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Deputy Sean O’Fearghail, T.D.,
“The need for the Minister for Defence to ensure that Defence Forces personnel serving in Lebanon have kit appropriate to the climate and the location.”.

Response by Deputy John Perry, TD, on behalf of Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, TD.

I thank Deputy O’Fearghail for raising this matter. The Minister has asked me to apologise to the House for his unavailability to address this issue this afternoon.

At the outset, I wish to advise that the Department of the Defence has not received any requests from the Defence Forces for the provision of additional clothing. In any event, the procurement of such clothing is a function delegated to the Defence Forces.

Ireland has a long association with UNIFIL since its establishment in 1978 and the 108th Infantry Battalion of 357 members of the Irish Defence Forces recently deployed to Lebanon. Participation by members of the Irish Defence Forces in UNIFIL is a continuation of our honourable tradition of supporting the United Nations in the cause of peace and security, a tradition spanning over half a century now.

In the first instance, I should outline the background to the acquisition of clothing and equipment for the Defence Forces. The Department of Defence maintains an open door policy with its acquisition of such clothing and equipment. The principles of transparency, non-discrimination and equality of treatment are applied to the widest possible extent to companies interested in supplying such equipment to the Defence Forces.

Tender competitions are held by the Contracts Branch in the Department and the Defence Forces for the acquisition of a wide range of clothing, kit and defensive equipment covering standard ammunition, weapons, Armoured Personnel Carriers, Light Tactical Armoured Vehicles and a wide range of clothing and equipment for the individual soldiers to ensure that they are suitably equipped to carry out their roles at home and overseas. The principal aims of such tender competitions are to achieve value for money for such equipment and to ensure a fair tendering process for all companies.

A particular focus is maintained in ensuring that modern and effective equipment is available for overseas peace support operations. In this regard, the personal equipment including clothing, which the individual soldier has at his/her disposal in Lebanon and on other overseas missions is second to none and compares favourably with the equipment in use by other countries. The Defence Force authorities have assured the Minister that appropriate force protection assets and capabilities have been deployed to operate in the current and future environment in Lebanon.

The Defence Forces issues a comprehensive set of clothing to each member of the Defence Forces which is designed to cope
with a wide range of weather conditions both at home and overseas.

Additional supplementary clothing and footwear may be issued where extreme conditions are to be encountered. I am advised that the Defence Forces are satisfied that the current clothing arrangements are sufficient for the requirements of the Defence Forces. The Minister has been advised that the Defence Forces carry a range of clothing sizes to cater for all sizes.

Where required, provision is made for an individually sized set of uniforms to be manufactured by the supplier.

In addition, in recent years, significant work has been carried out on the acquisition of an Integrated Protection and Load Carrying System for individual soldiers. This equipment is top of the range. The system includes Body Armour, Helmets, Back Packs (Rucksacks) and Battle Vests. The Battle Vests are used for the carriage of essential items such as ammunition, personal radio and water.

In addition, I am advised that military training techniques are up to date in all respects. Defence Forces training plans are specifically structured to provide the capabilities needed to execute the roles assigned to them by Government. The challenges of preparing military units for participation in international peace support operations constitute the major dimension of Defence Forces collective training.

The primary focus of this training is the attainment of a capability for military interoperability in order to conduct peace support operations to international standards. Training standards in the Defence Forces are constantly benchmarked against best international practice and Defence Forces personnel have full access to the best international training standards available.

Finally, on behalf of Minister Shatter and myself
I want to wish each member of the 108th Infantry Battalion UNIFIL a safe and successful mission.

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