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To ask the Minister for Defence in relation to the recently announced recruitment campaign for the Defence Forces, if he will be reviewing the admissibility criteria in relation to the visibility of tattoos; if there will be an appeal mechanism in place for persons whose application to the Defence Forces is refused; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

DEPUTY MICK WALLACE.

FOR PRIORITY ANSWER ON TUESDAY, 25TH MARCH, 2014

REPLY  

In order to be eligible for enlistment in the Permanent Defence Force as a General Service Recruit, applicants must meet all of the specified criteria and standards for entry, as laid down in Defence Force Regulations and the associated Administrative Instructions.

In this regard, Paragraph 131 of Administrative Instruction A9 provides that “Tattooing above the collar of the shirt is prohibited”.  This criteria applies to all personnel who join both the Permanent Defence Force and the Reserve Defence Force and is in line with requirements in other countries.

The purpose of this requirement is to prevent the induction of personnel who subsequently could not be deployed on ceremonial duties which form part of the functions of Military personnel. In particular, the Reverse Arms drill movement requires the tilting of the head forward and downwards on completion of the drill movement which exposes more of the neck than is normally the case.

The Military Authorities have advised that it is at the Physical Fitness Testing stage of the selection process, for recruitment, that a determination in relation to the matter of a tattoo is made.  Where an applicant is found to be ineligible due to tattooing above the collar of the shirt, the applicant will be informed of this both orally and in writing.  From time of being advised, an applicant has seventy two hours to make it known, either orally or in writing, that they wish to appeal the decision.  A senior officer subsequently meets the applicant and makes a final decision on the matter.

Currently there are no plans to review the admissibility criteria in relation to the visibility of tattoos.

To ask the Minister for Defence the reason Defence forces personnel were stationed in front of US warplanes at Shannon airport on 22 February 2014 and 2 March 2014; and if any inspections of the aircraft took place.

DEPUTY MICK WALLACE

FOR ORAL ANSWER ON TUESDAY, 25TH MARCH, 2014.

REPLY

An Garda Síochána has the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State.  Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is the provision of Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) which, in practice, means to assist An Garda Síochána when requested to do so.

There is ongoing and close liaison between An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces regarding security matters.  The Defence Forces have deployed personnel to Shannon Airport, in response to requests for support from An Garda Síochána, since 5th February 2003.

In respect of the 22nd of February 2014 and the 2nd of March 2014, requests for Defence Forces support were received from An Garda Síochána.  With regard to inspections of aircraft, the Defence Forces have no responsibility for searching US Military aircraft that land at Shannon.

To ask the Minister for Defence in view of the fact that the surveying, listing and ongoing monitoring of protected buildings in the Defence property portfolio falls within the remit of the local authority, the number of meetings and level of engagement that took place between the Defence Forces Property Section and Kildare County Council in relation to these matters over the past five years.

- DEPUTY MICK WALLACE.

 For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 25th March, 2014.

REPLY

A small number of military buildings are included on the Record of Protected Structures of Kildare County Council. As there have been no plans to carry out material alterations to any of these protected structures my Department has not had the requirement to meet with the local authority in relation to these buildings within the last five years. I can confirm that as part of the ongoing process of managing the Defence property portfolio my Department monitors the Record of Protected Structures on an ongoing basis.

At present Conservation Architects are employed by my Department in relation to two projects, namely the restoration of the North Accommodation Block in McKee Barracks which is a protected structure, and the construction of a Military Archives Facility in Cathal Brugha Barracks. In most instances where external design teams are employed by my Department, the teams consists of an Architect (conservation qualified as necessary), a Structural Engineer, a Services Engineer and a Quantity Surveyor.

When it is proposed to demolish a building in a Defence Forces installation an application is submitted to my Department by the military authorities – each application is considered on its merits following consultation between officials in my Department and the Defence Forces Corps of Engineers before a final decision is made.    To date no protected structures have been demolished by my Department or the Defence Forces.

To ask the Minister for Defence further to Parliamentary Question No.12 of 6 February 2014, in relation to Irelands participation in EU Battle groups, his views on whether the triple lock has been substantially weakened by the Defence Amendment Act 2006; and that if Irish troops are committed to take part in a war it is highly unlikely that they will only be involved for 120 days..

-Deputy  Mick Wallace.

FOR ORAL ANSWER ON TUESDAY, 25TH MARCH, 2014

REPLY

The statutory authority for the despatch of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force for service overseas as part of an International Force, is set out in Section 2 of the Defence (Amendment)(No. 2) Act, 1960 as amended by the Defence (Amendment) Act, 2006. This provision is commonly referred to as the “triple lock” and comprises three requirements namely:

 

The authorisation of the operation by the Security Council or General Assembly of the United Nations;

 

Ø

A formal Government decision; and

 

Ø

The approval of Dáil Éireann.

 

There is no requirement for Dáil approval for the despatch of contingents of the Permanent Defence Force for service overseas as part of an International Force where that Force is unarmed or where the size of the Permanent Defence Force contingent does not exceed twelve members. Outside of such contingent deployments, members of the Permanent Defence Force may also be deployed outside the State on a range of other duties including training, humanitarian operations, fact finding missions, ceremonial duties etc under the authority of the Government in accordance with the provisions of the Defence (Amendment) Act, 2006, which formalised arrangements in this regard. The range of such duties are set out in Section 3 of the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006. 

Deployment in the case of any Battlegroup operation will be for a period of 30 days extendable up to 120 days under the agreed EU concept under which Battlegroups operate.

Within the EU Battlegroup concept, the purpose of the Battlegroup, as a rapid response capability, includes the role of acting as an initial entry force to stabilise a situation pending the deployment of a follow-on force, to support an established peace support operation; and to respond to humanitarian crises.  The Battlegroup is designed to respond to crisis management situations in support of international Peace and Security.  Indeed, the United Nations strongly supports the development of the Battlegroups as a capability that could be made available by the Union in support of UN mandated missions.

As the Deputy will be aware, the EU does not have a common defence arrangement and as such there is no situation in which a Battlegroup could be committed to take part in any war, as is suggested by the Deputy. Moreover, in relation to Ireland’s participation in EU Battlegroups, the Defence (Amendment) Act 2006 has not in any way impacted on the triple lock mechanism. Any deployment of Defence Forces personnel to an overseas operation as part of a Battlegroup would be subject to the “Triple Lock” – UN Mandate, Government and Dáil Eireann approval in accordance with the Defence Acts 1954 – 2011.

 To ask the Minister for Defence the position regarding the progress of the technical assessment of dwellings in the Curragh Camp; when the report is expected; if he will convene a multi-departmental meeting with representatives of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Public Expenditure and Reform and Kildare County Council to discuss the way these houses can be used in the interests of both the Defence Forces and the Exchequer..

- Deputy Mick Wallace.

* To ask the Minister for Defence if he will provide an update on the technical assessment of the Curragh Camp dwellings; if he will consider organising a cross-departmental meeting to include the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, in addition to representatives from Kildare County Council, in order to discuss the future of these houses; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace

FOR ORAL ANSWER ON TUESDAY, 25th March 2014.

REPLY

Again I am aware that this issue was discussed at the recent meeting Deputy Daly and yourself had with officials from my Department.  As I have mentioned earlier an assessment of a select group of properties in the Curragh Camp is being completed. This assessment will inform the process of planning for the long term military use of these properties. These properties were formerly used as married quarters.  The assessment will provide the Department with a cost per unit for the redevelopment of the properties for military use and will inform a decision on whether it is economically viable to restore and use the properties.  The expectation is that given the currently unoccupied properties are for the most part uninhabitable with many in extremely poor condition the cost of refurbishment is likely to be significant.

As these properties are within the Curragh Camp the factors other than the cost of refurbishment per unit that will need to be considered in deciding whether or not to retain properties include:

Proposals for the redevelopment of the Camp generally in order to improve the overall layout of the facilities.

The requirements for Single Living In (SLI) accommodation within the camp both presently and into the future. Their potential for military use taking account of their configuration both internally and externally. In addition, any restoration programme will be dependent on the prioritisation of capital projects generally across military barracks in line with available funding. I will wait until I have received the results of the assessment before I make a decision on how to proceed.  However, I must emphasise that any proposed development of former married quarters property at this key military location must in the first instance be considered from the military requirement perspective,  therefore I do not at this time consider that it is appropriate to engage with other agencies regarding the future use of these properties.

To ask the Minister for Defence the position regarding the withdrawal of the seven Irish army personnel remaining with the NATO ISAF forces in Afghanistan, in view of the fact that most other European countries have withdrawn their troops..

- Mick Wallace.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 25th March, 2014.

REPLY

Ireland has participated in the NATO–led UN mandated mission in Afghanistan since 5 July 2002. On 25 June 2013, the Government agreed to continue to provide seven members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with ISAF for a further period from July 2013, subject to ongoing review by the Minister for Defence.

On 20 December 2001, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1386 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, authorising the establishment of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. The UN mandate for this mission was most recently renewed on 10 October 2013, and will fall to be renewed again on 31 December this year. As of the 20th February 2014, ISAF has a current strength of approximately 52,700 personnel drawn from 49 Countries. These include 21 non-NATO partner countries, including Sweden, Finland and Austria.  In March 2011, the transition process whereby the Afghan security forces would gradually take on more security responsibility from ISAF was launched. On 18 June 2013, the final phase of the transition was instigated. This process is due to be completed at the end of 2014, when ISAF’s mission will end.

Ireland has participated in ISAF in Afghanistan since 5 July 2002, following the Government Decision of 2 July 2002, authorising the provision of seven (7) members of the Permanent Defence Force for service with the force. Since then, the Government has reviewed and approved, on an annual basis, the continued participation by seven (7) members of the Permanent Defence Force in ISAF.  The seven (7) personnel currently serving with the force are all located in ISAF HQ, Kabul and work in staff appointments in planning and administrative roles.

Defence Forces participation in all overseas missions is reviewed on an ongoing basis. The overall drawdown of ISAF personnel is currently underway and the withdrawal of the Defence Forces personnel will be coordinated in this context. While it is anticipated that Irish personnel will complete their service with the mission in September 2014, this will be kept under review in the context of the current proposed follow on training mission.

The current plan, post 2014, is that NATO will lead a follow on training advisory and assistance mission to support the development of Afghan National Security Forces capacity and provide sustained practical support for improving the country’s capacity to tackle security threats. This plan has yet to be finalised. The question of Ireland contributing to any follow on mission in Afghanistan will be considered in the context of what other contributing countries are planning.  A key consideration in this regard will be the availability of adequate force protection assets and personnel to protect any such training elements.

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