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Cabinet approves setting up Defence Forces Commission to examine issues like recruitment and pay

“This is about modernising Irish Defence infrastructure and making sure that it’s fit for purpose,” Defence Minister Simon Coveney said.

Irish troops Return after an eight month deployment with UNIFIL in South Lebanon.
Irish troops Return after an eight month deployment with UNIFIL in South Lebanon.
Image: Press Miltary

A COMMISSION WILL be set up on the current state of the Defence Forces, examining issues like low pay and recruitment.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney announced that government ministers have approved the establishment of the independent Commission, its terms of reference and the membership of the Commission at Cabinet today. 

A report from the Commission is expected to be submitted in 12 months’ time.

Coveney said that the Commission underpins a commitment to ensure that the Defence Forces are “fit for purpose”, both at present and in the longterm.

He told RTÉ’s News at One that the Commission would look at:

  • Recruitment and retention issues, which Coveney said is a “huge problem”
  • Flexibilties and capabilities for the Force in the future
  • Establishing a permanent pay-review body that recognises the “unique nature” of military within the public service
  • To look at governance models to ensure Ireland is in line with international best practice
  • To look at things which are “sensitive but important, such as air, land, maritime, cyber intelligence and even space domains” in relation to future defences and the infrastructure that they require
  • To look at the Reserve Defence Force, which Coveney said is “really important”, adding that he would likely be recommending a “significant increased role” for the Reserves to work with the Permanent Defence Force.

Coveney, who is also Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, said:

“This is about modernising Irish Defence infrastructure and making sure that it’s fit for purpose and to make sure that the Defence Forces have the resources they need to do the job that we ask of them.” 

Aidan O’Driscoll – former Secretary General of the Department of Justice, and previously Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture – will chair the Commission on the Defence Forces.

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Coveney said that O’Driscoll has “an exceptional track record” of service to the State and “brings an outstanding set of skills and experience to the role”.

The other 14 members are: Peter Brazel; Admiral Haakon Bruun-Hanssen (retired Norwegian Chief of Defence); Shay Cody; Maura Conway (Professor of International Security at DCU); Marie Cross; Anja Dalgaard-Nielsen (Danish security policy expert); Dan Harvey (military historian); Caitriona Heinl; John Minihan (former Senator and retired Captain in the Defence Forces); Lieutenant General Conor O’Boyle (Retired); Lieutenant General Esa Pulkkinen (Finnish military officer); Geraldine Tallon; Gerry Waldron; and Jane Williams.

“The members have been carefully chosen to ensure the optimum range of expertise in key areas including management, HR, security policy, public service, as well as both domestic and international military expertise,” Coveney said.

The establishment of a Commission on the Defence Forces before the end of 2020 is in the Programme for Government.

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