Seanad Éireann - Volume 140 - 29 June, 1994
Defence Forces Operational Requirements: Motion.
Acting Chairman (Mr. Dardis) Acting Chairman (Mr. Dardis)
Acting Chairman (Mr. Dardis): I welcome the Minister to the House. Notwithstanding anything contained in Standing Orders of the House, the time limits for the debate on the motion are that the Minister has 15 minutes, the proposer of the motion has 12 minutes, other speakers have eight minutes and the proposer, or another Member nominated by him, has five minutes to reply.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: I move:
That Seanad Éireann, recognising that the Defence Forces are considerably below full operational strength and noting the huge interest in the recent Army recruitment programme in which only 500 recruits were enrolled, calls on the Government to provide for an annual recruitment programme.
I thank the Minister for attending the House this evening to debate the motion. I tabled the motion because for the past number of months I was, like all public representatives, ambushed by many disappointed young people who are anxious to join the Defence Forces. The figures speak for themselves. Approximately 9,000 people applied to join the Defence Forces during the last recruitment drive. This was the first recruitment drive of any consideration held for at least four to five years, a situation which has caused enormous problems within the Defence Forces.
These problems have been spelt out on many occasions by people in the Army as there is now a huge age gap. A comparison may be made with the Irish soccer team. If the manager of the team had not  introduced new people — who performed well last night — on to the panel, the team would have been in trouble. Similarly with the Army; if it is to work as a team new blood must be introduced on a continuing basis.
This is one reason the motion is so important, and I believe it will be accepted by the House in the spirit in which it was put down. The motion is an asset to the Minister who, in fairness, has gone to considerable lengths to address this issue but has not obtained the necessary funding which was not forthcoming from the Government. Indeed, the Minister emphasised that he pulled off what he believed to be something of a coup by obtaining a commitment from the Government to proceed with the recruitment of 500 people to the Defence Forces.
This reinforces the gravity of the present position. This commitment from his colleagues in Government to agree to this measure is an example of the way the Government has treated the Army and the Defence Forces. It has resulted in a crisis not only in the Army but also in the Navy. Indeed, the Navy is unable to cope with its obligations. Furthermore, the introduction of the new fisheries regulations mean there will be increased demands on the Navy which will require extra vessels and personnel. The extra personnel must be trained, which takes time, but the Government is doing very little about that.
In recent years there has been a huge drug problem afflicting the country. Many of the drugs come into the country by sea. The Navy can play a role in tackling this problem.
Criticism of the Navy was made by those in the fisheries industry. The Navy defended its position by stating that it understood why those in the industry were annoyed and concerned. However, the buck did not rest with them but elsewhere and it was carrying out its duties to the best of its ability, within the limited means and personnel available. That is just one example of where our Defence Forces are going and that is why there is an emergency — and there is no other  way to describe it. In bringing forward this motion, I hope the Minister will increase the number of Defence Forces' personnel and update equipment, and be prepared for the next step. Things are changing radically in all aspects of life, but especially within the Defence Forces.
In the not too distant past in the midlands the Army was called out to assist the Garda after an arms find. The area had to be cordoned off and we had 24-hour security for weeks. The Army, with the Garda, played a major role in that operation. I have no doubt that the members of the Government are serious about combating terrorism but we must bear in mind that there is still a lot of ammunition in this country which is unaccounted for. The Army can play a major role there too.
The efficiency audit group is a development which will be awaited with interest to see how it will affect the Army and the security forces in general. I hope the Government will see this as an opportunity to move on by streamlining and developing the Army and making it more efficient. However, that should not be done by reducing personnel, which seems to be the idea now. I hope the opposite will happen. As I said in my opening remarks, 9,000 young people were anxious to get into the Defence Forces and the majority of them were suitable for the job but they were disappointed. Apart from the fact that they wanted employment and that the Army is a healthy life, they also wanted to make an input into the security and future of their own State. It is disappointing that such an opportunity, which has not been there for years, is there now but only on a limited basis. The Minister announced yesterday that he is taking on 500 recruits. I do not know whether that is the same 500.
Minister for Defence (Mr. Andrews) Minister for Defence (Mr. Andrews)
Minister for Defence (Mr. Andrews): It is.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: The Minister has persuaded his colleagues in Government that there is a crisis. Many problems arising from vandalism and crime could be  better dealt with if members of the Defence Forces lived in certain urban areas. I know from experience that many such people have organised boxing clubs and other youth activities in their leisure time. They have a sense of responsibility to the State. It is most unfortunate that the Army has been allowed to deteriorate in numbers at a time when so many people are anxious to join.
Despite the fact that my motion has been opposed, I hope the Minister will have something optimistic and newsworthy to say, other than announcing 500 recruits who are already on the way.
Mr. Cotter Mr. Cotter
Mr. Cotter: I welcome the Minister to the House. I am looking forward to the discussion and to his response and overview of the situation. I live in a Border county where public representatives and the public themselves see the Army in action and tend to know more about its day to day activities than most people, other than the Minister and his staff. My own view, which is shared by most people, is that the Army is doing a wonderful job in support of the Garda in the Border areas. We are conscious that, from time to time, morale is not very high. Because they are more or less a secondary force and act only in support of the Garda, Army personnel feel they are looked on as a secondary force in every sense and do not get the support they deserve. That feeling has arisen along the Border in particular because of the kind of duties they have to perform 24 hours a day in all sorts of weather. Last winter must have been terrible for Army personnel who were out in wet, cold vicious conditions day after day, week after week, looking after the interests of those who live along the Border.
Army personnel have been complaining for a long time about the mealy mouthed attitude of the Minister in relation to the Border allowance. Having visited the Army barracks in Castleblaney, County Monaghan, from time to time, and from talking to friends of mine who are in the Army, I know they  are not satisfied with the current situation. The age profile of the Force has been allowed to creep upwards. Anybody in an Army who feels that it is gradually growing into a Dad's Army, is not happy and morale is not of the highest calibre. The Minister would do well to recognise that fact.
This year the Minister has decided to recruit 500 people but, compared to the number needed, that is only a drop in the ocean, and it appears to be a once off. I have not seen any evidence that it is part of a medium or long term strategy for the Army. I am waiting for the Minister to give us his view on that. There should be a long term strategy. Those of us who live along the Border are aware that the intelligence gathering service is in a crucial situation at the moment. Many people are afraid for their lives. Recently, the business people of Dublin were brought together for discussions with the Garda about how to handle a situation where bombs are being planted. That was reported in the newspapers and everyone who read it drew their own conclusions.
Yesterday I spoke to people on their way to their local pub to watch the match. They were concerned that somebody might come in to the pub with a gun and blow a number of them away as happened in the Loughinisland disaster. It was never more important than in recent times for the Army to be in good shape, for morale to be high and for it to be mobile. There is a feeling that we are in for a difficult period, not just in the Border counties but elsewhere also.
I have the highest regard for the way in which the Army and the Garda have handled the situation to date, although I do not wish to be specific because it is better not to be. They have been most successful in their duties along the Border in preventing acts of terrorism which could easily have occurred if they were not vigilant. There are a number of cases with which I am most familiar and people's lives were saved by the vigilance of the Garda and the Army in support of the Garda.
 For years the Army has been considered a fine career. I taught in a secondary school before I entered this House and I gave some career guidance in the days before it was fashionable to do so. The Army was always high on people's agenda. Parents looked upon Army training as a good and character forming experience for young people. The fact that 9,000 people applied during the recent recruitment campaign underlines the point that the Army is still considered a good career. The shame is that this type of renewal is not ongoing on a regular basis and that the career opportunities are virtually nil. For example, 8,500 people who wanted to be in the Army were prevented from doing so, although the unemployment situation is driving more than those people who want a career in the Army in that direction.
It is interesting to note that the privates in the Army of whom I know see their position as a career. They are very committed to their jobs and maintain a high level of fitness in their spare time. One sees them cycling and running when they are off duty. There is great commitment and they are proud to be in the Army, even though there are difficulties which tend to make them feel undervalued. However, they feel that they are doing something for their country. We are proud of them when they undertake United Nations duty abroad. They do a wonderful job on our behalf.
We need a long term plan for the Army. The 500 people who will be taken on this year should have opportunities for training and personal and career development within the Army. I understand that they will not have these opportunities. They will spend five years in the Army and come out without gathering further skills other than routine Army training. That is not correct. Most of the recruits are young people, just out of secondary school, who would be in a position to use opportunities for specific training within the Army. It is a pity that is not available to them.
I ask the Minister to examine this matter and to give the House his insights into the long term development of the  Army, not just in terms of a stop gap. There is a furore about the fact that 500 will be recruited this year but there are concerns that we will drift into the next decade without taking any more people on. There will be natural wastage, decreasing numbers and morale problems as a result. That is not good, given the crucial times in which we live.
I give the Minister my best wishes for the task that faces him. He has made some progress during his time in office to date. It is a difficult area in that the Government, in my view, do not share the Minister's view that the Army requires money or that the level of funds the Minister believes is required is necessary. The Minister has a difficult job to do and I wish him the best of luck. I look forward to hearing his medium and long term plans for the development of the Army.
Mr. Daly Mr. Daly
Mr. Daly: I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “Seanad Éireann” and substitute the following:
“notes the recent enlistment of 500 new recruits in the Permanent Defence Force; and is satisfied that the Government are taking all necessary steps to ensure the operational requirements of the Defence Forces are fully met.”
I welcome the Minister to the House and I congratulate him on his initiative in undertaking the new recruitment campaign. I understand that almost all of the 500 personnel have been recruited at this stage, with approximately 420 recruits to the Army and Air Corps and approximately 80 to the Naval Service. This is a most welcome development which will assist in making the Permanent Defence Forces better organised and more efficient in providing a continuing excellent service.
As Minister for a period, I dealt with the Defence Forces and I am aware of the esteem in which the people of this country hold the Defence Forces. That esteem is well earned. When one travels all over the world to any place in which  the United Nations personnel have been in operation on peace-keeping missions or otherwise, one finds that the leaders of ordinary communities, whether in the Lebanon or elsewhere, have high praise for the dedication and goodwill of Irish personnel overseas. On behalf of the House, I express appreciation to all sections of the Permanent Defence Forces and the Department for the manner in which they have carried out their duties with distinction and honour over the years.
The fundamental role of the Permanent Defence Forces had not changed to any large extent up to September last year. This role includes aiding the civil power, involvement in the United Nations peace-keeping missions and the search and rescue service and the operation of a Naval Service, providing protection for a most important economic fisheries zone. These are just a few of the areas covered by the Army, the Naval and Air Corps Services.
The Gleeson report, published some time ago, dealt to a large extent with pay and conditions issues within the Permanent Defence Forces. It also indicated a number of shortcomings, one of which was the necessity to utilise trained personnel in the Army and Naval and Air Corps Services for those type of operational duties. In the main, it would be fair to say that the Gleeson report was critical of the fact that so much of the time of trained personnel was taken up by administrative responsibilities and dealing with day to day technical administrative requirements. An efficiency audit was established to look at the whole area and it carried out a thorough examination of the Department of Defence. It made certain recommendations in relation to the giving over of responsibility, especially in the financial management area, to senior personnel in the Permanent Defence Forces.
This report, which received quite an amount of publicity at the time, was only half the required effort. It was important that an efficiency audit of the Permanent Defence Forces was also carried out to  see where duplication may have been occurring so as to get an overall balanced view of the requirements and to ensure, if there was to be reorganisation and redefinition of roles, that it would be done with the full knowledge and guidance of a carefully planned strategy. This would take the Gleeson report and what emerged in the efficiency audit of the Department into account, in addition to the efficiency audit of the Permanent Defence Forces which is now taking place.
To the best of my knowledge, the efficiency audit is working at present on the Permanent Defence Forces and will probably submit a report to the Minister later this year. At that stage the Minister will have good guidelines as to what will be necessary to deal with the shortcomings identified in the Gleeson report and putting in place a new dynamic structure which will ensure that we undertake the decided mandate. It will also ensure that this is done in the most efficient and productive way.
It is also important not to neglect the necessity of keeping a pool of skilled and trained personnel available to the Defence Forces. This is why I welcome the recent announcement of the recruitment of Army apprentices. In addition to the development of technological skills, it will be vitally necessary in the future to have skilled personnel available to both the Air Corps and the Naval Service to deal with modern and sophisticated developments that are taking place in technology, engineering, etc. In my view the Army Apprenticeship School has been very effective in producing highly skilled and trained personnel for the whole service.
A private search and rescue service was recently established in Shannon to replace that previously provided by the Air Corps. When the new service was put in place many of the technical and professional people required to operate it had to be brought in from overseas. Many of them came from the United Kingdom. We did not have in Ireland the trained and skilled personnel to operate a private search and rescue service. The  Air Corps in particular must pay attention to this. I welcome its recruitment drive, by which it plans to increase its intake of young engineers and technicians. In spite of its present difficulties, there are indications of an upturn in the aviation business and there is a danger of a serious shortage of highly skilled professional and technical people. I would like to see further attention paid to this.
Senator Cotter spoke about the deployment of personnel on security duties in Border areas. All of us would like to see the day when it would be possible to withdraw some of these personnel and I support the efforts of the Minister and the Government to establish peace in Northern Ireland, which would mean that eventually there could be a scaling down of this security operation. Last year Border duty allowances amounted to about £3.5 million, and this is at a time when there are severe restrictions on the finances of every area of Government operation. Some £400 million a year is spent by the Department of Defence and the Permanent Defence Force. This is a sizeable amount and there is a necessity to ensure that in looking at new developments in the area we make every possible effort to avoid duplication and get the best possible value for money.
The role of the Army may well change. Changes in international politics, such as the ending of the Cold War and the changes which are taking place in Europe, may mean that the Army will have to face new challenges and a new role in the future. I congratulate the Minister on the effort he has made to date to modernise, streamline and recruit more people to the Army. I urge him to continue along this line, which is worthwhile and meaningful for the State.
Minister for Defence (Mr. Andrews) Minister for Defence (Mr. Andrews)
Minister for Defence (Mr. Andrews): I am grateful to Senator Belton for giving me the opportunity of addressing this august assembly on the matter of recruitment. I thought it was appropriate, in anticipation of his contribution, to table  an amendment, which I think is reasonable. It states that Seanad Éireann—
notes the recent enlistment of 500 new recruits in the Permanent Defence Force; and is satisfied that the Government are taking all necessary steps to ensure the operational requirements of the Defence Forces are fully met.
As the Senator properly pointed out, this is the first time in four years — I intend no disrespect to or diminution of my predecessors — that such a recruitment drive was initiated. The Government decided earlier this year that the 500 new personnel would be recruited on five year contracts. After discussions with PDFORRA, the contract period was increased from three to five years and the maximum recruiting age was to be 27. In these circumstances the recruitment drive was initiated. As the Senator pointed out, about 9,000 or 10,000 people applied for 500 places. This might not necessarily indicate a desire to join the Defence Forces, but I would like to think that it does. It probably reflected the unemployment figure, which is around 270,00 at the moment. I think the majority of those who applied were most genuinely anxious to join the Defences Forces, which is an outstanding unit of our society.
I have been Minister for Defence for 15 or 16 months. Like Senator Daly, who was an incumbent of that office for a period, I am proud to be associated with the Defence Forces and I have seen them operate at first hand at home and abroad. As Senator Belton said and Senator Cotter agreed, we should be justly proud of the role they play. It is appropriate as an island nation that we should deploy our Defence Forces as widely as possible. There are currently about 13,000 people in the Defence Forces, which includes the Army, the Navy and the Air Corps.
A little over a year ago, as Senator Daly pointed out, the Government decided to undertake a major initiative to prepare the Defence Forces for the years ahead. As a first step the roles of the Defence Forces, which had remained unchanged since 1981, were updated to  take account of the realities of the 1990s. The stated primary role — defence against external aggression — had begun to look increasingly incongruous in the light of both the changed international environment, as Senator Daly said, and the day to day work of the Defence Forces. The Government approved a revised statement of roles for the Defence Forces in September 1993. Their operational roles have remained fundamentally unchanged, reflecting the tasks undertaken by the Defence Forces on a day to day basis, and may now be broadly expressed as follows: to aid the civil power, meaning in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána — the Garda and the Defence Forces have a close liaison and co-operate closely — who have the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State; to participate in United Nations missions in the cause of international peace; to provide a fishery protection service in accordance with the State's obligations as a member of the European Union; and to carry out such other duties as may be assigned to them from time to time — for example, search and rescue, an air ambulance service and a ministerial air transport service, which is a very important function.
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn Mrs. Taylor-Quinn
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: It is very important.
Mr. Andrews Mr. Andrews
Mr. Andrews: As a second stage in the review process, the Government requested the efficiency audit group to undertake a fundamental review of the organisation, structures and deployment of the Defence Forces, based on the revision of the roles. This is the proper and appropriate process in the circumstances of the needs of a modern army, particularly its requirements for the future, as Senator Daly pointed out. As we know, there will be an intergovernmental conference in 1996 on the whole area of security. In that and other contexts we are modernising an outstanding organisation which has given  wonderful service since the foundation of the State. The consultants commenced work in January and are expected to report to the efficiency audit group in the not too distant future.
The range of issues to be considered by the consultants are not new. The Gleeson report, published in 1990 and which dealt with pay matters principally, identified a number of shortcomings in the present organisation of the Defence Forces. In particular, the report highlighted the excessive number of trained military personnel working in administrative and support areas and suggested, not unreasonably, that there might be scope for the elimination of duplication within the military organisation. There is also the need to take a fundamental look at the organisation and structure of the Defence Forces with a view to ensuring that they are focused on operational tasks and that maximum use is made of their most valuable resource — trained personnel.
Reform and reorganisation are necessary, not only to provide increased efficiency and correctness — they are also a positive development for those who choose a career in the Defence Forces. We are very proud that young men and women choose a career in the Defence Forces. It is a matter of concern, as expressed by the Senators generally, that the opportunity may not be there on a consistent basis. It is my intention, in my portfolio as Minister for Defence, to make every effort to ensure that there is continuity of intake. I cannot say whether that will be a fact as it is a matter for the Government. However, it is my wish and desire.
While the report of the efficiency audit group in not yet available, it is likely that its conclusions will provide the basis for a long-term programme of change and development for the Defence Forces. I wish to make clear that the emphasis of any programme adopted by the Government will be on enhancing the effectiveness of the military organisation to perform the important roles assigned to it by the Government. Having been given a clear statement of roles, the review  process is designed to ensure that the Defence Forces will be provided with the appropriate means to carry them out. I wish to assure Senator Belton that this is not a cost cutting exercise. The intention is to obtain optimum benefit from the use of resources.
As Senator Daly pointed out, financial delegation has already taken place. The Government has approved the implementation of proposals to give greater financial authority to the military authorities; control and responsibility for seven subheads in the procurement area have been assigned to the military authorities with effect from January of this year. The question of delegating additional subheads to the military authorities will be addressed in the light of experience gained in 1994 and the forthcoming EAG report.
To address the substantive issue, earlier this year I was very pleased to be in a position to announce a recruitment drive for the Permanent Defence Force. Five hundred personnel are almost enlisted — 420 to the Army and Air Corps and 80 to the Naval Service. These recruits are being enlisted for a fixed period, extended from three to five years following discussions with the Permanent Defence Forces Other Ranks Representative Association, PDFORRA. They will receive pay and allowances on exactly the same basis as existing personnel. They will also have the same opportunities to undergo training courses and to serve overseas. The cost of the first year's service of a new recruit is now about £14,300, rising to approximately £16,000 in the second year. It is estimated that in a full year the cost of the 500 new recruits will amount to almost £8 million. The fixed term contracts will allow greater scope for regular intakes of new recruits and thus contribute considerably to what Senator Belton has asked for which is a lowering of the age profile of non-commissioned personnel.
The majority of the 500 new recruits have already been enlisted with a balance of about 50 due to be enlisted next month. I wish to make it clear to Senator Belton and to others that the Government  would like to increase that figure on an annual basis. However, the realties have to be taken into account. This latter figure is comprised mainly of individuals who were completing the Leaving Certificate and of replacements for individuals who had been enlisted but were found to be not up to the required standard, which properly is very high. Approximately 64 per cent of the new recruits were members of the FCA.
With the completion of the current intake, the strength of the Permanent Defence Force will be upwards of 13,000 all ranks, which bears very favourable comparison with the strength figure for the past five of six years. The strength figure for the FCA as of 31 December 1993, was about 16,000. A number of personnel, selected before the end of the five year term, will be given the option of a further period of service in the Permanent Defence Force. A decision regarding the number to be given the option of extending their service will be made nearer that time. Therefore, it is not a once off recruitment as some of the 500 will be given an opportunity to continue.
The criteria for selecting personnel in the service are laid down in Defence Force regulations and will be based on such matters as conduct rating, physical fitness, medical category and successful completion of appropriate military courses of instruction.
I know that Senator Taylor-Quinn has articulated from time to time the need to recruit women into all areas of the public service. I think that I have for the first time in the recent past — I am sure that Senator Daly will correct me in this regard — addressed the question of the selection of women to the three services — the Army, Navy and Air Corps. Of the 420 personnel being selected for the Army, 58 are women. This might be a source of pleasure for Senator Taylor-Quinn because I know that she has been pressing this cause for a considerable length of time.
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn Mrs. Taylor-Quinn
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: The Minister is downright right.
Mr. Andrews Mr. Andrews
 Mr. Andrews: I have given the Senator the good news and now I have to give her what she might consider to be bad news, although I do not consider it to be such. In assessing the suitability of applicants, women were considered on an equal basis with men; the basis of the selection was suitability rather than gender. The Senator might find fault with that latter requirement but I think that it is the proper approach.
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn Mrs. Taylor-Quinn
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: We feel that we are more superior, equipped, able and capable than men.
Mr. Andrews Mr. Andrews
Mr. Andrews: I do not want to fall into the trap of making any comment on that.
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn Mrs. Taylor-Quinn
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: We do not feel that we should be recruited because we are women but because we are better.
Mr. Andrews Mr. Andrews
Mr. Andrews: I would like to think that women should be recruited because they are equal. It is also good news for the Senator that there was a female member of the Defence Forces on each interview board.
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn Mrs. Taylor-Quinn
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: That was very nice of the Chief of Staff and the Minister. We are grateful.
Mr. Andrews Mr. Andrews
Mr. Andrews: Fifteen per cent of the applications received were from women and 14 per cent of the first 420 personnel selected are women.
Mr. Magner Mr. Magner
Mr. Magner: There is no pleasing the Senator.
Mr. Cotter Mr. Cotter
Mr. Cotter: The Minister is making rather a meal of it. The women will be after him tomorrow because those numbers are very small.
Mr. Andrews Mr. Andrews
Mr. Andrews: They will not be after me tomorrow. I did not select them. I am just saying how it is. I kept the recruitment at arm's length, as the Senator can appreciate. Having regard to the need for transparency and openness, I had nothing to do with the recruitment. The  Government said that 500 people should be recruited and it was then a matter for the recruitment boards to decide who was taken into the Defence Forces.
There will be an intake of 60 apprentices this year for the Army and Air Corps Apprentice Schools. Recently Senators will have seen advertisements inviting applications for the 1994 intake of cadets. The exact number to be appointed is being discussed at present.
Senator Daly, arising out of his experience as a former Minister for Defence, very generously paid tribute to the overseas service of the Defence Forces. As Minister for Defence, I stress the need to appreciate the magnificent service given by the Defence Forces since they undertook overseas duties for the first time in 1958. They have served with great honour and dedication in many locations throughout the world. Sometimes they do not receive sufficient recognition for the work they have done, although that is not true of the Houses of the Oireachtas. Members of both Houses are well aware of and appreciate the dedication and commitment of the Defence Forces to international peace. Whether they are in Lebanon, Somalia or elsewhere, they act as diplomats in the best sense of the word.
The Government remain committed to the principle of military participation in UN operations in the cause of international peace. The Government have been concentrating on the safety of troops in the service of international peace, which is fundamental and of paramount importance. It is an overriding consideration. This commitment will continue, representing as it does a practical and exemplary manifestation of our support for the highest ideals of the United Nations. At present there are approximately 830 members of the PDF serving overseas in various United Nations and European Union missions.
The Naval Service have been very effective in the area of fishery protection and in aid to the civil authorities in combating the illegal importation of drugs. This again is an area where the Garda and the Navy co-operate in the strongest possible fashion. They have had successes  in the recent past. I understand that my colleague, the Minister for Justice, is seeking additional equipment for this type of detail and we will be glad to participate in any programme she proposes. The Navy are in possession of seven all-weather patrol vessels and with a current strength of more than 1,000 are well equipped to discharge their demanding duties.
The Air Corps are also involved in fishery protection. In addition they perform a vitally important function in search and rescue, air ambulance, security operations and from time to time assist in non-military operations, such as the relief of distress in emergency situations arising from natural disasters. The present strength of the Air Corps is just over 100. Like the Naval Service they operate in the most appalling conditions from time to time and are people of extraordinary courage. They have proven time and again that they are willing to go into areas which the normal mortal would not even contemplate. I must pay great respect to the courage of the Naval Service and the Air Corps for the type of work they do, particularly in the sea and air rescue services.
Much is happening in the Defence Forces. Reforms take time, but the process of change has begun. The Government are convinced that at the end of the process the Permanent Defence Forces will be better structured and organised to meet their new roles in an effective and efficient manner. I would like to make it clear that RACO and PDFORRA have had a strong input into the development of their organisations over the following decades. The current recruitment campaign is an inherent part of the strategy to develop the PDF. In the light of what I have said I strongly commend to the House the amendment to the motion. I thank the Senators who have contributed.
Mr. Dardis Mr. Dardis
Mr. Dardis: I join with other Senators in welcoming the Minister and I thank him for his contribution. There was little in it to which I would take exception. He made the point at the outset that the  amendment was a reasonable one. The motion is also quite reasonable and I do not see the difficulty the Government had about accepting it. All the motion asks for is an annual recruitment programme; it does not say that there has to be 500 recruits. I do not see the difficulty about accepting the motion.
It is not surprising that there was such a large number of applicants for 500 places in the Army. The Minister suggested that between 9,000 and 10,000 people applied. It reflects the unemployment situation in the country. If that is the case, there are sound arguments for recruiting a large number of people on an annual basis. It is far better for the State to invest its money in training military personnel than in sustaining people on the dole. That would strike me as a much more productive investment.
I live very close to the Curragh in County Kildare and grew up surrounded by military personnel. I can attest to the benefits which the Army brings to people in terms of their personal, social and other skills. It definitely has a beneficial effect on people at every level, from the lowest private to the most senior officer. It is quite easy to spot those who served in the Army. There is something about their bearing and demeanour which characterises them as Army or ex-Army personnel.
The Army have made a huge contribution. This is not just in terms of their peace keeping and other duties for which we have all praised them and of which we are all proud. They have also made a remarkable contribution to the societies in which they live. The Army and ex-Army personnel in the area in which I live have had a huge input into the society in terms of the voluntary bodies to which they belong and contribute and the other activities in which they participate. They make a very valuable contribution.
There is concern about the establishment strength of the Army. There are senior Army officers who are concerned about the fact that people come off duty in squads and have to turn around and go back on duty. I do not know whether that is happening now, but it was certainly  happening about a year ago. It is undesirable that people should come off duty and immediately have to turn around and go back out on duty.
The standard of accommodation provided for residents in the Curragh Camp is deficient. It is unfortunate that young people must live in such conditions. They may have been good enough for a Victorian army but they are not good enough for modern society.
The Minister referred to the efficiency audit group and the involvement of the Price Waterhouse consultants and said he hopes the report will be available next month. I hope Members of the Oireachtas will see that report. RACO and PDFORRA would like to see the report as would the general public. It must be a matter of serious concern to us that the age profile of our Army is, by international standards, very high and appears to be getting older. It is recognised that soldiering is a young person's activity and that an army must have young soldiers to be effective. In that context I welcome the recruitment of 500 personnel. However, more must be done to bring the Army to a more realistic established strength.
The shortage of junior officers must be addressed. There is also the so-called “hump”, a problem with which the Minister will be familiar from his discussions with the representative associations. As a result of the high intake of officers some years ago the promotion prospects for some people have been seriously damaged. That causes problems in morale and in other areas.
The question of funding for the Army is central. Money for the Army is money well spent. It benefits society, it takes people off the dole and it enhances our international profile. We take pride in the achievements of our Defence Forces on international duties with the UN. It would help enormously if the UN paid its debts. However, it is work we should do, irrespective of whether the UN pays its debts on time. That work benefits the country. The merit of our Defence Forces  on service abroad relative to those of other countries is not stated often enough. Senior personnel in the UN would readily agree that the calibre and ability of the Irish soldier is frequently superior to that of the soldiers of other, perhaps more prominent, powers. That is something of which we can be proud.
We look forward to the report of the efficiency audit group. It made recommendations for the Department of Defence and I am not sure they were implemented to the extent anticipated at the time. There was talk about cutbacks in the Department but I do not know their extent. I hope the reports of the efficiency audit group and the consultants will show how the Army can become an efficient and modern army. I do not subscribe to the proposition that we do not need an army. We have an absolute need for an army. The Army's role is changing and the Minister has referred to the implications of the interGovernmental conference in 1996. I hope the Army will be funded and supported properly by the Government and that its role will be defended and expanded in future years.
Mr. Magner Mr. Magner
Mr. Magner: I welcome the Minister. The agreement to provide the Air Corps with blue uniforms is long overdue. The uniform establishes an esprit de corps within the group and that is extremely important. The Naval Service has a certain élan and I welcome the fact that the Air Corps will have its own distinctive uniform.
Recently I looked at one of the Irish Navy ships. Nobody can say that the Naval Forces have the best equipment. It was a patched rubber rescue craft and my immediate thought was that the Navy could do with some funding. The Department of Finance, when it is under pressure, appears to look on the Department of Defence as a soft target. It is only since the Army achieved its current profile — UN service contributed enormously to the Army's standing and how it is perceived by the general public — that the Department of Finance has eased back a little. It is no small achievement to secure  the money required to recruit 500 people to the Defence Forces. All politicians know how difficult it is to make the Department of Finance see the wisdom of a proposition which involves spending money. I congratulate the Minister and the Department for securing that funding.
I have no difficulty with the sentiments expressed in the amendment. As Senator Dardis said, it is good sense to recruit personnel annually, particularly in times of high unemployment. However, there is also a danger, however, that we could fall into the trap of ageism. We are not recruiting soldiers to attack a neighbouring island. There is plenty of work in the Defence Forces which demands experience and shrewdness rather than agility and speed. We must have a balance. The intake of 500 recruits will achieve the necessary decrease in the age profile but we must maintain balance. We cannot throw people on the scrapheap at 45 or 50 years of age. There is an important human element involved. The variety of duties undertaken by the Defence Forces — which include UN duties, Border duties, prison duties and providing cash escorts — obviously places enormous strain on members. We must maintain numbers and if we can do so by a regular intake of recruits, I would welcome that development.
I am sure Senator Taylor-Quinn took pleasure from the fact that 16 per cent of the total number of applicants were women and that they secured 14 per cent of the places.
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn Mrs. Taylor-Quinn
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: They got 7 per cent.
Mr. Magner Mr. Magner
Mr. Magner: That is a fair percentage. It is good that people of both sexes can apply for the Defence Forces and are treated equally. That is as it should be. I am sure Senator Taylor-Quinn was pleased with the Minister's remarks on the equality issue.
With regard to the ongoing re-equipping of the Defence Forces, the changed role of the PDF demands equipment that is constantly upgraded. I hope such  equipment can be provided. I congratulate the Minister on the success of the recruitment drive. I am not surprised so many people applied for the jobs. They are prestige jobs now. I am also delighted that 64 per cent of the applicants were members of the FCA. These are youngsters who give up their free time and go to annual camp for very little money. I am delighted they are being recognised as ideal recruits. I presume the same is true of the Naval Service.
As the Minister has explained his case I am sure Fine Gael will withdraw the motion.
Mr. Andrews Mr. Andrews
Mr. Andrews: I am hopeful.
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn Mrs. Taylor-Quinn
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I welcome the Minister to the House; he is a good Minister for Defence and could be a good Minister in any Department. While I agree with Senator Magner that it is an achievement to secure £8 million from the Department of Finance for the additional recruits, because the Government is not taking defence issues seriously we will not withdraw the motion, although the Minister is doing everything he can within Cabinet.
I too am pleased that more than 64 per cent of those recruited were from the FCA. That shows that these recruits have a genuine interest and a commitment to the Army. It also encourages other young people to join the FCA at local level.
I am surprised the Minister said in the House that I, as a female Member, should be thankful that women are now being treated on an equal basis, not simply on gender but on suitability. Women are equal, competent and on balance better equipped to serve in the Irish Army than the male population.
Mr. Magner Mr. Magner
Mr. Magner: That is a savage attack on men.
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn Mrs. Taylor-Quinn
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I think Senator Magner's calculations are wrong; the number of women recruited in the new intake is 7 per cent rather than 14 per cent. That was the figure in the Minister's speech also, but I think it is wrong.  Nevertheless the female intake is welcome.
Mr. Andrews Mr. Andrews
Mr. Andrews: I take responsibility for the error, if it is an error.
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn Mrs. Taylor-Quinn
Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: One figure the Minister did not give was the number of women who applied. That would give an overall picture of the percentage of women who replied who were recruited. I do not know whether there was a reason for leaving out that figure.
The statement on the role of the Army is welcome; it is interesting to see this was done because of the need for modernisation. However, the Minister excluded specific reference to the involvement of the Irish Army in EU affairs. In 1996 we will have an intergovernmental conference on European security and defence and this was an opportunity for the Minister to put on record his view of the Irish Army's role in this matter. Our Labour colleague, Senator Magner, has raised his eyes to heaven because the Minister for Foreign Affairs is a member of his party.
It is time Fianna Fáil and Labour stopped pussy-footing around and discussed the issue openly with the people rather than behind our backs. The Irish are an intelligent people and everyone knows there is much closer co-operation and contact between the European armies at present. The Minister has brought in management consultants, auditors and other experts but he has also called on personnel from other European armies for the efficiency audit being carried out at present.
We should admit this is happening and not try to hide it. We should mature politically on this issue. The Minister did not take the opportunity to put this on the record this evening. However, surely he will take the next opportunity to elaborate on what he sees as the role of the Irish Army in future European security and defence.
We have taken an international role in peacekeeping over the years by serving on UN peace missions. As was said earlier,  our troops abroad have been excellent ambassadors and ambassadresses for Ireland wherever they served.
I hope the Minister can shed light on the establishment of the United Nations school, which I pursued some years ago. Since we have considerable expertise and skills and widespread international acceptance in UN peacekeeping I pushed the idea of the school. I read some time ago that this had been established by the Minister and I ask him to let us know what work is being done in that school and how it is developing.
The Minister barely touched on the important area of fisheries protection and the supply of vessels to the Navy, and I can understand why he did not. He referred to drug detection. That problem is becoming very serious around the west coast. Increasingly there are reports from a variety of sources about these activities. No matter how many boats the Naval Service has it will not be in a position to do the necessary detective work. It should be publicly highlighted that all seafaring people should report unusual activities off our west and south-west coasts. We must be far more vigilant and make more equipment and facilities available to both the Department of Defence and the Department of Justice so they can stop this racketeering. Most Members would recognise that need.
The search and rescue service in Shannon is extremely important. As Senator Daly said, much of the expertise for that service came from abroad. It has worked extremely well in conjuction with the Army but if the Army had the proper equipment and facilities it would be in a position to provide that service. That should be addressed by the Government and the service should be further upgraded and developed. Not only will this provide an ambulance and rescue service, it will also provide a detection service for illegal drug activity around our coasts.
PDFORRA and RACO, the two representative organisations within the Army, have done great work for their respective groups and I am pleased to see a good relationship between the replen  resentative bodies and the Minister and his Department. Because of various problems, there was a real need for the establishment of both organisations. One hopes the public image of the Army will continue to improve, especially if a Minister with the competence and panache of Deputy Andrews remains in this portfolio.
The Government should put more money into the Army and recruit more soldiers. The recruitment of 500 new people does not even make up a full battalion. The Minister has an opportunity to put another argument to Government; this was mentioned by Senator Dardis. Since so many young people want to join the Army, we could provide another battalion to the UN. If the cost was met by the UN and the reduction in social welfare costs was taken into account, a net gain would be made. When the next Estimates discussions take place in November the Minister could put this argument to the Minister for Finance.
Mr. McGowan Mr. McGowan
Mr. McGowan: I welcome the Minister to the House and I welcome the opportunity to comment on the motion and the amendment. The Minister has clearly shown he is aware of the needs of the nation and of the Army. I know the value of the Army because I come from a Border region where the Army is called on to give a service to the people of this country. That is an excellent service, but those who contributed to this debate do not understand that the Defence Forces in this small country cost approximately £1 million a day, which is a substantial amount of money.
I am sure the Minister would like to say that he will accommodate those 10,000 young people seeking to join the Defence Force, many of whom are highly qualified. I am certain the Minister knows this would be desirable. However, there must be a limit to the size of the Army and the Garda Síochána and it must be in proportion to the size of the country. However, the Army has shown an excellent example of its fairness and diplomacy while on duty as peace-keepers throughout the world. I am pleased about this because many of the people in the Army  come from my part of the country and I see at first hand the contribution they make. I am also pleased the Minister informed the House about the high percentage of recruits which coming from the Civil Defence because there is a perception that they were overlooked or excluded. I am pleased the motion has done this.
I do not understand the part of the motion which reads: “That Seanad Éireann, recognising that the Defence Forces are considerably below full operational strength...”. Who would be the best judge of “operational strength” and what does it mean? Does it mean we are ready to invade, or to defend the country against a major power? The words “operational strength” can be bandied about and one can interpret them in different ways. I am satisfied that the Minister is well informed and that the Defence Forces are the correct size and are well equipped.
If there have been casualties in our peacekeeping forces, in a way it is because of the diplomacy, training and the morale of the Army personnel we send abroad. They are a credit to us all and we should say this at every opportunity. But someone may lose their life as a result of diplomacy and training. It is well known in Army circles that the person who shoots first is the person who has never been trained. We have an excellent record in this area. We recognise the standard and the quality of the Army.
I hope I never see the day when we need a large Army in this country. There are a number of young men who would like to join the Army, but there are as many who would like to join the Civil Service, and many of these are young, educated and trained people. I live close to the problems on the island. One cannot travel one mile without meeting a large number of people in uniforms. I would like to see this deterrent removed. The barbed wire, the Army, the vehicles and the pointed guns are not conducive to the development of this country. I hope we will never have to respond by increasing the Army. It is the correct strength and I hope the Minister continues the recruitment, which is an excellent  opportunity for young men. The Minister has the balance right. Everyone has their own interpretation of what the strategy should be, but the Minister is doing excellent work. I am proud that in regard to the Army, he has the interests of the nation under control. I compliment him for that. He is doing a first class job and the Army is a credit to us all.
Mr. Norris Mr. Norris
Mr. Norris: I agree with my colleague, Senator McGowan, that the Minister is doing a first class job. However, I wish he was Minister for Foreign Affairs because that would give me even greater pleasure.
Mr. Neville Mr. Neville
Mr. Neville: Give him a few months.
Mr. Norris Mr. Norris
Mr. Norris: Failing that, I am happy for him to occupy the position he does in the present Government. I will comment on a couple of things in the Minister's speech and then address a few general remarks to the House.
The Minister noted that the stated primary role — defence against external aggression — has begun to look increasingly incongruous in the light of a changed international environment in the day to day work of the Defence Forces. That is true. The Army has a particular role. It has never been directly engaged in warfare, certainly not aggressive warfare and scarcely even in defensive warfare in a major military conflict. The role of the Army, in which we all take great pleasure, is the role of peacekeeping and monitoring of international troublesome areas. It is important for us to emphasise this fact. I consistently said, with regard to the so-called IRA, that the Irish Republican Army is a misnomer. It has no right to describe itself in these terms and it befouls a name to which the citizens of the Irish Republic are entitled to claim for their Army, the Army of the Irish Republic, which has not been involved in outrages and in sectarian attacks and of which we can all be proud because of its international role in peacekeeping.
The Minister also notes that the role of the Defence Forces is to aid the civil power, meaning in practice to assist, when requested, the Garda Síochána, who have the primary responsibility for  law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State. I would like to refer to something which I have not heard other speakers refer to, although they may have when I was out of the Chamber, and that is the significant and important role of the Army in policing the Border between the 26 counties and the six counties. I would like to take this opportunity to say that I am greatly offended, as I believe many other people in this State are, by the continuous misrepresentation which occurs in the House of Commons and in the British media about the role of the Army and what is portrayed as a reluctance on the part of the Irish Republic to play its role and pay its share of the bill. We do an extremely good job. It costs this State a lot of money to police and patrol the Border and I salute the Defence Forces for the role they play in that important work. I hope the Minister will take every opportunity to make this clear to the British authorities and media and to also indicate the increasing frustration of the people at this misrepresentation, which is so consistent in certain sections of the Tory controlled British press.
I note that the Minister said he was pleased to announce a recruitment drive. I also note that Senator Magner said he found it difficult to disagree with the idea of annual recruitment. Perhaps there is an area of rapprochement between the two sides. Speaking as an Independent, I would prefer if this did not come to a vote because it would be a pity if the Defence Forces, of whom we are all proud, became a matter of contention for political advantage between various parties in this State. I hope it may be possible that the motion, as phrased, will be withdrawn so we will not have to vote on it, because it would be a pity to do so.
I echo sentiments I heard earlier in the debate about the recruitment of women, because this is a good idea. I recall some years ago, when I was a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Women's Rights, that there was still some remaining difficulties as regards the recruitment of women, to the Army band, in particular. I cannot remember why female musicians were not as welcome as male musicians. It appears this situation has  been ironed out. I welcome attempts to seek a gender balance and the inclusion of women on the interview board.
I refer to fisheries protection, which the Minister mentioned in his speech. This is not only a question for the Army, but for the Defence Forces — the Army, the Navy and the Air Corps. I would like as many resources as possible to be made available for this. As an island with a significant resource in terms of fish stocks, etc., we are vulnerable. Before the Minister took office and before this Government came into being it would be a sustainable argument to maintain that in the negotiations with the EU part of our fishing stocks were bartered away. Invasion of our waters by Spanish and other trawlers continues. I would like to see the fisheries protection element of the Defence Forces stepped up so that we will have the personnel and equipment to police our important fishing resources.
Although I criticised certain elements of the British media, if we look at the use of air ambulances and air-sea rescue services, we can pay tribute to the co-operation which exists between our air-sea rescue services and those in the neighbouring island. It is welcome that they co-operate so well.
The Minister referred to the peacekeeping role of the Army, in particular, and the Garda Síochána. The question of serving with the United Nations is significant. While we have more than played our role in this area, I do not believe we have been paid properly. I understand — the Minister can confirm this — there are outstanding bills due to this country for work which has been done on behalf of the UN. I do not blame the UN, but major nations which continually do not live up to their obligations and do not pay their bills. The United States of America, the United Kingdom, the former Soviet Union, Germany and France do not really pay their bills and it is a continuing source of irritation.
I attended the Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting last autumn in Canberra, where I raised this issue. Senior members of the UN attended that meeting and one of the more senior members in an opening speech spoke trenchantly on this issue and appealed for assistance in putting  pressure on debtor nations so they would pay money which was owed.
I refer to recruitment and operational strength. While I would not like to think the Army was below operational strength, it is important that recruitment continues. I am a member of a gym and there are a number of unemployed young men in that gym. Many who would be excellent material applied for positions in the Defence Forces, but were turned down because of a lack of places. This is good human material which would be economically efficient because we would not need to pay them dole. It would provide them with good training and a good background. I urge the Minister to continue the recruitment programme.
I welcome the Army's approach and recent statements and developments with regard to sexual orientation and a code of behaviour which would be generally applicable. I hope this code of behaviour will be made publicly available as soon as possible.
Mr. Fitzgerald Mr. Fitzgerald
Mr. Fitzgerald: I support the amendment that the Minister for Defence and the Government are taking all necessary steps to ensure that the operational requirements of the Defence Forces are met. I do not believe the Opposition put their heart and soul into this motion but tabled it because it was their turn to do so.
I have faith in the Army personnel, the Minister and the Government to provide an Army which is sufficient for our needs. What is a sufficient Army for our needs? Senator McGowan came close to it. I would hate to see a day when we would need a large army like other EU countries. I would like an Army which is sufficient for our needs. The Army covers a multitude of services and is available when something happens. If there is a strike we look to the Army to transport people, for example. If large sums of money need to be transferred from banks, the Army, along with the Garda Síochána, provide protection. The Army is there to do these jobs as well as the important job of Border duty.
At present the largest operation which the Army is involved in is peacekeeping overseas. I understand approximately  1,000 people are working overseas for the EU and the UN in different missions throughout the world. We must recognise that our peacekeeping forces have been of a high standard since they first went overseas in 1958. We can only speak highly of the personnel in the Army and the Defence Forces generally. Unfortunately, there have been tragedies and I sympathise with those who lost relatives, fathers and husbands, while on peacekeeping missions.
Senator Taylor-Quinn should not make statements about coming clean and brushing matters aside. What are we supposed to come clean about? What are we brushing? I do not know what we are trying to brush aside or on what we need to come clean. She contradicted the Minister by saying his percentages were wrong. As far as I am concerned, the Minister's percentages were correct. If Senator Taylor-Quinn believes that 58 women out of 420 amounts to 17 per cent, the school I went to is wrong and so are my calculations, although the total is close to 17 per cent. It is great that women have been recruited to the Army. As Senator Taylor-Quinn said, they are well equipped for the job, even better equipped than some men.
The Air Corps is doing a magnificent job, especially in relation to air-sea rescue. The Naval Service is also doing a fabulous job in protecting sea fishing and in detecting drug smuggling along the coast. I agree with Senator Taylor-Quinn when she said drugs must be coming into this country somewhere. I do not believe they are coming in by air, therefore they must be coming in by sea. We should be vigilant as regards drugs coming into this country.
I do not know whether it is the time or the place, but I was shocked recently when a spokesman for the fishing industry made rude and derogatory remarks about the Naval Service. He should have withdrawn them. I will not mention his name but everybody knows him. I do not think he was supported by the fishing industry because there was not one word of support for him. It was wrong of him to make those remarks and he should  have withdrawn them immediately. I have said enough about that.
I spent five years in the FCA, or the LDF as it was known then. Senator Neville is indicating that he did as well. They were great years. They gave us a great education and a great outlook on life. If we had the money in the morning I would like to see an upgrading of the FCA. They provide great training. When I was in the FCA the first lesson I learned was discipline and how to take orders. This lesson stayed with me all my life; my wife says I am fairly well disciplined as well. The Army also taught us other things. To be truthful I could not wait until we had our field day, as it was known then. We were taught orienteering, mountaineering, rescue and first aid, etc. Of course we were taught how to use a gun. I suppose that gave these young men the chance to see how good a shot they were. I do not go in for that side of it too much. The other side of the training was physical. The FCA give top quality training. I have often wondered whether we should have compulsory service. All young people should serve a certain amount of hours and they would learn a lot.
I do not see any sense in the motion. I am satisfied with what the Minister is doing. I put my faith in him and his personnel. He has a recruitment programme in progress and he said it would continue in 1994. I look forward to that. I thank the Minister.
Mr. Neville Mr. Neville
Mr. Neville: In supporting the motion I pay tribute to the Defence Forces for the excellent job they are doing. They are a credit to the country, especially when they go abroad on peacekeeping missions. The Defence Forces have a unique role in Irish society. As an aid to the civil forces they are called upon to carry out different duties than those one would normally expect from a defence force in peace time. They are not an army which takes and executes orders, they provide a security service aiding the civil forces and they are often in a position where they must make their own decisions. The old command structure cannot be relied on in their circumstances.  In that way they are asked to play a unique role.
The motion which calls for ongoing recruitment to the Army is a worthy one and should be supported by everybody. The Minister referred to the ageing of the Army and said that an ongoing recruitment programme would reduce the age profile. We can get too concerned about age profiles. There is a hint of age discrimination there; the age profile is wrong if it gets too high. I recognise what the Minister is saying in, we have not had recruitment for some time and that a more balanced age profile is more desirable.
The Naval forces have a very important and a growing role, especially having regard to the changes in the fishing regulations and the presence of the Spanish and Portuguese fishing fleets within the previous 12 mile limits. This means there is a need for much more activity from the Naval Service. It is important that the Naval Service is in a position to patrol our waters and ensure the survival of the fishing industry because if the fishing industry collapses — and there is some concern about that — there will be 18,000 jobs at stake. Listening to what is happening outside the House at the moment, one must be always concerned about jobs. The expansion and the proper equipping of the Naval Service to deal with any new situation must be a priority.
The Minister spoke about the 500 people recruited this year. That is to be welcomed but we must be concerned about the changes in the conditions of employment of these people and the fact that they are now on five year contracts. I worry about that practice coming into the public sector. We are now moving towards contracts because that is what has happened in private industry. Nobody has job security in the private sector at the moment. The same career prospects are not available. It was possible in the past to join the Army at the lowest level and go all the way to the top. Now each member gets a five year contract and must look for another career after that. That is unfortunate. I wish the implications of this to be examined.
Up to now, people in the Army had job security. A soldier could have a  career until his retirement, he could bring up a family, take on a mortgage and plan for the future. That was a great advantage for people in the Army and it is unfortunate that, to a large extent, it is not available for new recruits. I know that PDFORRA is extremely concerned about it. Their president, Mr. Dermot Whelan, said that while the association is ready to welcome the Government's decision in this matter, it is not happy with the new approach. He criticised the fact that the association was not consulted. The association feels that the careers, families and future members will be deeply affected by the new contracts arrangement.
I congratulate the Army and its members on the work it is doing.
Mr. Sherlock Mr. Sherlock
Mr. Sherlock: In regard to overseas service by the Army, on Friday last I had the honour, as Chairman of Mallow Urban District Council, to attend a ceremony at Collins' Barracks, Cork, where an award was given by the Lebanese Government posthumously to the late Corporal Michael McCarthy and accepted by his widow, Margaret. I represented Mallow Urban District Council and the community was also represented. I would like to record the appreciation of the family and the community for the manner in which the Army personnel handled that ceremony which gave a great uplift to both families. They felt honoured by the manner in which the award was made, and that was commented on by all who attended.
The Minister referred to the Naval Service, fishery protection and those involved in the illegal importation of drugs. It is welcome to see greater coordination and co-operation in that regard. The public are aware of that and appreciate it. While I was spokesperson for Defence for my party in the other House, I had consultations with the Minister's predecessor. He was visiting Cork and a site had been identified for the development of a training base in the Cork harbour area. I know the site had been selected and developed but I am not aware to this day that any progress had been made. It would be worthwhile  when it comes to the integration of training for Navy and Army personnel.
I would differ with the Minister on the question of recruitment — it should be continuous and people should have the opportunity of selecting the Defence Forces as a career. Contracts for three or five years are not helpful. We welcome any recruitment that takes place but the contract system does not provide young people with an opportunity to make the services a career.
The Minister referred to the efficiency audit group. I am being parochial but Mallow has a great connection with the Permanent Defence Forces and the FCA, but when the Minister talks about the efficiency audit group we are always a little wary about Fitzgerald Camp in Fermoy. Many people from the area are involved and we hope the camp will always be there.
I join with others in complimenting and commending the Minister for his work. I would support more recruitment to the Defence Forces.
Mr. Belton Mr. Belton
Mr. Belton: I would also like to pay tribute to our Defence Forces who serve overseas and join with Senator Sherlock's tribute to the late Corporal Michael McCarthy. I was glad to hear of the ceremony which took place.
The Irish forces overseas have always  been a credit to themselves. Coming from a small nation one can understand why our forces can be acceptable in many roles. They have proved themselves to be professionals and they go about their task in a way which proves their adaptability. This motion is important to ensure that continuity is maintained and the opportunity is there for Ireland to play a role in the UN. The role of the UN has increased considerably; at times one wonders if the UN can continue to fulfil this role. Ireland can play a significant role in the UN and there are many who are anxious to serve in the Army and participate in the UN role.
The Minister mentioned that a percentage of those recruited are women, although the number is not as high as we would like. This is a welcome development which proves that young people are anxious for a career in the Army, to play a part in the security of the State and to have a worthwhile and fulfilling job. It is important that recruitment is continued on an ongoing basis.
At the outset I said I was disappointed that the Government side did not accept our motion. As Senator Dardis said, it is a reasonable motion and we cannot accept the amendment. I wish the Minister luck and I hope he will get the support of the Government. This motion may assist him.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 21; Níl, 18.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Mullooly and Magner; Níl, Senators Burke and Cosgrave.
Question declared carried.
Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”
The Seanad divided: Tá, 22; Níl, 17.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Mullooly and Magner; Níl, Senators Cosgrave and Burke.
Question declared carried.
Seanad Éireann 140 Defence Forces Operational Requirements: Motion.