Defense questions

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Defense questions

Jan
2018
25

Dáil Issues, Defence, Oral Questions

 To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if his department has reviewed the recent settlement in a Defence Forces lariam damages case and is giving consideration to a redress and compensation scheme for members of the Defence Forces harmed by lariam in view of the outcome of that case.

Clare Daly T.D.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 24 January, 2018.

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if the Defence Forces prescribing policy in regard to lariam as the first choice anti-malarial will change in view of the recent substantial settlements in cases here and in the United Kingdom for army lariam damage.

– Clare Daly T.D.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 24 January, 2018.

REPLY

As I have indicated to this House in the past, fundamentally the choice of malaria chemoprophylaxis for use in the Defence Forces is a medical matter that should be decided by qualified medical professionals. In the Defence Forces these are decisions for highly qualified Medical Officers, having regard to the specific circumstances of the mission and the individual member of the Defence Forces.

As the Deputy is aware, a Working Group was re-convened to review developments arising in relation to malaria chemoprophylaxis and the use of Lariam, particularly in the context of the current and potential litigation. The Working Group has produced its Second Report which has been provided to me. As previously advised, the Working Group was convened in the context of current and potential litigation and is therefore legally privileged. It has made a total of twelve recommendations, which are intended to ensure that the Defence Forces medical policies and practices continually develop in light of best practice. I have accepted these recommendations in principle whilst recognising that certain of these recommendations will need to be further developed to allow for their implementation.

Whilst acknowledging that the Report is legally privileged in the context of litigation, I can confirm that many of its recommendations focus on areas including planning, training and education/information sharing as well as the establishment of a Medical Advisory Group. As I already indicated, proposals will be developed further in relation to the establishment of this new Medical Advisory Group. This will formalise the provision of on-going expert advice, including external expert medical advice, to the Defence Forces in relation to a range of medical matters including malaria chemoprophylaxis.

There are three anti-malarial drugs , namely Lariam (mefloquine), Malarone and Doxycycline which continue to be used by the Defence Forces. The selection by a Medical Officer of the most appropriate drug for use is a complex one and dependant on a number of factors. All of these anti-malaria drugs have contraindications and side effects. Significant precautions are taken by the Defence Forces Medical Officers in assessing the medical suitability of members of the Defence Forces to take any of the anti-malarial medications. It is the policy of the Defence Forces that personnel are individually screened for fitness for service overseas and medical suitability.

The Deputy will also be aware that the State Claims Agency manages Personal Injury claims on behalf of the Department of Defence. The Lariam case referred to by the Deputy was settled on 30th November 2017 without admission of liability. The Plaintiff withdrew any part of his claim in relation to the choice by the Defendants of Lariam as a chemoprophylactic. All other matters are settled and the case was struck out. You will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any individual cases, either ongoing or finalised.  There are no plans to introduce a compensation scheme in relation to this matter.

I wish to assure the Deputy that the health and welfare of the men and women of the Defence Forces is a key priority for me and the Defence Forces.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 24 January, 2018.

* To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the proportion of the €21 million in additional current funding for his department in 2018 that will go towards improving the pay and conditions of serving members of the Defence Forces.

– Clare Daly T.D.

 

REPLY

Rates of pay and conditions of employment in the Irish public sector have traditionally been set, inter alia, by reference to relative levels of pay across the various sectors of the Irish public sector. Like other areas within the Public Service, the pay of the Permanent Defence Force was reduced during the financial crisis. The reductions in pay and the introduction of a Pension Related Deduction was on a graduated basis with increased rates of deductions for those on higher earnings.
The Government appreciate the contribution made by all public servants, including members of the Permanent Defence Force, during the economic crisis and have taken measures to improve public sector pay. The focus of the increases is weighted in favour of those on lower pay.

 

PDFORRA signed up to the Lansdowne Road Agreement in March 2017. The finalisation of negotiations under the agreement allowed for the commencement of the process for the implementation of pay increases and arrears, which have now been applied to the Permanent Defence Force. An increase of 2.5% from 1 January 2016, for annualised salaries up to €24,000 and 1% for annualised salaries between €24,001 and €31,000 was included in the weekly payroll of 5 July 2017. An increase of €1,000 from 1 April 2017, on annualised salaries up to €65,000 per annum was paid on 19 July 2017.

 

In addition to this, as a result of successful negotiations with PDFORRA, the pay of general service recruits and privates who joined the Permanent Defence Force post 1 January 2013, was increased further These improved payscales, were backdated to 1 July 2016 and the payments were made with backmoney due in August 2017. The starting pay for a newly qualified three star private, and their Naval Service equivalent, saw an increase from €21,800 to €27,000 (inclusive of military service allowance) gross annual earnings, with scope for further income from duties.
Going forward, there are further increases arising from the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020. This provides for increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the agreement, with the focus once again on the lower paid.
The Permanent Defence Force Representative Associations, who participated in the negotiation process, accepted the terms of the agreement in December 2017. As a result of this all Permanent Defence Force personnel will benefit from the planned pay increases. Arrangements are being made to process the first increase due under the agreement, of 1% of annualised salary effective from 1 January 2018.

 

In respect of additional current funding of €21 million for the Department of Defence in 2018, some €12 million has been allocated to the Defence Vote to meet the adjustments in the pay and allowances for serving members of the Defence Forces arising under Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020. The balance of the additional funding is to go towards the Pension Vote, taking account of the increasing number of Defence Forces pensioners and adjustments to pensions for current pensioners due under the agreement.

 

To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the position regarding the 52% increase in capital expenditure envisaged by his department between 2017 and 2020 and the 2.5% increase in current expenditure envisaged over the same period in view of the recruitment and retention crisis being faced by the Defence Forces as a consequence of pay and conditions in same; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

Following the mid-term review of the capital plan, ‘Building on Recovery : Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2016 – 2021’, Budget 2018 set out the capital envelope for Vote 36 Defence, for the period 2018 – 2021. This provides increased funding for the essential renewal and replacement of equipment and infrastructure. This is critical in ensuring that the Defence Forces retain the capability to deliver on the roles assigned by Government, over the longer term.

Defence current expenditure funding provides for standing and operational costs and pay and allowances for members of the Defence Forces. The Defence Vote is fully funded to meet the full costs of the target strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500 personnel. Rates of pay and allowances for the Defence Forces are set, inter alia, by reference to relative levels of pay across the public sector. As provided for under the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, the Public Service Pay Commission is currently considering recruitment and retention issues in the Defence Forces.

* To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence when the LÉ Niamh will redeploy as part of Operation Sophia following its return from deployment on 20 December 2017.

– Clare Daly T.D.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 24 January, 2018.

* To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the status of the Defence Forces involvement with Operation Sophia; the status of the LÉ Niamh; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

– Mick Wallace T.D.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 24 January, 2018.

REPLY

The EU Common Security and Defence Policy operation EUNAVFOR MED (Operation Sophia), against human smugglers and traffickers, is one element of an EU comprehensive approach to the migration crisis in the South Central Mediterranean. Operation Sophia was launched in June 2015 as part of the EU’s broader action to provide a comprehensive response to the global migration and refugee crisis and to encourage a democratic, stable and prosperous Libya.    It specifically seeks to counter human trafficking and smuggling in the Southern Central Mediterranean by taking action against the criminal networks and disrupting the smugglers business model. The mission is also providing capacity building and training to the Libyan Coastguard and Navy and contributing to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 2240 and 2292. These Resolutions also authorise the interception of vessels suspected of being used for illicit activities and impose an arms embargo on Libya in an effort to prevent the flow of illicit arms and related material into that country.

The training being provided to the Libyan Navy and Coastguard as part of Operation Sophia aims to improve the security of Libyan territorial waters; to enhance the capability of the Libyan Navy and Coastguard in law enforcement at sea; and to improve their ability to perform search and rescue activities so as to save lives in Libyan territorial waters. Libyan Coastguard training is a positive move towards capacity building by the EU mission.  It is the fastest way to deliver effects in reducing irregular migrant flows and intercepting smuggler activity inside territorial waters.

The EU has a number of initiatives which provide assistance and protection to migrants in Libya, in particular inside detention centres.  Partner countries, partner organisations, NGOs and international agencies are all working together with Operation Sophia and sharing their experiences on how to manage something that is difficult to manage from a humanitarian point of view.  Bringing real improvements to the situation of migrants in Libya will require restoration of political stability, through the formation of a functioning government, and a return to order throughout the country. Ireland supports both UN mediation and regional efforts in pursuit of stabilisation in Libya.

Ireland fully supports the current EU approach to the migrant crisis, including the current deployment and operations of Operation Sophia.

In July 2017, Government and Dáil approval was secured for the deployment of an Irish Naval Service vessel as part of Operation Sophia.  The L.É. Niamh, deployed on 6 October 2017 to join Operation Sophia and returned to Ireland on 20 December 2017.  In the course of its deployment, the crew of L.É. Niamh were primarily tasked to respond to Safety of Life at Sea events (search and rescue) in the area of operation. The specific tasks assigned to naval vessels by the Operation Sophia Force Commander, depends on the operational requirements in the Mediterranean area at any given time.

Operation Sophia has so far contributed to the apprehension of 130 suspected smugglers and traffickers, removed approximately 520 boats from criminal organisations availability, contributed to almost 290 Safety of Life at Sea events  and rescued over 42,400 migrants.

An after action review of the deployment on Operation Sophia is currently ongoing.  The question of any further deployment to Operation Sophia in 2018 will be considered in the context of the after action review, the vessel requirements of operation Sophia, the ongoing situation in the Mediterranean and the overall E.U. response to the ongoing migrant crisis.