Internal military document contradicts Minister’s claim of defence spending increase

Kehoe ‘Scrooge of Government’ with lowest budget increase of any departments – FF

Minister for Defence  Paul Kehoe denied he was ‘the scrooge of Government’ during an exchange with Deputy Jack Chambers in the Dáil. File photograph:  Alan Betson

Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe denied he was ‘the scrooge of Government’ during an exchange with Deputy Jack Chambers in the Dáil. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Minister of State for Defence has criticised the leaking of an internal document from the military authorities which contradicts his view that the defence budget has increased.

Paul Kehoe has also rejected claims that he is the “Scrooge of Government” over budgetary allocation for next year, which Fianna Fáil claimed was the lowest increase of any department.

Mr Kehoe said in the Dáil it was “actually quite worrying that this internal document leaked out of the Defence Forces, presumably meant to be one of the most secure places”.

Fianna Fáil defence spokesman Jack Chambers gave details of the paper by the finance branch of the Defence Forces support division, which he said states that expenditure for the military is “reducing or stagnant” in real terms.

The Minister said there was an overall gross increase of 5.07 per cent in the budget, bringing current expenditure to €888 million and capital spending of €106 million.

But Mr Chambers said the 2018 budget as a percentage of GDP is higher than for 2019 with an increase of “0.291 per cent (next year) versus 0.292 per cent this year”.

He told the Minister “you’re the scrooge of Government when it comes to allocations and securing funding for the military across this State”.

‘Happy’

Rejecting the claim, Mr Kehoe said funding had increased year on year since he became Minister and “I am quite happy with the budget I negotiated”.

The Fianna Fáil TD said military management made a “notable point” in its report that the Defence Forces were also “comparing negatively” with spending in other departments including the Department of Justice. The report stated that An Garda Síochána is to get €60 million to fund Garda reform and the recruitment of 800 new personnel.

“You’ve secured the lowest percentage relative increase to any other department,” Mr Chambers claimed. And he said it was important “that the Mandarins in your department secure a greater allocation”.

Mr Chambers has also claimed the department “is beefing up its own internal management”, by creating a new assistant secretary general position while the Defence Forces are haemorrhaging personnel.

But the Minister took “great umbrage” civil servants being called Mandarins and said it was “total ignorance to do so”.

Mr Kehoe insisted the conclusions reached in the internal military documents “are completely contradicted by its own analysis”.

The Minister said he was reading from the same document when he said there was a 5.07 per cent increase in the 2018 gross expenditure ceiling.

Education spending had increased by 4.9per cent, health by 6.2 per cent and justice by 5.9 per cent and defence was “comparable with other departments”.