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Raft of ambitious timelines in Irish Defence Forces change plan published by Government today

The much anticipated Detailed Implementation Plan (DIP) for the Report of the Commission on the Defence Forces will be issued today.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 21st 2023, 4:14 PM

THE GOVERNMENT HAS published a major document in the next phase of revamping the Irish Defence Forces. 

The much anticipated Detailed Implementation Plan (DIP) for the Report of the Commission on the Defence Forces was released following the Tánaiste Michael Martin’s briefing to his Cabinet colleagues today.

The plan comes after the Commission on the Defence Forces published a number of recommendations on issues in the military in 2022.

The detailed implementation plan sets out the timetable for delivery of the recommendations over the short, medium and long-term by 2028.

The Tánaiste who is also Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs said it was a step forward for the Defence Forces.

“I am deeply committed to the transformation of the Defence Forces into a modern, fit for purpose organisation to defend the State and meet the challenges of today and the future.

“A great deal of work still needs to be done and it will need concerted effort by all involved. A priority within this transformation is cultural change.  The end goal of this cultural change is to ensure that the Defence Forces is well-resourced, reflective of contemporary Irish society, and a rewarding and attractive career path for new recruits,” he said.

Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Seán Clancy said the publication of the plan builds on the work done over the last 18 months on the rejuvenation of the Defence Forces.

“Delivery of the actions set out will bring challenges but the significant progress being made to date, the dedication of our personnel and the oversight structures, which have been put in place to support delivery, give us great confidence that the transformational change required will be delivered,” he added.  

The Journal reported on the details of the plan – which aims to push through the change needed to bring Irish army, navy and Air Corps up to the required standard - in September.

It is the first major project by Brian Molloy, the military’s newly appointed head of transformation. 

Molloy’s role is to implement the High Level Action Plan devised to push through the proposed change.

“The Detailed Implementation Plan sets out and an ambitious timetable to achieve the Government’s objective of reaching Level of Ambition 2 capability by 2028. Its represents the culmination of months of intensive work by the Defence Forces and Department of Defence and stakeholder engagement,” he said.

53106855819_b982b339ce_o There will be a new Special Forces Plan for the Army Ranger Wing and it will be renamed to Irl SOF. Irish Defence Forces Irish Defence Forces

Recommendations

There are more than 130 recommendations and one of the major projects is the primary radar plan to place surveillance equipment at strategic locations across the country to, not only monitor Irish skies, but also to monitor shipping traffic. 

The state-of-the art technology utilised by the radar would be able to detect jets and drones at a range of altitudes. It could also be used to detect low-flying aircraft being used by drug gangs. 

There is anti-drone technology set to be delivered by the middle of 2025 as the replacement of the Irish Air Corps’ helicopter  fleet will take place in 2028. 

There is a timeline also for career progression for naval divers and other specialists. The Navy will get its own legal section to deal. 

The Army Ranger Wing will be renamed Irl SOF and there will be a lengthy preparation of a Special Operations Forces plan along with the development of dedicated aircraft for the unit. 

In the Commission on the Defence forces there were three Levels of Ambition (LOA) – LOA One, LOA Two LOA Three. 

The report outlines a plan in keeping with LOA TWO but there is a mechanism built in that there will be an assessment in 2028 to see if there is scope to move up to LOA Three which would include a dedicated fighter jet intercept capacity along with other initiatives.  

There are a number of human resources measures accepted and their delivery date will be in the coming months and next year. One of those initiatives will be to carry out internal morale reviews to find issues before they develop into major crises.

In September 2024 it is anticipated that all blocks will be removed to allow all Defence Forces personnel benefit from the European Working Time Directive. 

This has been campaigned for by representative bodies PDFORRA and the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO) for several years and is seen as a key solution to ongoing retention problems. 

Another measure is to remove impediments to the promotion of women to senior ranks and it is anticipated to be completed by January 2024. 

There will also be a study on grooming standards to better facilitate genders and a group established to look at how better to include diversity. A female mentoring programme will be in place by October.

There will be a project to completely redesign the structures of the military and that will be carried out by the Defence Forces but with assistance from international experts – it is anticipated this will begin in December 2023. 

By June 2024 a plan will be in place to allow increased direct entry recruitment to fill specialist positions. 

53147442024_e30eaf1599_o There will be a restructuring of the Army as part of the plan. Irish Defence Forces Irish Defence Forces

Reaction

Cathal Berry, a sitting Independent TD and former military officer, has been campaigning for a major investment in the military. 

“Very much welcome, far more importantly is the implementation – that will determine success or otherwise of this document,” he said. 

Lt Col Conor King of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers also welcomed the publication and said that the key to success was the delivery of the plan.

“RACO welcomes the publication of the Detailed Implementation Plan as a necessary next step in the regeneration of Óglaigh na hÉireann. The key to this regeneration will be speedy implementation and this is where the DF needs whole of government support.

“Lastly, and most importantly, consultation and engagement with employee representatives will ensure buy in and is a critical enabler for the success of this process, which simply cannot afford to fail,” he said. 

Mark Keane, President of enlisted representative body PDFORRA also welcomed it but echoed the sentiment that commitment to the plan is critical. 

“We welcome any initiative that enables the rejuvenation of the Defence Forces, we have worked closely with all stakeholders involved, including previous Minsters, the Tánaiste and the department.

“The critical next step is ensure a speedy implementation of the project – once in a life time opportunity and address the ongoing exit of staff from the Defence Forces,” he said.

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Niall O'Connor and Jane Matthews