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Address by Mr. Sean Power, T.D., Minister of State at the 13th Annual Delegate Conference of the Reserve Defence Forces Reresentation Association in DFTC, Curragh Camp

Saturday 6th May 2006
Chief of Staff, President of the Reserve Defence Force Representative Association, assembled delegates and guests, I am very pleased to be with you this morning to address your 13th Annual Delegate Conference. Firstly, my colleague the Minister for Defence Mr Willie O’Dea T.D., has asked me to convey his sincerest apologies for not being able to attend your ADC this year, due to other commitments. I know his office has been in contact with your General Secretary and that the Minister has requested a meeting, in about two weeks, with your Executive to discuss some of the important issues you will be raising here at your conference. Minister O’Dea has also asked me to repeat his warmest and sincerest thanks and congratulations to all the Reserve Force members who participated in the Easter Sunday parade and commemoration. He says “that all of you who took part in the parade and behind the scenes have a great deal to be proud of”.

My family have had close associations with the Defence Forces over the years through our constituency work and particularly during the period in 1982 when my father Paddy served as Minister for Defence, I was therefore especially happy and proud to be asked to fill in for Minister O’Dea and address you at this important event in your Association’s calendar. It is also the first such meeting since the formal introduction of the Reserve Defence Force on 1st October 2005. I understand that this is the third year that your Annual Delegate Conference has been held here in the Defence Forces Training Centre since your Association’s Headquarters were relocated, in 2003, to Clarke Barracks. I am glad to hear that the move to your new offices has worked out so well and on a personal note I would like to welcome you back to the military heartland in my constituency.

While preparing this address I had the opportunity to look at your Associations website and to read the most recent National Newsletter and could not help but be struck by the professional approach taken by the Association in the delivery of information to its members. I see from your agenda that you have had a very full schedule from the opening of the conference yesterday evening to the close of business today. I wish you well with this work and I am sure it will have a direct input into the future policy direction for the Association and the long-term success of the Reserve. As an aside it seems to me that the workshops scheduled for later are a very useful way to get valuable feedback on all of the topical issues being discussed.

I am sure you will all agree that the Easter Parade was a magnificent spectacle and I would like to congratulate you on your involvement. I believe that the Reserve Defence Force had nine marching companies. This, combined with the Presidential Guard Of Honour given by the 65th Infantry Battalion shows the significant input that the Reserve Defence Force had into the success of the Parade. As one of the many thousands who witnessed the event I was hugely impressed. The parade was televised to a large audience both at home and abroad and no one can have been left unimpressed by the commitment, professionalism and pride in the uniform shown by the members of the Defence Forces. I would like to take this opportunity to place on record the Government’s appreciation to all the personnel that were involved on the day and indeed in the build up to the parade.

The Reserve Defence Force Review Implementation Plan, which was officially launched in July 2004, started a process that will lead to significantly enhanced Reserve Defence Force capabilities while maintaining the core values of the Reserve, the spirit of volunteerism and commitment rooted within the local community. The implementation plan is the start of a process that will radically change the structure and configuration of the Reserve. Since the 1st October 2005 the Reserve is organised along similar lines to the Permanent Defence Force. It comprises an Army Reserve of three Brigades, a Reserve Defence Force Training Authority and a Naval Services Reserve.

Last week members of your National Executive and your General Secretary met with officials from the Department of Defence and briefed them on issues arising within the organisation. I know that you have concerns about the reorganisation of the Reserve. I would stress that the process will take time, as provided for in the plan. The benefits accruing to the Reserve as well as to the Defence Forces are evident. The focus of all sides should be to maintain the momentum towards ensuring that the Reserve contributes to the fullest extent possible as envisaged in the white paper. I understand that your Association has a good working relationship with both the Military Authorities and the Department and I hope this relationship, which is based on understanding and respect, will continue to build on its good work during this time of change.

Unfortunately in a more affluent Ireland fewer people have the time or inclination to participate in voluntary activity. At the recent Conference on the Future of the Community and Voluntary Sector the Taoiseach highlighted a number of issues voluntary organisations face in recruiting personnel. The pressures of combining working life with home and family commitments. The problems associated with longer commuting times. Keeping a flow of volunteers is an ongoing challenge. Your display at the Easter Parade was an excellent showcase to a national audience of potential Reservists. It is a recruitment opportunity that should not be lost. How we can continue to recruit committed members is by offering the best facilities, the best training, the best development and re-skilling opportunities. We need to offer potential recruits something dynamic, exciting and different. That is what makes the Reserve special.

The implementation plan highlighted the importance of high quality training for the continued enhancement of the capability of the Reserve. The establishment of the Reserve Defence Force Training Authority alongside the Defence Forces Training Centre is a huge step forward in the pursuit of standardisation of training. This mutually beneficial arrangement can be seen in the fact that your General Secretary has delivered presentations to participants of both the current and previous Command and Staff courses. A lot of work has gone into the revision of training syllabi and work continues on the development of innovative training solutions that meet the needs of members of the new Reserve. As Minister O’Dea pointed out at the launch of the Reserve last October, the importance of Training for the reserve has translated into the provision of 114,000 paid training days. This represents an 80% increase over the 1998 allocation with further increases provided for in the implementation plan. In addition to this the plan has allowed for the provision of four Lieutenant Colonel positions and I would like to extend my congratulations to the four officers promoted to fill these positions.

An issue high on everyone’s agenda is pay. You will be pleased to hear that with effect from the 1st of January of this year there is an increase of 7.61% in the rate of gratuity payable in respect of attendance at annual training.

I know one issue that is also very high on your agenda is the participation by the Reserve in overseas peace support missions. In other countries such service is a common occurrence for those with suitable qualifications, personal availability and appropriate advance training. As specified in the Implementation Plan, any such participation is likely to be in specialist areas such as medical, transport, engineering and communications & information services and will be dependent on extended pre-deployment training.

The security of civilian employment for members of the Reserve who may wish to serve overseas is being actively considered as part of the ongoing implementation process. Of course this raises potentially far reaching issues that need careful consideration. It seems to me that service in the Reserve, at home or overseas, develops skills that should be particularly attractive to potential employers.

There is a lot of progress being made, behind the scenes, on the reorganisation of the Reserve. The required regulatory changes to Defence Force Regulation S.7 and the proposed amendments to your Constitution are at an advanced stage. I would like to avail of this opportunity to thank your President Gerry Enright and your General Secretary Des Coleman and indeed all the members of your National Executive for their hard work, dedication and commitment during this unprecedented time of change. I can assure you that the Government fully appreciates the tremendous dedication and loyalty shown by members of the Reserve which will be reflected in further financial and legislative support.

An Annual Delegate Conference is a very important occasion in any Associations calendar. It is an opportunity for delegates to meet and to reflect on the previous year and to deliberate on issues of importance. I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to address your conference here today and to wish you every success with your deliberations. I hope you have a very enjoyable and successful conference.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome your guest speaker Ms. Paulyn Marrinan Quinn, Ombudsman for the Defence Forces. I am very proud to have been involved with the legislation that created this office. Her appointment puts in place an independent forum that will provide further support for the major transformation in culture and practice that is taking place within the Defence Forces and I wish her every success in her undertaking.

Thank you.

ENDS


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