be doing duties similar to those of military personnel. It is difficult to make a direct comparison between the method of remuneration for both. All I can say as Minister for Defence is that I will seek at all times to bring about improvements in the rate of remuneration to those serving in the Irish Army for whom I am responsible.
At present we are running a recruiting campaign. I would ask all the Members to avail of whatever opportunities may arise to encourage young men to join the forces, because if they do so they are assured of a very healthy life, a very satisfying career and the remuneration is very good in comparison with what was paid to those serving in the forces 20 to 30 years ago. Conditions in the Army have improved very substantially in recent years and I acknowledge the interest shown by my predecessor, Deputy Paddy Donegan, when he was Minister for Defence. I also acknowledge the very great work, and indeed the foundations, laid by his predecessor, Deputy Cronin. With all due respect to previous Ministers for Defence, previous to Deputy Cronin, many of us were neglectful of the services until the emergency of 1969-70. Then there was a realisation on the part of the community that a lot was suddenly expected of the Defence Forces, that they were not up to the required strength or standard, the equipment had not been kept up to date and that there was need for a massive improvement.
It is satisfying to record that since those years the whole image of the Army has changed. The plans immediately set afoot for the improvement of facilities in barracks, the construction of new billets, and improvement in canteen-dining facilities, soldiers' recreational facilities and equipment all dated from that time. I think it is proper to include Deputy Cronin in any expression of appreciation  in regard to improvements in the Defence Forces.
My task is to ensure that all these improvements continue. I invite Senators to examine the Book of Estimates for 1979 and they will see there under the various subheads increases in the allocations to the Department of Defence to enable massive increases in the purchase of equipment for the Defence Forces to take place duing 1979. I hope that when this year is out we will have made a major contribution by re-equipping the Army with modern equipment and providing it with an adequate supply of ammunition. All the military items which are to be purchased are, unfortunately very expensive. To equip our army with the most modern equipment involves heavy investment on the part of the taxpayers but I can judge from the response in the Dáil Debate and in this debate that the Houses of the Oireachtas fully support that expendiure, and for that I am very greatful.
Senator Dowling spoke of the need for promotional opportunities for NCOs. He has great experience of the Defence Forces, having himself served but I am glad the debate did not move along the lines of a class distinction between officers and men. All those who serve in the Defence Forces are worthy of equal consideration by the Oireachtas. Some will hold positions of greater authority and responsibility than others, and it is my intention to ensure that at all times the opportunities are there for those of the very lowest rank in the Army to rise to the very highest rank.
In 1978 a course for potential officers commenced. NCOs and men were invited to apply for positions which were available on this potential officers course which is now under way. Quite a large number of men who otherwise would not have had the opportunity of achieving commissioned ranks are at present undergoing the course which should lead to commissioned rank for them. I wish them success in that course and satisfaction and enjoyment in the Army when they become commissioned officers.
We are very anxious that that door  will always be left open to provide a way in which men, who on leaving school may not have had the opportunity to gain a cadetship and take up a career in the Army as commissioned officers but who having joined as regular soldiers and having shown their metier would be given the opportunity to become commissioned later on. I hope to ensure that these courses will be held on a regular basis to provide the path from the lowest private to the highest rank in the Army at all times. We are all very conscious that there is no class distinction in the Army even though the military law and Defence Acts provide for a very strict code of discipline and a recognition of the authority of rank is a matter of great importance in maintaining morale, respect, discipline and dignity within any army. At the same time while there is respect for rank all men are treated equally by me no matter what rank they hold.
Questions were raised about the role of the Army. Let me briefly say that it is not intended that there should be any change in the traditional role of our Defence Forces but I will come to that later. Their primary task is to defend this country against external agression. They also have a role to play in aiding the civil power. Those who speak of our neutrality and of attempts to weaken the policy of the Government with regard to neutrality cannot point to any utterance from the Government with regard to such weakening of will. It remains, and I hope it will continue to remain, the policy of this Government to maintain a neutral policy. If any consideration is to be given to those matters it is not strictly speaking a matter in the first instance for the Minister for Defence but for the Minister for Foreign Affairs and of course for the Government. Finally there seems to be some who from time to time make statements which indicate that there should be or might a change of will on the part of the Government in regard to neutrality but this is not so.
A number of Senators referred to the question of education in the Army. There was an emphasis by some Senators on the modern soldier being a technician. This is very true. Deputy Gibbons, when Minister for Defence, initiated  university courses for young cadets. That was a radical step at that time and has proved very valuable in giving young Army officers the benefit of a university education. There may have been a tendency for cadets to opt for arts courses rather than technical courses such as engineering or science. I have been concerned about that trend since I became Minister and have encouraged young cadets into a wider area of third-level education. I have also opened courses in some regional technical colleges to cadets and extended them to the Physical College of Education in Limerick.
I agree with those who expressed concern that too many of the cadets were following the BA type course. There is in the Estimate for my Department a substantial amount of money allocated to cover the cost of officers and men attending special courses in order to help them gain greater expertise in their particular corps. They have travelled to high level courses in different parts of the world. This policy will be vigourously pursued by me. It is in line with what was suggested by a number of Senators, that the technical training of members of the Defence Forces should receive more attention. If there is need for further improvement in that area then I take the point. I feel a lot has been done which may not be known by the general public. In fact this year an officer is attending a major course in India at the military college there. That is the first time an officer from the Irish Army has gone there but, they regularly attend courses in Britain and on the Continent and at colleges in the United States. The service which our Defence Force personnel give with the United Nations also helps to broaden their outlook, increase their knowledge of equipment, techniques and developments of other defence forces.
Senator Dowling said that young men who wish to enlist in the forces are told after a number of weeks that their enlistment has not been confirmed. I am aware of this and I hope to take some steps to change the procedures. I would like to point out to Senator Dowling that there is very good reason for not confirming enlistment in some cases. Events in this country over the past ten years  have highlighted the necessity to ensure that those who are enlisted in the Defence Forces are persons about whom there should be no doubts as to their security risk. It has always been the practice that on application for enlistment an applicant's background would be reported upon to the enlisting officer before enlistment was confirmed. That is essential and it is a practice which will certainly continue. If there is any way in which we can ease the pain for those who eventually find that they are not accepted but I will be only too pleased to do so. The matter is being looked at at the moment but the necessity to ensure that people are good security risks will continue. It is important that that should be so.
A number of Senators mentioned the fact that a Minister for Defence is in a particularly awkward position in that he is stuck between the civil service and the Army. It may seem like that to the outsider that it is an awkward role to have to play and a delicate position to hold and maybe there were times in the past where there might have been strains or problems for people in my position. All I can say is that I am not conscious of it. I have the utmost loyalty from the civil service and from the military and I think I can say that the relationships between the military and the civil service are excellent and possibly have never been better in the history of the Irish Army. I would like to express my appreciation to both sides. I am very grateful for the loyal service which has been given to the State by the civil servants in my Department, and by the officers and men in the Defence Forces.
With regard to the question of promotion procedures I would like to assure the Seanad that all promotion procedures are applied fairly and are made with due regard to the recommendations made to me by the Chief of Staff. I hope that that position will continue and that whatever difficulties arose in the past no such difficulties will arise in the future. I have always sought to ensure that all factors are taken into consideration when promotions are being made, a man's length of service and his performance in the tasks which have been assigned to him up to that time. In  a peacetime situation—I suppose you could certainly call it that—the length of service must be a very primary factor in deciding on promotions.
Senator West referred to the service of the Irish troops with the UN. As the House probably knows this service stretches back over 20 years, to 1958, when the first group of observers went to the Lebanon. It encompasses command by Irishmen of the United Nations forces in the Congo and in Cyprus. I would like to assure Senator West that he need have no fear that any structural changes in the Defence Forces will be related to anything other than the needs of the Defence Forces for their roles. Their primary role is the obligation to defend this State against external aggression. Another role is aid to the civil power. This means, in practice, the rendering of assistance when requested to do so to the Garda who have the prime responsibility for the maintenance and restoration of the public peace and for internal security. Further roles are to aid civil defence, to contribute to the peacekeeping activities of the United Nations, fishery protection and such other duties as may be assigned from time to time such as search and rescue, ambulance service, assistance in natural disasters, oil pollution at sea.
As I have already stated the establishment of the Naval Service—which was referred to in some detail by Senator Conroy—has been expanded from 600 to 800 since I took up office. During that time the strength of the Naval Service has increased from 620 to 670. Again, I would like to place an emphasis on the fact that there are many vacancies still to be filled. Indeed, there is an urgent need that they should be filled, because of the programme for increasing the number of ships available to the service.
Senator Conroy mentioned the difficulty that exists in attracting technical officers and in retaining the service of technical officers already in the Naval Service. In industry those with the technical knowledge of marine engineers seem to be in very high demand, both on shore and with other shipping companies. Irish based and worldwide.
 We are in a position where we have to compete with the higher rates of remuneration which these organisations are able to pay marine engineers. Every effort will be made by me to further improve conditions for marine engineers in the Irish Navy. I ask the House for its co-operation in recruiting for this very vital service, particularly in those counties adjoining the sea where there may be a sea-going tradition in the family. It is surely a great honour to serve the Irish nation in the Irish Navy. With the expansion that is proposed with assistance from EEC funds, the number of new ships that have been added in recent years, those that are being built at present and those that are planned there will be need for the enlistment of hundreds of additional men at all levels into the Naval Service. The conditions are constantly under review to ensure that service at sea is properly rewarded.
I omitted to mention the salary of the brigadier-general, which was raised by Senator Governey. The pay for the rank of brigadier-general will be £9,700 a year which represents the maximum rate of pay for colonel plus the responsibility allowance of £894 paid at present to the holders of Command OC. In fact, there will be no change in the rate of remuneration of the officers holding the Commander at sea appointment on their promotion to brigadier-general.
May I also inform the Seanad that for some time the whole organisation of the Defence Forces has been under review. Senators will be aware of the increased establishment for the Naval Service that I have mentioned and the creation of a new Command at the Curragh which was done by my predecessor in 1977. This review also embraces the Air Corps and the FCA. It is hoped that the final stages of the review of the organisation of the Army will be announced shortly.
I share Senator Governey's admiration for the Forsa Cosanta Áitiúla. There is no better force to introduce our youth to military service. I intend to pursue vigorously a programme designed to ensure that the military skills of the members of the FCA are brought up to the highest possible standard.
I anticipate, because of the increasing responsibilities of the Air Corps, particularly  on fishery patrols, it will be necessary to expand the Air Corps to meet these developments. There are two areas of the Defence Forces for which very rapid expansion is planned in the immediate future, the Naval Service and the Air Corps. As the House is aware a recruitment campaign is at present in progress in order to maintain strength and, indeed, increase strength in the Defence Forces.
Senator Lanigan referred to the question of procedures in regard to court-martial. I am aware of the type of problem that he mentioned. I assure him that the matter is receiving very active consideration. There are some proposals coming before me from the Adjutant General's branch in regard to changes in military law which would affect procedures in regard to courtmartials which many would agree are outmoded and in need of revision and modern principles should be applied. I hope to be able to update matters in that area in the not too distant future.
We had a fairly lengthy debate. I did not expect that we would have because of the restricted nature of the Bill. I have attempted to make some reply to the points that were made. Go raibh maith agaibh as ucht an fáilte atá curtha agaibh roimh an mBille seo. Tá súil agam go mbeidh feabhas ar na Forsaí Cosanta de bharr an obair atá déanta againn anseo inniu.
Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.
Seanad Éireann 91 Private Business. Defence (Amendment) Bill, 1978: Second and Subsequent Stages.