Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Defence Force Housing.

35.

asked the Minister for Defence whether the present position whereby the provision of housing for the Defence Forces is primarily a matter for the local authorities has proved adequate; if he is aware of the reply of his predecessor to supplementary questions to Parliamentary Questions No. 22 of 13 February 1979; if he is aware that the Department of Justice has prime responsibility for Garda accommodation; and if his Department will assume a similar responsibility for married members of the Defence Forces.

With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle I propose to take Questions Nos. 34 and 35 together.

Local authorities in general are cooperative in the matter of providing houses for serving soldiers. As I have previously informed the Deputy, the policy of my Department is to supplement the efforts of those authorities in areas where soldiers' housing needs are greatest. I will continue to have this policy implemented in so far as resources permit.

While the Department of Justice provides official accommodation for married members of An Garda Síochána in certain places to facilitate the transfer of such members, I understand that that Department does not accept primary responsibility for the provision of houses for married gardaí generally.

Is the Minister satisfied with the progress which has been made in relation to the provision of houses generally?

I do not accept the present level of housing for Army personnel. We can make much greater progress and we are trying to do so.

Is the Minister further aware that on 14 February 1979 a question was tabled in this House to the Minister for Defence by Deputy Moore, no less, in relation to the provision of houses in Cathal Brugha Barracks. The reply was that 68 new dwellings would be built immediately. To date, not a sod has been turned. Does the Minister consider that this is a satisfactory system of providing houses when Deputy Moore himself expressed concern on that occasion?

The question showed I was always interested in the matter. I appreciate that.

Could I ask the Minister if, arising from his interest at that stage in asking that question, in getting a reply from the then Minister that 68 new buildings would commence immediately and that in April 1981 nothing has started, does he accept that the system is adequate to provide the houses necessary? I just want an answer yes or no, I do not want any waffle.

I do not usually waffle. We will soon have the much promised breakthrough for Cathal Brugha Barracks.

Arising from the television report, which I am sure the Minister has seen or heard about, arising from the medical officer's report on Dublin, and arising from the serious accommodation problem that exists within the Defence Forces and the inadequate information which the Minister has given in his reply, would he answer yes or no as to whether the system is adequate to deal with the problem?

I reiterate that we have made great progress towards the rehousing of Army personnel.

Does the Minister accept that it is because the Defence Forces are not unionised and have no representative body, that it is the deliberate policy of the Government to play down the Defence Forces?

We house many people who are not unionised.

In view of the very inadequate conditions existing in Army housing agreed to by the Minister and bearing in mind that he entrusts the major portion of responsibility to the local authorities in this respect, does the Minister, as a former member of a local authority, accept that the allocation to undertake the financial responsibilities to which he has referred this year is less than the rate of inflation for the same 12 months period? How, therefore, can he honestly and seriously pretend to the House that there is going to be some kind of breakthrough in a situation where there are less real resources than there were last year?

Deputy Keating mentions that I was a member of a local authority. One of my suggestions was to take over Cathal Brugha Barracks for housing. The last Government rejected that.

Is the Minister aware that, during the term of the last Government, the then Minister for Defence built over 100 houses in the Curragh? Is the Minister aware of that?