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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 26 Nov 2008

Vol. 668 No. 4

Other Questions.

Reserve Defence Force.

Billy Timmins


69 Deputy Billy Timmins asked the Minister for Defence the progress that has been made on implementing the recommendation of the Reserve Defence Force implementation board report regarding the reactivation of the reserve of officers-men first line and front line reserve; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42890/08]

The Reserve Defence Force review implementation plan provides for a phased approach to enhancing the capabilities of the reserve over the period to the end of 2009. The introduction of new RDF organisational structures, the development of new training syllabi, improved equipment and clothing have successfully been delivered as part of phase 1 of the plan. Phase 2 of the implementation plan is currently being implemented and a pilot scheme for the integrated Army reserve was initiated in 2007 and subsequently extended into 2008. In line with the implementation plan timeframe, proposals with respect to the first line reserve have been prepared by the military authorities and are currently being considered. I look forward to reviewing the recommendations and a proposed plan of action in due course. My primary objective is to ensure the experience and knowledge of the former Permanent Defence Force personnel of the first line reserve is utilised for the maximum benefit of the Defence Forces.

The Minister has agreed in the past that the integrated Army reserve is not working and it has not taken off as expected. The first line reserve is a valuable resource. For example, in 1999, more than 300 officers took redundancy and since then between 20 and 30 officers annually have left the Army prematurely. This vast resource is available to the Minister. If the integrated Army reserve does not work, this is the solution because these people can travel abroad and fit in easily with the Permanent Defence Force because they have the training. It would be difficult to find people in the Reserve Defence Force to do that because of their training and background.

When will action be taken? The report was accepted by the Government. When will action be taken? When will recruitment take place? Will the Minister provide an adequate incentive for former officers to become involved again?

I do not disagree with the Deputy about using the first line reserve if the integrated reserve concept does not work but, as he will be aware, the changes in the reserve were to take place over a number of phases. The first phase comprised additional training, radical changes in the organisational structure, additional equipment, changes in the gratuity system and so on. All those have been put in place. We are now at the next stage, which is the development of the integrated reserve. I agree with the Deputy that the initial outcome of the pilot projects we initiated in this regard was disappointing. The first pilot project was undertaken in 2007 and it continued into 2008. More than 300 people have completed training for the integrated reserve. We never envisaged reaching a figure of 2,500 as a result of the pilots but at least we have made a start.

The development of the first line reserve is looked on as the next phase. We have resolved the integrated reserve problem. I do not disagree with the Deputy that if we run into problems with this and have to give up or it does not develop as we expected, we can look more closely at the front line reserve. However, we are not giving up on the integrated reserve. We have learned valuable lessons from the pilot projects and changes will be made in the recruitment of people to the integrated reserve as a result. The next phase will be first line reserve and we see a role for both. The intention is to make the PDF as efficient and effective as possible, with which the Deputy agrees.

I am glad the Minister accepts the first line reserve can become the foundation stone or the spine of the integrated reserve and this presents a great opportunity. Will the Minister outline a timeframe within which definite progress will be made during 2009?

Is the Deputy referring to the first line reserve?

As the House will be aware, the implementation report made various recommendations about pay and conditions, recruitment, training and the relationship between the first line reserve and the Army reserve and Naval Service reserve. The military authorities had reservations about some of these recommendations, on which they are working. They will present me with their final recommendations as to what should happen. I have asked them to speed up the process and contact me as quickly as possible.

Ministerial Transport.

Ciaran Lynch


70 Deputy Ciarán Lynch asked the Minister for Defence the cost of the recent refurbishment of the Gulfstream Government jet; the nature of the work undertaken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42762/08]

The Gulfstream IV entered MATS service in 1991 and has accumulated an average of 660 flying hours a year since then. It is maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's recommended overhaul and maintenance cycle. This is a practice common to all Air Corps aircraft, both fixed wing and rotary wing. Requisite inspections and checks are carried out at various specified intervals, depending on the flying hours accumulated, as set out in the Air Corps approved maintenance programme for the aircraft, which incorporates all of the manufacturer's recommended maintenance activities. In addition to the maintenance procedures carried out by Air Corps technical personnel at Baldonnel, the Gulfstream IV undergoes a full annual maintenance inspection at Gulfstream's maintenance facility in the United States.

The Gulfstream IV commenced its 2008 annual scheduled maintenance inspection and service in the United States in mid-July. The 2008 maintenance requirement was quite extensive in that the airframe was due its 72-month inspection, the undercarriage was due a 9,000 landings check and the cabin management system was due major mandatory modifications. The aircraft also underwent water pipe work reconditioning and an extensive inspection of the interior. Essential repairs to the interior which had not been renovated since the aircraft was first acquired 17 years ago were also undertaken. The extent of this work led to increased downtime of the Gulfstream IV which returned to operational service earlier this month. The total cost of this maintenance is approximately €1.8 million. In regard to the interior refurbishment, the work included the recovering of the cabin seats; restoration work on the seat-belts; the replacement of carpets; and refinishing of cabin ledges, console tables and the conference table which had become damaged and worn during the years. The cost of this aspect of the maintenance programme is approximately €426,000. I have been informed that Gulfstream IV interiors are normally replaced every five to seven years and that this interior work was long overdue.

I understand the number of hours flown by the Gulfstream IV is higher than for similar jets. The former Taoiseach once stated there was not an aircraft in the world, including the Third World, that had flown for as many hours as the Gulfstream. Was any major fault detected when the maintenance work was carried out this year? I know there were replacements and that there is a certain level of maintenance which is due in cycles of months, years and so on, but did anything else of importance show up and, if so, what was it?

It is important I clarify the situation for the benefit of the House. The immediate answer to the Deputy is that no major fault showed up, to the best of my knowledge. However, as the Deputy may be aware, there was an incident relating to the Government jet on its return from Tbilisi last week. While the aircraft was on the runway, one of the warning lights indicated an hydraulic fault. As the aircraft had not taken off, the aircrew immediately telephoned the Gulfstream company in the United States and took advice on how to proceed and what repairs to carry out. They were so advised, isolated the problem and sorted it out. On the journey home another warning light flashed which indicated there was a problem with the wheel brakes. As a result, the Government jet which was carrying the Minister for Foreign Affairs, among others, and was due to land at Cork Airport diverted to Shannon Airport which has longer runways — if there was a problem with the brakes, the flaps could be used to stop the aeroplane. When the aircraft landed at Shannon Airport, it was found, thankfully, that the brakes were in perfect working order. Therefore, it was obviously a question of a malfunctioning light. The Air Corps has been working on the aircraft since at Baldonnel Aerodrome. I understand it needs a new part for the hydraulics and that this is being fitted. The short answer to the Deputy's question is "No". During the major recent overhaul in the United States, nothing showed up.

While I am glad there was no accident because of the fault outlined by the Minister, bearing in mind the huge number of hours flown by this aircraft, is it possible the wiring system in general may require examination? It is obviously an electrical fault of some description. One wonders how many other aircraft have this number of flying hours. What data does the manufacturing company have in regard to the lifespan of the components of the aircraft such as the wiring system? At what stage would problems begin to emerge?

I do not know the normal number of flying hours ratcheted up during the lifetime of a jet. However, I know this jet has been put to maximum use. The wiring system and the hydraulics are under examination. I understand a replacement part is needed and that it is being fitted. For the benefit of the House, I repeat that there is routine maintenance of the aircraft in accordance with well established international standards, the regularity of which depends on the number of flying hours clocked up. Therefore, it must be happening regularly at this stage. In addition, there is the overall annual examination which usually happens in the United States during the summer.

When an aircraft has an uncharted number of flying hours, there are no previous data.

I understand that, as does the Air Corps. I do not know if the Deputy is suggesting we acquire a new Government jet, which would be——

I am suggesting it should be rendered as safe as possible.

That is being done.

We would not like to lose the Minister.

It is usual to replace the interior once every five years, or seven years at the most. It has not been replaced since 1991. The cost of a new interior, as publicly announced, is approximately €3.5 million but we have managed to get away with spending €426,000 and still make it look new. We are doing everything possible to save money in the interests of the country.

And to save lives.

Defence Forces Equipment.

Ruairí Quinn


71 Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Defence the progress made with regard to the fitting of a roll-over protection system for troop carrying vehicles, arising from a number of recent road accidents involving Army lorries on the M50 and in Granard, County Longford; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42769/08]

Arising from an accident involving a troop carrying vehicle in Granard, County Longford in June 2007, a study group was formed to advise on the introduction of a roll-over protection system for troop carrying vehicles incorporating roll bars and safety belts. The total requirement identified by the study group included the fitting of the system to 135 trucks. The fleet is made up of four makes or models of vehicles with vehicle bodies of different specification across the model range. There is no standard roll-over protection system for military vehicles in service with the Defence Forces. For that reason, the evaluation of a suitable system to satisfy all demands requires the examination of solutions from a number of potential suppliers.

The Defence Forces plan to fit the systems to a number of selected vehicles initially for a pilot phase to allow for testing and consideration of the most suitable system for each particular type of vehicle. A company was requested to fit a system to a troop carrying vehicle for evaluation and trial. The company advised in April that due to the manner of construction of the vehicles, it might take six to eight weeks to manufacture and fit such a system. A roll-over protection system was fitted to a DAF 4x4 troop carrying vehicle in July 2008. This vehicle is in service with an operational unit for evaluation purposes.

During the month of October a system of standard pattern seat-belts was fitted to a troop carrying vehicle and a roll-over protection system was fitted to another troop carrying vehicle. Other systems and products are on order from other suppliers and these will be fitted to selected vehicles and made ready for testing in the next couple of weeks. All of the equipment will be evaluated by an operational unit. Following a period of evaluation and user feedback, the findings from the evaluations will be presented to the general staff of the Defence Forces for their input before a final tender competition is conducted for a suitable restraint system.

My concern in this area is the length of time it is taking. I take the point that four makes or models of truck are in operation. I would like to see this process moving forward more quickly. All the testing seems to be done in terms of routine operation. Do tests exist which could be done on the strength of roller bars under controlled situations in terms of accidents? The assurance I seek is that in spite of cutbacks, the optimum roll-over bars, seat belts or whatever the solution is to ensure to the greatest degree the safety of troops in transit will be provided immediately and that resources will not be a constraint.

To give Deputy O'Shea an idea of what we are dealing with, the systems for safety of trucks are in the process of being developed. Many of them are at the research and development stage. There are a number of suppliers and we must deal with all of them. We must get the proper equipment for the particular type of truck. There are four different types of truck in the Army. I am sure neither Deputy O'Shea nor any other Deputy would like us to buy systems which turned out to be incompatible with the trucks for which they were to be used.

The accident was in June and the report was supposed to be completed and available by the end of 2007 but it was not because of delays in potential suppliers getting back to us. It was finally completed in February 2008. In April 2008 instructions were first given to begin testing. Systems have been fitted to a small number of trucks and I believe three out of the four types of truck are covered. No other country has the system we are discussing in place. I do not use this as an excuse but I want to make the point that the system is in the early stages of development. The British are examining it and they recently placed an order for a number of systems for a very small number of British Army trucks. We are leading the way in this regard and I assure Deputy O'Shea that no expense will be spared. We have an allocation of approximately €500,000 for what we are doing this year and this will be more than what is required.

I am somewhat reassured by this and perhaps in the present recessionary times retailers and manufacturers will be far more anxious to get business and move it ahead. I am pleased to hear that when the solutions are found they will be implemented quickly and that resources will not be an inhibiting factor in their provision. We all want a solution whereby the safety of troops is assured from an early date and I take it this is what the Minister has told me.

I agree with Deputy O'Shea and this is exactly what I am saying. We will lead the field in this regard. There is no one size fits all system but what is encouraging is that testing has already begun. A number of systems will be fitted to other trucks during the coming weeks. After the initial teething difficulties we are well on the way and it is our intention to provide a safe system for those trucks.

Army Barracks.

Is Question No. 72 to be taken with other questions?

The Minister will answer that now.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72, 74, 75, 79, 94, 116, 121, 123, 125, 130 and 132 together.

This means the time limit for the question has trebled.

Frank Feighan


72 Deputy Frank Feighan asked the Minister for Defence the provision that has been made for funding the provision of the additional office, living and storage accommodation at Finner Camp, Custume Barracks and Aiken Barracks required by the transfer to those locations of the personnel from the barracks recently announced for closure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42850/08]

Willie Penrose


74 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Defence the anticipated cost of reassigning the 650 military personnel, arising from the budget 2009 announcement of the closure of a number of military barracks and posts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42759/08]

Kieran O'Donnell


75 Deputy Kieran O’Donnell asked the Minister for Defence the budgetary costs provided for in facilitating the barracks closures announced as a result of budget 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42922/08]

Enda Kenny


79 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Minister for Defence if the personnel in those barracks that will be closed have been briefed by officials of his Department on their financial entitlements on changing stations; if such briefings are planned; when they will take place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42864/08]

Michael D. Higgins


94 Deputy Michael D. Higgins asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the concern expressed by members of the Defence Forces and the broader community in Donegal at the social and economic implications of the decision to close a number of Army posts in Donegal; if he will reconsider the decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42757/08]

Bernard J. Durkan


116 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Defence if recent decisions to dispose of a number of military installations throughout the country were driven by financial curtailments or if a fundamental appraisal of such installations was carried out with a view to improving the efficacy and integrity of the Defence Forces relative to such installations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42801/08]

Eamon Gilmore


121 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Defence if he is satisfied that adequate accommodation will be provided for all of those members of the Defence Forces who are to be relocated by 31 January 2009, arising from the announcement made on budget 2009 day of the closure of St. Bricin’s Hospital and a number of military barracks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42755/08]

Dinny McGinley


123 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Defence if it is his intention to visit Donegal and meet the personnel and families of both Lifford and Rockhill Army bases who are concerned at the decision to close both; the disruption that it will inflict on both communities and the fact that north Donegal, a Border area, will be left without an Army base, and the security, economic and social implications of closure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42684/08]

Niall Collins


125 Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Defence if work has started on the process of closing the four Border military posts; if the Defence Forces have a timetable in place for these closures; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42682/08]

Eamon Gilmore


130 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Defence if he will outline, in regard to the budget 2009 announcement, the decisions to close a number of barracks and military posts; the estimated value of each such site, including buildings; the manner in which it is intended to dispose of each site; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42758/08]

Willie Penrose


132 Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Defence if his attention has been drawn to the concern expressed by members of the Defence Forces and the broader community in Longford at the social and economic implications of the decision to close Connolly Barracks, Longford; if he will reconsider the decision; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [42756/08]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 72, 74, 75, 79, 94, 116, 121, 123, 125, 130 and 132 together.

The military authorities have conducted a detailed review of the immediate requirements to enable the closure of the relevant barracks and the redeployment of personnel to their new locations. In addition, medium-term capital works required in Athlone, Dundalk and Finner, to accommodate the transferring personnel in the longer term, have also been identified. Planning is currently ongoing to acquire whatever facilities are necessary, which I am advised are fairly minimal, to ensure that everything necessary is in place to accommodate the transferring personnel before the closure date of the end of January.

There are significant facilities already available in these new locations. The immediate costs involved in providing the necessary additional facilities at all three locations is less than €500,000. Including allowances and transport, the cost over 15 months is approximately €3.2 million, against annual recurring savings of approximately €2.7 million. Over a three year period based on current estimates, the cost to the Department of closing the proposed barracks would amount to approximately €5.9 million while total receipts savings, including receipts from the disposal of the relevant properties, should amount to around €29.5 million, a net gain of €23.6 million. These figures do not take account of the qualitative benefits accruing to the Defence Forces from improvements in collective training, savings on administration and management of the barracks being closed or the costs of currently transporting troops from the barracks being closed for training, etc.

The consolidation of the Defence Forces formations into a smaller number of locations is a key objective of the White Paper on Defence. The dispersal of personnel over an extended number of locations is a major impediment to essential collective training. It also imposes increased and unnecessary overheads on the Defence Forces in terms of barrack management, administration, maintenance and security. The consolidation process is designed to facilitate higher training standards, while also freeing up under-utilised resources and personnel for operational duties.

The funding previously realised from the disposal of surplus barracks and properties has, together with pay savings, provided some of the resources required for infrastructure, training-area development and equipment procurement. It is my intention that the funding and savings from this initiative will, in accordance with current Government policy, again be reinvested in the Defence Forces.

In terms of the socio-economic impact on local communities from the closure plans, I would anticipate that this should be negligible. Most of the personnel serving in these installations live in the areas and will continue to do so in future. Indeed, the closures could benefit the areas as the barracks are redeveloped, which was the experience of the last consolidation process.

At the request of the representative associations my Department did arrange for the briefing of personnel at Longford and Monaghan Barracks and Rockhill and Lifford military posts on the change of station allowance entitlements. The purpose of these briefings is to give an outline of the change of station allowance scheme to the relevant personnel and to address as far as possible any issues of concern that may arise.

The Chief of Staff has visited each of the barracks to meet personnel. Staff concerns can also be put forward through partnership and representative arrangements. If there are issues arising these will be brought to my attention and will be addressed in the appropriate manner. I have also met with a number of delegations comprising local representatives and Members of Dáil Éireann from the areas and have explained the situation to them as best I could.

I know the Minister does not have available the cost benefit analysis as of yet and I appreciate the fact it will be made available. If a cost benefit analysis is done on any public service infrastructure in a county such as Donegal or Kerry, the more one moves away from the core obviously it will cost the State more and if one examines everything from education to public servants and other Government services of course it will show that it will cost the State. This is why we subsidise flights to Carrickfinn and have a public service obligation arrangement for Derry city airport. We must have these arrangements. The argument that there is no socio-economic impact is not good enough. The president of Letterkenny chamber of commerce strongly articulated that these measures will impact on the amount of money spent locally, for example. In the past eight years, €1.3 million has been invested in the barracks at Lifford and Rockhill. Will the Minister examine the possibility of a compromise solution? I realise this has been debated within the Minister's own party. Is there not a compromise solution? Two stations have been cherry-picked in north Donegal, which is a unique area. Is there not a compromise solution that might involve either one or the other station, because it is affecting the area on a socio-economic basis? There are also security issues which I will raise at a later date.

Several Deputies have indicated a desire to contribute.

I am sure Deputy McHugh is not suggesting we could make savings by leaving alone the number of barracks, even though there are clearly too many for an army the size of the Irish Army. We are closing four of the seven barracks in the Border region. This is because the threat justifying the establishment of those barracks has disappeared. As far as I am aware, the British army has closed or is in the process of closing all military installations along the Border.

I refer to the point about the socio-economic benefits of the barracks put by the local chamber of commerce. There is a chamber of commerce in my constituency and occasionally it puts a case to me on some matter in good faith. We have all heard these arguments in cases where barracks have closed previously and they did not hold up. On one such occasion the same arguments about the possibility of people moving and spending money elsewhere were made, but most people did not move at all. If someone lives in a certain place that person will shop in the locality. Such people simply must travel a greater distance to work. I do not claim this is a strong argument, but we have found in the case of some barracks closures that the development which subsequently took place on the sites of the former barracks were of economic benefit to the region. I recognise that was in better economic times.

I realise the intent of Deputy McHugh's remarks and I appreciate he proposes a compromise and that he does not completely oppose the policy. We have examined the matter very closely. There are people in my party who have made strong representations to me on the matter. We have examined the matter very closely and decided that the original decision as outlined in the budget will stand. I am confident that when considered in retrospect the decision will be of benefit from the point of view of cost savings and the consolidation of training operations.

There are several supplementary questions.

I listened carefully to the remarks of the Minister on several related questions and I refer to the socio-economic argument against the closures. Will the Minister agree there was a very different economic climate in the aftermath of the closures ten years ago? There will not be a great deal of demand for the sites in question, namely, the 30 acres in Letterkenny, the 2.6 acres in Lifford, the 20 acres in Monaghan and perhaps even the eight acres in Dublin. In the short term to medium term there will be no major developments that will create employment in construction. It has never been more important to have money circulating in our towns throughout the country to the maximum extent possible. The retail trade is taking a significant hit throughout the country. I do not accept the argument that there will be an economic spin-off or improvement from the proposed land disposals in the short term, medium term or the longer term. Is the Minister seriously saying these properties will be sold for development in the short term or medium term and that the barracks will be replaced by projects which will benefit the local economy?

The Minister provided a figure of €500,000 associated with the cost of facilities and accommodation at the three other barracks to accommodate the people being transferred. It is very difficult to accept that this figure is accurate. I accept it is the estimate he has been given and I do not question that, but it seems, with 650 troops and 40 civilian personnel being transferred, a great deal more will be needed to finance the move. Does the Minister agree that the estimate of €30 million to be generated by the disposal of the properties is, to say the least, unrealistic?

I intended to address that point earlier when it was mentioned by Deputy O'Shea. Although I am certain no one in the House believes it, we cannot work on the assumption that the economy will never recover. Of course the economy will recover. We are under no obligation to rush out and sell those sites immediately. However, I understand from some of my officials that we have received some preliminary inquires about the lands even though they have not yet gone to tender and I have no intention of providing for that in the foreseeable future. Deputy O'Shea referred to the short and medium term, but it depends on what is meant. No one can say with certainty when the economy will recover sufficiently to allow us to yield the desired value from those sites, but it will happen. They will be an asset of the Defence Forces which we can sell and then reinvest the proceeds, as agreed with the Department of Finance, in building up the infrastructure, equipment and training to the benefit of the Defence Forces, especially for foreign missions.

I refer to the €500,000 mentioned by Deputy O'Shea. This is the estimate I have received for the immediate costs of transfer. It refers to the minimum necessary to enable the troops to move. That is all that can be spent in the short term and I understand that amount will be sufficient. Let us not forget that built into the cost of the move is the fact that we will spend €2.5 million in the next three years to improve further the facilities to which the troops will move.

I compliment the Air Corps on its recent display at the official opening of Thomond Park. I am sure Deputy Deenihan would agree that it was a magnificent display and it added to the occasion.

I am mindful that we are discussing personnel and their families and we must keep this in the back of our minds. We are closing four out of seven barracks, which is better than closing seven out of seven. Can the Minister indicate if there is a mechanism whereby personnel can apply to be located at a location other than the designated location of that person's unit? Has a security assessment been carried out given the closures include Border posts? What will the mechanism be for the payment of change of station allowances for Army personnel and civilian employees?

I am very pleased that my fellow Limerick colleague, Deputy Collins, mentioned the opening of Thomond Park. It was a stupendous occasion, which words cannot begin to describe. I believe Deputy Deenihan was present.

One should not ask who else was present.

I was unable to attend as I was very busy in the Dáil. However, I was there for the game in 1978, some 30 years ago, unlike 500,000 people who claimed to be there but could not possibly have been.

The stadium could only accommodate 14,000 people, yet 500,000 attended the game in 1978.

Deputy Collins asked if someone who was re-deployed from a barracks in Monaghan to Dundalk, or someone re-deployed from Lifford to Finner Camp could apply to move to a different location. The answer is "Yes"; it is possible to apply to a different location. I have instructed the military authorities to do everything possible to accommodate those people if they wish to go to a different location.

A security assessment has been done and the result is that there are no down-side security implications. I wish to make it clear that all civilian staff will continue to be employed. At the moment I am negotiating with the Department of Finance for a voluntary redundancy scheme — I emphasise the word "voluntary" — for the civilian staff, of which they will be entitled to avail if they wish. We do not have all the details yet and the Department of Finance has not finally agreed to the scheme but I am hoping to come to an agreement shortly. If civilian staff wish to be redeployed to any place other than the place to which they are being deployed, they can ask for that as well and I will do my best to accommodate them.

According to the recent IMC report, there has been an increase in dissident activity along the Border. As I understand it, the Border is now monitored from Finner Camp. However, the range of the helicopters currently at Finner is not large enough to carry out proper surveillance on the Border. I ask the Minister to clarify this.

As this is probably the last Question Time with the Minister before the closure at the end of January, my next question is with regard to the time frame. People are being asked to move, as we said before, in 14 weeks. If one asked a civil servant or a public servant to move to a decentralised post in that period it would not be acceptable to any of their representative unions. That is the concern here. The Minister has repeatedly stated in the House that if arrangements are not in place in the barracks — if there is any reason for not moving — he will be flexible with that date.

I ask the Minister to clarify the issue of Border security in the context of the IMC report, and also to confirm that the timeframe will be extended if arrangements are not made in time. Finally, can the Minister give us any specific date for the important meeting with PDFORRA?

The Army did a security analysis and reported to me that there were no down-side security implications. I have to take that as is. With regard to the timeframe, Deputy Deenihan will understand, as will others, that if one is doing something like this one must have a target time; otherwise, nothing will ever get started. The target time in this case is the end of January. If we do not manage to achieve the move by the end of January I will not lose any sleep over it. If we do not meet our target we do not meet it. It is as simple as that. What was the other question the Deputy asked?

It was about the meeting with PDFORRA.

I have written back to PDFORRA saying I was prepared to sit down and talk, not about the substance of the decision but about how it is being implemented, and about any issues such as station allowances and transport.

I have not yet heard back from the organisation.

The Minister has met with everybody else.

I have not yet heard back. I have given it the opportunity to respond to me. However, if Deputy Deenihan is suggesting it, in the spirit of Christmas I will accept his suggestion that I contact PDFORRA and invite its representatives to a meeting.

I thank the Minister. That is fair enough.

I do not know whether the Minister has replied to my specific question, No. 123.

All the Munster fellows are sticking together.

Allow Deputy McGinley to continue.

I ask the Minister to consider that two of the stations being closed are in Donegal and to take account of the social, economic and security implications of this. The two stations that are being closed, Lifford and Rockhill, have been an excellent back-up to the civil authorities there for 30 or 40 years. In addition, there are still cross-Border incursions. I was at a funeral in the area some months ago and in the same graveyard that evening a man was taken across the Border and shot dead in Doneyloop. There are many incursions from Northern Ireland into Donegal. All of north Donegal will now be left without any military presence except Finner Camp. I have nothing against Finner; they are doing excellent work there with the Air Corps.

The Minister's colleague gave an undertaking that the Minister would respond positively to what I am going to ask him. In view of the fact that two stations are being closed and the consequent disruption to families, who have to leave their homes and travel through Barnesmore to Finner and so on, will the Minister do these families and his personnel in Lifford and Rockhill the courtesy of meeting them to explain his position, if only to thank them for services rendered so far?

I do not know whether the Minister has been in Donegal yet and visited any of these barracks, but before the final closure will he not visit them, as a gesture, and meet these people man to man? The Chief of Staff was there, but it was sop in áit na scuaibe. Deputy O'Shea will understand that. I mean no disrespect to the Chief of Staff, but as far as we are concerned the Minister is the kernel of the whole thing. Will the Minister go to Donegal and meet the personnel of these two camps?

As I have told the House, a security assessment has been done by the military, which found that there would be no down-side implications. I know the military has acted as an aid to the civil power in Donegal and elsewhere. I have met delegations for hours and heard many stories about crime — people being shot and robbed and so on. That is primarily a matter for the Garda Síochána, not only in Donegal but in Limerick and elsewhere. There were seven military installations along the Border because of the situation in Northern Ireland, which has now come to an end. The British have closed their facilities and there is no justification for our keeping seven facilities open along the Border.

With regard to travelling to Donegal, Deputy McGinley has——

We will get the Minister a helicopter. We will get one of the helicopters to bring him up.

Deputy McGinley's colleague, Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher, has already made strong representations——

——to me about going to Donegal and I am considering those.

He is very much against these closures.

When I make a decision I will come back to Deputy Gallagher.

What about Deputy McGinley? I put pressure on the Minister here and not behind closed doors.

I wish to advise the House that 13 Deputies have submitted——

Not behind closed doors. We have had enough of that this week with FÁS and so on. The Minister should tell us now whether he is going to Donegal or not.

He is going up, he said.

Is he going up or not? Is the Minister a man or a mouse?

Tell us now. Is he going or is he not going? There were 500 people up there marching the other day. We went to meet them and promised to raise it here.

The Deputy will resume his seat, please.

Will he go or will he not?

Come on. Is the Minister a man or a mouse?

Deputy McGinley, please resume your seat.

The Minister should tell us before he goes. We all heard about what a great man he is down in Limerick.

It is quite clear the Deputy wants to go to Donegal himself in a hurry.

I ask the Minister to be a man and tell us in the House that he will go up to Donegal and meet with these people——

If the Deputy does not resume his seat he knows he will have to leave the House.

——who have looked after the security of this country for 30 or 40 years.

All right. I ask the Deputy to leave the House.

The Minister is bringing party politics into it.

The Minister should tell us whether he is going or not. He should be a man or be a mouse.

He will tell the Deputy.

I ask the Minister to resume his seat.

If the Minister goes out that door without giving me an answer he is a mouse. The Minister should stand up and tell us whether he will go.

Deputy McGinley, please have some respect for the Chair. The Deputy is normally very orderly.

I mean no disrespect to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I have occupied that chair for many hours.

The Deputy is a very orderly Deputy and he is obviously anxious to go to Donegal himself in a hurry——

He is going to say it now. He is going to confirm it.

——but I would rather the Deputy just took his seat.

I take great umbrage that the Minister would tell another Deputy behind closed doors——

I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. He is normally such an orderly Deputy.

——but because I happen to be over here I am not representing Donegal at all.

Deputy, resume your seat or——

I tell the Minister I have been representing Donegal for 30 years in the House and I will not take that from the Minister or from anywhere else over there.

I will facilitate the Deputy. If he does not——

We have put up with it for too long and I will not put up with it any longer.

If he does not take his seat, Deputy McGinley will leave the House.

That is what it is. Is he going to Donegal or not?

All right. I will name the Deputy.

Let there be no doubt about this. Is the Minister going to Donegal or is he not? That is what I want to hear. Is the Minister a man or a mouse? He is a mouse in my eyes. I ask the Minister to stand up and prove he is a man and that he is a Minister.

The Deputy will resume his seat, or I will adjourn the House.

Adjourn the House. There is no respect from the Minister.

I will ask the Deputy one last time.

I have as much right to be in this House as any other man or woman.

Will the Deputy please resume his seat?

Is the Minister going or is he not? That is what I want to find out.

I will have to suspend the sitting.

The man behind the Minister — the Minister of State, who is also from Limerick — would tell me if he was in the Minister's boots.

As the Deputy will not leave the House, I am suspending the sitting for ten minutes.

The Minister is trying to make it political. The Army is not political in this country.

Good man, Dinny.

Sitting suspended at 3.50 p.m. and resumed at 4 p.m.
Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.