Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence, John Brady TD, speaking in the Dáil this week on government legislation on the Defence Amendment Bill 2020, stressed the importance of legislation being introduced to protect the rights of members of the Reserve Defence Forces, who under the legislation would be allowed to deploy overseas along with the Defence Forces.
The Wicklow TD said:
“I welcome the planned expansion of the role of the Reserve Defence Forces (RDF) under the Defence Amendment Act. The RDF possesses a deep well of talent and commitment, and an expansion of its role will aid in attracting members who wish to play a deeper role in the RDF.
“In 2007 the RDF was 12,300 strong. Its current optimum strength is now a target of approx. 4,169, but there are now less than 2,000 members in the RDF. This shows a considerable run-down of the RDF.
“Sinn Féin set out in its contribution to the Commission on the Future of the Defence Forces, the need to rebuild the RDF, to offer members and recruits the opportunity to play a more contributive role of the Defence Forces. This will assist in creating a surge capacity for the Defence Forces, increasing their ability to react to national emergencies.
“However, prior to the deployment of RDF members alongside the Defence Forces, there needs to be a greater level of integration between the two bodies. The training offered to the RDF needs to be based on a real assessment of the challenges that they will face in stepping up to serve alongside the Defence Forces which operate at a high level of professionalism.
“This will require investment by the state, and an investment in time from what are voluntary members of the RDF.
“I have raised the issue of the need for legislation to be introduced to protect the employment rights of members of the RDF, and I argue that there is a matter of urgency around this.
“There is also a need for a consultative process with employer’s groups to ensure that there is a buy-in from employers to release staff in order to serve their country.
“I also strongly believe that the government should introduce measures to ensure that the contractual obligations of the Defence Forces are filled by members of the Defence Forces, and that members of the Defence Forces should not incur any financial loss due to the expansion of the role of the RDF.”