Dáil Éireann - Volume 638 - 04 October, 2007

Written Answers. - Defence Forces Report.

Deputy Jan O’Sullivan asked the Minister for Defence if he will make a statement on the recent publication of the 2006 annual report of his Department and the Defence Forces. [21991/07]

  Deputy Willie O’Dea: I am very pleased with the performance of my Department and the Defence Forces, the achievements of which are outlined in detail in the 2006 Annual Report.

Among the significant developments that took place in 2006 and which are detailed in the Report were:

All ATCP (Aid to the Civil Power) and ACA (Aid to the Civil Authority) requests were met.

We continued to meet Ireland’s international commitments with a total of 828 Defence Forces personnel serving overseas at 31 December 2006.

Major equipment purchased during 2006 included the first two medium-lift AW139 [1806] helicopters for the Air Corps (a further two are due for delivery this year). In December, an option in the contract to purchase an additional two AW139’s (bringing the total to 6) was exercised.

A major inter-agency emergency response exercise was conducted in the Curragh in November.

Work on the National Emergency Coordination Centre was practically completed and a contract was placed for a robust communications system.

Work commenced in preparing for an Information and Public Awareness Campaign on Emergency Planning.

As part of the commemoration of the 90th Anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, the traditional Easter Military Parade recommenced. Both the parade and other associated commemorative events generated great public approval and support. Later in the year, a ceremony was held to mark the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

The legislative changes necessary to enable participation by the Defence Forces in EU Battlegroups were enacted.

A Bill to amend the Defence Act (Part V) was published in December. This part of the Act provides for disciplinary procedures under military law and needed to be brought in line with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Office of the Defence Forces Ombudsman was established during the year.

The reorganisation of the Reserve Defence Force continued during the year in accordance with the Implementation Plan approved by me in late 2005. Training has been greatly enhanced and preparations made for piloting the Integrated Reserve in 2007 across all three Brigades.

During 2006, I took two significant initiatives towards improving female participation in the Defence Forces. I reduced the minimum height requirement and I initiated research in the area of attracting more women to enlist in the Defence Forces. The report of this research was published in April 2007. This will contribute to the formulation of policy and practice in this area for the future.