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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 20 May 1999

Vol. 505 No. 2

Other Questions. - Army Barracks.

Ulick Burke


6 Mr. U. Burke asked the Minister for Defence the cost to date of security in each of the barracks which he has closed. [12685/99]

Gerry Reynolds


13 Mr. G. Reynolds asked the Minister for Defence the cost to date of private security firms in Castleblayney, Kildare, Naas and Ballincollig. [9281/99]

Frances Fitzgerald


85 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Defence the cost to date of security in each of the barracks which he has closed. [13361/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 13 and 85 together.

The cost to date of employing private security firms at the vacated military barracks in the five locations in question is £386,462 inclusive of VAT. The amount by individual location is as follows: Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig, £112,131.62; Devoy Barracks, Naas, £80,540.02; Magee Barracks, Kildare, £90,111.12; Military Barracks, Castleblayney, £48,507.69; Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy, £55,171.16.

There would also be additional costs in providing military security parties at the vacated barracks. Apart from normal pay and allowances, these costs include security duty allowances as well as transport and subsistence. On security duty allowances alone, the military authorities have estimated that savings to date amount to over £250,000. In addition, there have been significant savings on utilities such as telephone and electricity charges etc. which approximate to £25,000 in the case of Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig, for a six month period. It must be borne in mind that one of the main reasons for closing barracks was to relieve the Defence Forces of the burden of guarding too many barracks and posts, and thereby to release personnel for operational duties.

Is it envisaged that other barracks will be used for refugee accommodation? Has the Minister accepted a tender for the sale of any of the barracks? Is it envisaged that the mounting security costs will continue? Does the Minister see a change in the situation in relation to the sale of the barracks? Has the new crisis which has arisen in relation to refugee accommodation changed those plans?

It is extraordinary that the security costs are more than offset by having moved out because of the cost of utilities and the cost of security duty allowances. That can be left aside as not being an additional cost. It is important to take into account that Price Waterhouse said we have too many barracks. The second greatest demand on manpower was manning these installations. The more positive developments are taking place on that side.

Deputy Fitzgerald is right, the equation has changed for me. I was looking forward to disposing of a number of these barracks to the best advantage from a financial position and investing the funds in equipment and so on. In some cases that will be delayed. Nonetheless, the humanitarian cause which has arisen is greater than what I had set out to do. This country wants to play its part in meeting that terrible human tragedy in the best way possible. We have no problem with facilitating the Department of Foreign Affairs. I have asked that Department to look at all the facilities with a view to accommodating refugees from Kosovo.

In the case of the barracks at Fermoy, we are close to finalisation of the disposal of the lands there. In the case of Devoy Barracks, Naas, we have virtually completed negotiations with Naas Urban District Council. That involves not only the agreement reached but rezoning these lands. The sale of two barracks is well advanced. Magee Barracks, Kildare, is used to accommodate refugees. The Department of Foreign Affairs is looking at the other two in the event that they are needed. At the same time the process of negotiation at local level to proceed to the ultimate sale is going on in tandem.

The humanitarian cause was an unexpected development but the greater need is being met for the time being by accommodating the refugees. The sale of two barracks is at an advanced stage.

Given what has emerged – the needs of the refugees is a separate issue – in relation to the needs of local communities and the sale of barracks, will the Minister accept there is a change in the situation and should he reconsider the usage of those barracks? The real question is whether the State should seriously consider the use of these lands for housing and other community developments.

In the case of Devoy Barracks, Naas, we had a number of meetings with Naas Urban District Council.

We were able to reach an amicable agreement with the local representatives on that matter. We will try to do the same in Castleblayney and in regard to Fitzgerald barracks in Fermoy. There is no change. As I said at the beginning of the process, I want a good resolution. I want the towns in which the barracks are being vacated to have the best possible prospects of development. The process is continuing on the basis of benefit to both sides. We will dispose of lands and the income generated will be used for necessary equipment and development. We will also facilitate local elected representatives in the areas involved in terms of getting the best possible deal. There has been no change in my approach.

The Minister referred to the disposal of lands. I presume land is attached to all the barracks but are there any proposals from local communities about the buildings? I welcome the Minister's ongoing consultations with the Department of Foreign Affairs about making suitable places available for refugees. The Minister is aware of the trauma caused in towns when barracks closed. This problem must be overcome.

The Minister said the Price Waterhouse report stated that there were too many barracks and that is why they were closed. However, people in my constituency, for political reasons, constantly suggest that eventually Clonmel barracks will be closed. I know this is not on the Minister's agenda but it is essential that he reaffirms his commitment to barracks which have been allowed to remain open and are fulfilling an extremely important need in communities. Does the Minister agree that is the position with regard to Clonmel?

There are housing crises in most local authority areas. Does the Minister agree it would be advantageous to hold discussions with housing authorities about some of the disused barracks which are being maintained at a high cost? It is obvious much money is being spent on security. Does the Minister agree such a move would be more advantageous than providing land for further buildings?

There are a number of pressures in these areas. A number of initiatives have been taken by the Government in the context of trying to ensure more land is available for housing generally. As the Deputy noted, there are local authority housing waiting lists which need to be addressed. The private sector is also seeking more land for houses in an effort to maintain or reduce prices.

We have had discussions directly with the Department of the Environment and also with local authorities in relation to the best use which could be made of the facilities in the future. For example, in Kildare, I would be astounded if a considerable part of the 42 acres was not dedicated to social housing. However, we will reach agreement on these matters at local level and ensure the best possible resolution.

I do not know how many times it is necessary to outline the position regarding Clonmel barracks. I tackled the problem in the best way possible and we must now complete the dealing in which we have already engaged in terms of the closures. There is nothing else on the agenda. I appreciate that people, for whatever reason, will continue to raise the issue, but they should not have any fears.