Dáil Questions: Defence

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Dáil Issues, Defence, Oral Questions

QUESTION NO: 48

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence further to parliamentary question number 1733 of 17 January 2017, his views on the low morale in the Defence Forces in view of the high rates of voluntary discharge; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
DEPUTY CLARE DALY .

QUESTION NO: 65

FOR ORAL ANSWER ON WEDNESDAY, 15TH FEBRUARY, 2017.

REPLY

I propose to take Questions No 48 and 65 together.

As the Deputy is aware, the purpose of the recently published Defence Forces Climate Survey is to inform consideration of the ongoing human resource and strategic needs of the Defence Forces. I have reviewed the Report in detail and have also received a briefing from the University of Limerick (UL) researchers who undertook the project.

The Survey findings clearly point to challenges for the Defence Forces, particularly in the areas of leadership, communication, organisational culture, the working environment and active management of personal expectations. However, many positives emanated from the Survey, especially in relation to the commitment of personnel to the values and mission of the Organisation, high levels of work satisfaction, pride in the Organisation and positive views on culture and work support. Indeed, the UL researchers point out that the findings of the Report and the recommendations are interconnected and caution should apply to reading any one particular finding in isolation.
The responses to the issues raised in the Report of the Climate Survey will involve the engagement of all levels of management within the Organisation. Both RACO and PDFORRA were briefed by the UL researchers on their findings and conclusions. Following that briefing, I met with the Representative Associations to hear their views and listen to their concerns in relation to the Report. It was agreed at the meeting that the Representative Associations would be fully engaged in the response to the Report and proposed Action Plan through the IMG framework, where they could put forward their views on appropriate responses.

Follow up work to the initial findings in the Survey was conducted by the UL researchers via focus groups with a view to establishing qualitative elements behind the quantitative findings of the Climate Survey.

73 Focus Groups were conducted throughout the Defence Forces. The Focus Groups were grouped by rank (Private, Junior NCO, Senior NCO, Junior Officer, Senior Officer), based on the findings of the Climate Survey research and were held at every permanently occupied Post /Barracks in the Defence Forces and on the Golan Heights where a contingent of the Permanent Defence Force are deployed to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) .

I have been advised that a very significant volume of raw data has been gathered for analysis. UL have informed the Defence Forces that the Focus Group analysis will be provided in Q2/Q3 2017.

MINISTER OF STATE AT THE
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE (PAUL KEHOE, T.D . )

QUESTION NO: 55

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his views on the presence of Defence Forces personnel in the Golan Heights in essence protecting illegal Israeli occupation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– DEPUTY CLARE DALY.

FOR ORAL ANSWER ON WEDNESDAY, 15TH FEBRUARY, 2017.

Ref No: 7339/17 Lottery: 16

REPLY

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) was established on 31 May 1974 by the

United Nations Security Council Resolution 350 (1974), following the agreed disengagement of the Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights in May 1974.

UNDOF was established to:
Maintain the ceasefire between Israel and Syria;
Supervise the disengagement of Israeli and Syrian forces; and
Supervise the areas of separation and limitation, as provided in the May 1974 Agreement on Disengagement.

Since 1974, the mandate of UNDOF has been renewed every six months, most recently renewed in December 2016 until 30 June 2017 under UNSCR 2330 (2016).

A contingent of the Permanent Defence Force has been deployed to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights since 2013 and operates in the role of a Quick Reaction Force.

Since its temporary relocation from a number of positions in September 2014 and pending the time when UNDOF returns fully to the area of separation, UNDOF has, in line with its mandate from UNSCR 350 continued to maintain credible presence in the Golan and use its best efforts to implement its mandate. On 14 November 2016, UNDOF completed the initial phase of the incremental return of the mission to Camp Faouar on the Syrian side of the Area of Separation where Fijian and Nepalese troops are now based.

In this context, UNDOF continues to engage with the parties on practical arrangements to allow the Force to continue to maintain the ceasefire, monitor, verify and report on violations of the Disengagement of Forces Agreement and exercise its critical liaison functions with the parties in order to implement its mandate.

In a recent report on UNDOF, the UN Secretary-General has stated that the continued presence of UNDOF in the area remains essential and that both Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic have stated their continued commitment to the Disengagement of Forces Agreement and the presence of UNDOF.

Participation by the Defence Forces in UNDOF is reviewed by the Government on an annual basis. On 21 June 2016, the Government approved continued participation in the UNDOF mission for a period of twelve months up to June 2017. The Defence Forces are making a valuable contribution to this important mission. The presence of the UNDOF mission remains an important element in ensuring the continuing ceasefire between Israel and Syria and in the wider Middle East region.

MINISTER OF STATE AT THE
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE (PAUL KEHOE, T.D . )
QUESTION NO: 70

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the reason the hugely successful Naval Service rescue mission in the Mediterranean was scaled back over the most dangerous winter months; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– DEPUTY CLARE DALY.

FOR ORAL ANSWER ON WEDNESDAY, 15TH FEBRUARY, 2017.

Ref No: 7338/17 Lottery: 31

REPLY
Following Government Decisions on 12 May 2015 and 6 April 2016, Irish Naval Vessels were deployed to the Mediterranean from May to November 2015 and from May to December 2016 to assist the Italian Authorities with the migrant crisis.

The number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea in both 2015 and 2016 was higher during these months when weather conditions were more favorable to make the journey. Irish participation in the humanitarian mission in 2015 and 2016 resulted in the rescue of over 15,600 migrants. The deployment of Irish Naval vessels during these months, when the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean was at its highest, was the most effective use of limited resources.

Decisions in relation to the deployment of Defence Forces contingents overseas are considered on the basis of capacity to achieve the mission mandate, resource availability and sustainability. The Naval Service operation in the Mediterranean is considered in the context of existing demands on the Naval Service having regard to their domestic role in fishery protection and as the principle seagoing agency of the State. As the Deputy will appreciate, within a defined resource envelope, an appropriate balance must be struck between the domestic operational demands on the Naval Service and potential overseas deployments. On the basis of such considerations, in 2016, it was decided to deploy three vessels to the Mediterranean for tours of approximately 12 weeks each, similar to that which was deployed in 2015.

The question of deployment to the operation in the Mediterranean in 2017 is currently being considered in the context of the ongoing situation in the Mediterranean and the overall EU response thereto, the demands on the Defence Forces, our overseas commitments and available resources.

MINISTER OF STATE AT THE
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE (PAUL KEHOE, T.D.)