Dáil Éireann - Volume 638 - 04 October, 2007

Written Answers. - Defence Forces Recruitment.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Defence his plans to encourage the recruitment to the Defence Forces of people from a broader range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21995/07]

  Deputy Willie O’Dea: The question of the recruitment of foreign nationals to the Defence Forces is not a new one and Defence Force Regulations have always allowed for the recruitment of foreign nationals to the Defence Forces.

Entry to the Permanent Defence Force is either through the Cadetship Competition, Apprenticeship Competition, General Service Enlistment or Direct Entry Competitions which are held to fill vacancies in specialist appointments. All applicants for each of these entry streams are required to meet qualifying criteria.

The Cadet Competition is the entry level for recruitment as an Officer of the Defence Forces. As you are aware, I have made changes to the 2006 Cadet competition to broaden the entry criteria thereby making it easier for qualifying foreign nationals to apply for cadetships.

In addition the Defence Forces Equality Policy underpins equality legislation and states that;

The Defence Forces are committed to the principles of equal opportunities in all employment policies, procedures and regulations.

The Defence Forces will operate in an environment without discrimination in areas as provided by the Equality Acts.

[1816] The Defence Forces will ensure that the principles of employment equality are employed in recruitment, promotion, training and work experience.

All regulations and Administrative Instructions concerning service in the Defence Forces shall be set out in a manner consistent with this policy of equal opportunity.

This policy will be reviewed along with the Defence Forces regulations on an ongoing basis by the Deputy Chief of Staff (Support) to ensure compliance with best practice and to maintain a working environment that treats all members of the Defence Forces in a manner consistent with equal opportunities.

I know that people from diverse backgrounds have already been employed in the Defence Forces, but this has mainly been in certain specialised areas. This has worked well — albeit on a limited scale. I have asked the Chief of Staff to review recruitment into the Defence Forces at all levels and to implement changes that would facilitate recruitment from among cultural and ethnic minorities. I believe that this can only enhance our Defence Forces.

The Military Authorities share my commitment to increasing the participation of people from ethnic and cultural communities in the Defence Forces. To achieve this the Defence Forces are:

Developing a strategy for Cultural Diversity Management. A new Defence Forces advertising campaign will be launched to reflect its strategy for cultural diversity.

Establishing links with all ethical and cultural community groups based in Ireland, in order to brief the groups on the Defence Forces and its current entry requirements. The groups will be invited to forward submissions to the Defence Forces on their views of service in the Defence Forces and to highlight any barriers they deem unfavourable to recruitment that may exist.

However, the primary focus in recruitment is to attract people with the core competencies required by the Defence Forces. My Department and the Defence Forces are fully committed to ensuring that all suitably qualified candidates who wish to do so are given the opportunity to join the Defence Forces.