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Statement by the Minister for Defence, Mr. Simon Coveney, T.D., on Defence Budget 2015

Minister Coveney today announced the continuing significant investment for key defence funding for 2015. This is a significant budget for Defence within the context of the economic recovery Ireland is now experiencing. The funding programme gives priority to Naval Service vessel renewal and allows for a process of on-going recruitment to the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps. Funding will allow continued participation by the Defence Forces in overseas peace support operations.

Minister Coveney stated: This budget is significant for the Department of Defence and we look forward to brighter prospects paving the way for a White Paper on Defence. The White Paper will provide an opportunity to ensure that a strategic approach to Defence is in place, including necessary resourcing, for the next ten years.

Minister Coveney acknowledged the contribution made by the Defence Sector, which has played its part in recent years in restoring stability to the national finances and to the public sector reform agenda. This was achieved through a significant reduction in associated public service numbers, reduced pay allocation and the introduction of major reforms including the re-organisation of the Defence Forces’ structures. While such reforms are challenging, the Defence Forces continues to be well-trained, flexible and deployable and capable of meeting a wide range of demands of Government at home and overseas. The Minister confirmed his intention to publish a White Paper on Defence in 2015 which will set out the overall approach to Defence for the coming decade.

Minister Coveney stated that: “Changes and reforms in recent years have allowed the Defence Forces to continue to fulfil all roles assigned by Government. The funding provided for 2015 allows for continued multi-annual investment with particular prioritisation in renewal of Naval Service vessels. Following the commissioning of LE Samuel Beckett earlier this year, two further modern offshore patrol vessels are being procured to replace existing ships. The overall strength of the Permanent Defence Force will be retained at up to 9,500.”

Financial Overview: The gross allocation provided to the Defence Sector in 2015 is €897m: made up of €676m for Defence (Vote 36) and €221m for Army Pensions (Vote 35). Some 73% of the Defence Vote provides for pay and allowances, while the remaining 27% provides for standing and operational costs and the procurement of replacement equipment. It also includes funding for the Reserve Defence Force, Civil Defence and a grant to the Irish Red Cross Society.

As regards the Army Pensions Vote, there are some 12,900 military pensions paid by my Department. The gross allocation for the Army Pensions Vote in 2015 is €221m. Pensions expenditure is largely non-discretionary and demand-driven.

White Paper: Significant progress has been made on the development of a new White Paper on Defence. Having regard to inputs received as part of a public consultation process, civil and military working groups from within the Department are currently reviewing the security landscape, identifying future challenges and identifying the capabilities required of the Defence Sector to respond and deal with these challenges. This process will inform a draft White Paper and it is anticipated that an initial draft will be forwarded to the Minister for Defence before the end of the year.

Minister Coveney stated: “The preparation of a new White Paper on Defence is a key priority as it will provide the defence policy framework for the next decade and beyond. Defence policy is a critical aspect of Government policy and I am determined to ensure that the new White Paper fully addresses the Defence response to future security challenges in a comprehensive way.”

Domestic Operations: The 2015 Defence allocation will facilitate the retention of a range of capabilities and the continued delivery of a broad range of services and operations. These encompass multi-faceted roles, some of which are key contributors to Ireland’s national security. Examples of the ongoing operations are beneath:

Examples of Defence Forces Operations
Cash-in-transit escorts
Prisoner Escorts
Explosive Ordnance Disposal callouts
Naval Service Vessel Patrol days
Naval Service Diving Operations
Air Ambulance (Air Corps Flight Hours)
Maritime Patrols (Air Corps Flight Hours)

Referring to the recent maritime interdiction, Minister Coveney stated: “The success of the recent maritime interdiction operation on the sailing vessel “Makayabella” once again brings into focus the importance of the role of members of the Naval Service in the Joint Task Force on Drug Interdiction in combating drug trafficking.”

Recently, an order has been placed for a third Offshore Patrol Vessel for the Naval Service, which will be funded from within the existing Defence allocation. The first Vessel, the L.. Samuel Beckett, was delivered in 2014 and the L.E. James Joyce is expected in 2015.
International Operations: As of 01 October, Ireland is contributing 420 Permanent Defence Force (PDF) personnel to 14 different overseas missions throughout the world. Currently, the main deployments are 195 personnel to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and 135 personnel to the United Nations Disengagement Force in Syria (UNDOF). The average number of PDF personnel deployed overseas in 2013 was 460. As regards future Defence Forces participation in the UNDOF mission, the civil war in Syria has demanded changes to the manner in which the mission carries out its current mandate.

Minister Coveney commented “I am pleased that given the evolving security situation in the area of operation, the mission has continued to reconfigure its operations with a view to minimising unacceptable risks to peacekeepers, while continuing to implement the mission’s mandate. I am also satisfied that given the strong and unconditional endorsement of the mission by the UN Security Council, including in relation to the capabilities provided by Ireland, we will continue to provide contingents of the Defence Forces to participate in the UNDOF mission.”

PDF Recruitment: Targeted recruitment is continuing to ensure the ongoing operational capacity of the Defence Forces to meet their prescribed roles. Minister Coveney stated that: “Emerging from a PDF general service level recruitment campaign earlier this year, I am pleased to announce that 220 recruits are currently in training. Plans are underway to enlist some 180 additional recruits by the end of this year. In addition, 37 cadets have commenced training in the Cadet School while 15 apprentice aircraft technicians have also commenced training in the Air Corps”.

Decade of Centenaries 2012-2022: The Government has made funds available over the period 2014-2016 under the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2022 commemorative arrangements to improve access and facilities for Military Archives at Cathal Brugha Barracks, Rathmines, Dublin 6. In 2014, the first two tranches of material from the Military Service Pensions collection were made available online and Minister Coveney has stated that further material from this historic collection will be released over the coming years.
Note for Editor:

Gross Estimates – Vote 36 (Defence) and Vote 35 (Army Pensions)
Vote 36 (Defence)
Vote 35 (Army Pensions)
Overall Gross (€m)

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