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Minister Kehoe, T.D., addresses the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers

The Minister with responsibility for Defence Mr Paul Kehoe, T.D., today, (Wednesday 1 November 2017) addressed the Biennial Delegate Conference of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers, (RACO), in the Killashee House Hotel, Naas, Co. Kildare.

Opening his address to the Conference, the Minister reiterated the Government’s commitment “The Government is committed to reaching a strength level of 9,500 Permanent Defence Force personnel as set out in the White Paper on Defence. The process of reaching this figure of 9,500 personnel and maintaining the strength at this level presents many challenges. As at end September, the Permanent Defence Force strength was 9,062 personnel or just over 95% of the establishment of 9,500 personnel."

The Minister confirmed “there is sufficient funding within the budget for a full strength Permanent Defence Force”. He said Budget 2018 “delivers an extra €25 million for 2018, and an additional €98 million for capital expenditure out to 2021”.

The Minister acknowledged the challenges faced in reaching this target. He said “as with other areas of the public service, challenges have arisen in relation to the recruitment and retention of personnel with scarce and highly marketable skills”. He added “this is always a factor where highly trained professional personnel are a desirable asset to any employer”. The Minister also referenced the particular challenge of retaining personnel with specialist skills which he said “is a challenge faced by military forces internationally”.

The Minister welcomed the recent announcement by his colleague, Mr. Pascal Donohoe, T.D., Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform in relation to the next phase of work of the Public Service Pay Commission. The Minister said he was pleased to see “the Defence Forces are highlighted as priority areas that require a more comprehensive examination of underlying difficulties.” The Minister said “the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces will be making a further submission to the Commission when the Commission commences this phase of its work”.

He noted RACO had made a detailed submission to the Commission earlier this year and encouraged RACO “to accept the terms of the new Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020, which as a party to the agreement, will provide that you can engage further with the Commission on the issues of concern to your membership”.

He also advised members that acceptance of the Agreement would “allow members to receive the first phase of pay increases of 1% on annualised salaries from 1 January 2018, in tandem with other Public Servants and to avail of subsequent pay increases.”

He added that “there is also significant ongoing recruitment at both enlisted and officer level and it is anticipated that 800 new personnel will have been inducted into the Permanent Defence Force during 2017. This includes 100 cadets”.

The Minister advised the delegates of the range of methods being employed to address the challenges including direct entry competitions for specialist positions and consideration of terms and conditions which would allow former members of the Defence Forces, with sought after skills, to return to service.

The Minister updated delegates on his intention to initiate a review of the Conciliation and Arbitration scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force.

In conclusion, the Minister wished the delegates every success with the remainder of the Conference.