Last week, I welcomed the increased funding for the Defence Forces which copper-fastens the future of Dun Uí Mhaoiliosa in Renmore, Galway. Pictured above with Minister Simon Coveney following a briefing on the plans.

I welcome the ambassador to the Chamber. She is very welcome. I wish her well on her national day.

I also take the opportunity on behalf of the Fine Gael group to thank the offices of the Cathaoirleach and the Leas-Chathaoirleach for their work and co-operation over the course of this term. I hope that all staff get a good and well-deserved break as well.

I spoke previously, as did many others, on the need for a debate on the Defence Forces. I welcome the announcement yesterday and the official announcement today of the new era for the Defence Forces, as the action plan has been announced. This is very welcome. I hope we will have time for an in-depth discussion on issues relating to the Defence Forces soon after we resume. I welcome the fact that the report of the Commission on the Defence Forces, which was initiated by the Minister for Defence, Deputy Coveney, will see investment planned over the coming years.

Three options were presented by the commission. One was pretty much the status quo, which would still require an investment of approximately €47 million. The second option would allow for investment to increase the forces from approximately 9,500 personnel to 11,500, including 700 extra Naval Service personnel, and to get the Reserve Defence Force back up to 3,000. The investment includes improvements in primary radar capability, medium-range aircraft, and to the Army’s firepower and armour. All of that is very welcome. The third option, which is not to be pursued at this stage, was based on getting to the level outlined in the second option. It would involve improving the capability, resourcing and level of personnel anyway before even engaging in the possibility at a future date of pursuing the third option. That would be to match what other European countries do and would require a threefold increase in resourcing.

This is a game changer for the future of the Defence Forces. As the Minister said, it will provide a modern workplace for the Defence Forces. Two new civilian posts will be created, namely, a head of transformation and a head of strategic human resources. In practice, it will take a number of years to deliver this change for the Defence Forces. It is clear now that the future is bright and strong for those of us who have very important barracks, such as Dún Uí Mhaoilíosa, Renmore, Galway. We will see continued investment and increased levels of personnel in all barracks like that, which will require accommodation and resources. I welcome this Government initiative based on the decisions and work by the Minister, Deputy Coveney, who has had a significant interest in the rebuilding of the Defence Forces.