Carlow – Kilkenny TD Bobby Aylward has said Fianna Fáil is committed to supporting and strengthening the Irish Defence Forces in the years ahead.

Deputy Aylward made the comments after the Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Defence Seán Ó Fearghaíl published detailed policy proposals entitled ‘A Force for Good: A Credible Defence Policy’ aimed at mapping the development of the Defence Forces in the years ahead.

“The Irish Defence Forces play a fundamental role in Irish society in ensuring the protection of communities in their time of need. It is therefore of vital importance that we not only maintain the existing Defence Forces network across the county, but also strengthening it in the years ahead.

“The proposals brought forward by my Fianna Fáil colleague Seán Ó Fearghaíl will safeguard Stephen’s Barracks in Kilkenny and ensure that the Defence Forces remain a permanent fixture in the city. This will allow the Defence Forces personnel to continue doing the good work that they have achieved to date in communities across Kilkenny.

“The investment in our defence has simply fallen too low to be credible at this stage. The current allowed strength of the Defence Forces at 9,500 has stretched its ability to fulfil its national and international assigned roles, maintain a credible contingent capability, and fulfil its required overseas rotations. Fianna Fáil in government is committed to restoring the Defence Forces to strength of 10,500 personnel across the Army, Air Corps and Naval Service over a five year term.

“Our commitment to strengthening our Defence Forces includes the restoration of the Army to a three brigade structure by re-establishing the 4th Western Brigade. In addition to this we want to see Reserve Defence Force developed and expanded to over 4,000 members with an emphasis placed on growing the organisation in Kilkenny. We recognise the enormous social value that the Reserve – and its spirit of volunteerism – provides to communities where there is a Reserve Defence Force unit and the value it provides for young people in the area in terms of development and providing a positive outlet for young people.

“Fianna Fáil will make Defence a lead portfolio at Cabinet and ally it to an expanded Department of the Marine. This new configuration dovetails with our commitment to expanding the Naval Service and enhancing our maritime security” said Deputy Aylward.