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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 21 Mar 2018

Vol. 966 No. 8

Priority Questions

I remind the House that due to the late start, we will lose out on questions to the Minister of State at the Department of Defence because we will be moving on to other business at 12 noon.

Departmental Staff

Lisa Chambers


30. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the action he is taking following the recent conviction of an employee of his Department in the Special Criminal Court; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10529/18]

What action is the Minister of State taking following the recent conviction of an employee of the Department of Defence in the Special Criminal Court? Will he make a statement on the matter?

It would be inappropriate for me to discuss the detail of any individual employee. My Department has civilian staff employed at various military installations throughout the country to support the Defence Forces in tasks such as the upkeep and maintenance of military infrastructure and equipment. The grades are spread across a wide spectrum and include craft workers such as electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and welders; specialists, including health care professionals; and technicians and general operatives.

All new entrants as civilian employees are subject to vetting and security clearance processes similar to those for Defence Forces' recruits.  Security is kept under review and my officials work closely with the Defence Forces in relation to such matters.

Many of us were shocked to hear that a man employed as a security officer - not as a craft worker, a plumber or an electrician to which the Minister of State just referred - at Haulbowline by the Department of Defence has been linked to the New IRA and has just been sentenced to serve five years in jail for possession of firearms and ammunition.

Will the Minister of State indicate if the contract of employment has been terminated? This is not a discussion about an individual as such but about the particular contract and if it has been terminated. If it has not been terminated, why not? Is it the case that the Department of Defence has written to the convicted man in Portlaoise Prison, telling him that he has 15 days in which to make a submission on or objection to his contract being terminated? Will the Minister of State explain how it is even possible that this was considered? How has the person responded and what is the Department's view on his response? Let us be very clear: he was not a craft worker but someone employed in security at the naval base who checked people as they came on and off site. This is very serious. Will the Minister of State tell the House if the contract has been terminated and, if not, why not?

As I have stated, it would be totally inappropriate for me to discuss the details of any employee, be they a member of the Defence Forces or a civilian staff member of the Department of Defence. The case is widely known and I will not get into the details of the employee. As the Deputy comes from a legal professional background, she knows well and understands the reasons I cannot, either inside or outside the House, get into the details of any civilian employee.

The Minister of State is well able to throw across the assertion that because I am a legal professional I should understand the reasons I am unable to ask questions in the Chamber, but I am here in my capacity as a Deputy and spokesperson on defence. In this House I am entitled to ask the Minister of State questions to be answered by his Department. Perhaps he might answer this question. When did the individual last carry out a security duty? The Minister of State can answer that question as it has nothing to do with the case in hand. The man pleaded guilty in the Special Criminal Court to possession of a handgun, a sawn-off shotgun and ammunition. He also pleaded guilty to possessing firearms, including a magazine suitable for a 9 mm parabellum pistol, and a double-barrelled sawn-off shotgun. He further admitted to possessing 14 rounds of 9 mm ammunition and eight shotgun cartridges. The Minister of State has acknowledged that the case is well known. He might also be able to answer if he is satisfied with the vetting processes in place for hiring people to fill these positions? As this question is not directly related to the individual concerned, the Minister of State can answer it. Does he believe it might be wiser to have only Defence Forces personnel acting as security at military installations?

The Deputy took me up wrong. I did not say that because she was a legal professional she should not be asking questions. I have no issue whatsoever with her asking me such questions. It is absolutely her right, as a Member of the House and spokesperson on the area for her political party, to ask me such questions and I have no issue whatsoever in that regard.

Will the Minister of State answer the questions I have asked?

The Deputy can ask me whatever question she likes, but she should be well aware of the reasons I cannot comment on an individual employee and his or her personal details. She should understand the reasons-----

Will the Minister of State answer my last two questions?

I wanted to correct the record in respect of the Deputy's last statement.

Will the Minister of State, please, answer my questions about the vetting process?

We have some very loyal employees of long-standing who provide excellent services for the Defence Forces and the Department of Defence. I suspect that many years ago the vetting processes may not have been as strict and robust as they are now and have been for the past decade. I am confident, however, that the vetting processes we have in place are robust enough to withstand any issue.

Defence Forces Personnel

Aengus Ó Snodaigh


31. Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the timeframe for implementation of the recent decision of the European Committee of Social Rights on the collective bargaining rights of Defence Forces personnel. [10465/18]

Lisa Chambers


32. Deputy Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the measures he will take in the wake of the decision by the European Committee of Social Rights on the entitlement of members of the Defence Forces to better collective bargaining and negotiating rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10530/18]

What steps does the Department intend to take following the decision in February by the European Committee of Social Rights on the granting of collective bargaining rights to members of the Defence Forces? How does the Minister of State intend to implement the decision?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 31 and 32 together.

The European Committee of Social Rights has considered a complaint submitted by EUROMIL, a European umbrella body for military associations, on behalf of PDFORRA, concerning the lack of certain rights for military representative associations in Ireland. In a non-binding ruling the committee concluded that prohibiting military personnel from the right to strike was not in breach of the European Social Charter but that the charter was breached by prohibiting the representative associations from affiliating with a national employee organisation such as the ICTU and in respect of the right to bargain collectively. The Government welcomes the conclusion of the European Committee of Social Rights that the prohibition on the right to strike for members of the Defence Forces is not in violation of the European Social Charter.

It should be noted that the basis for the complaint pre-dates a number of significant Government initiatives. In relation to collective bargaining, the Permanent Defence Force representative associations participated in the negotiations last year on the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 which were held under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission. The PDF representative associations were afforded equal standing to other public sector trade unions and representative associations during the negotiations. Both PDFORRA and the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers, RACO, have accepted the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 which provides for increases in pay, ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the agreement, with the focus on the lower paid.

It is critically important that the Defence Forces be fully operational at all times. The taking of any form of industrial action is irreconcilable with military service. The Defence Forces have provided valuable support on many occasions for the civil authorities in maintaining vital services. This was seen most recently in the response to the severe weather event.  In that regard, I record my thanks to members of the Defence Forces, Civil Defence volunteers, civil servants and civilian employees for their particular contribution.

The right to affiliate with the ICTU poses complex questions for the Defence Forces from a legal, operational and management perspective. A key concern is that such an affiliation would carry obligations that would be incompatible with military operations and the roles assigned to the Defence Forces. Members of the Defence Forces have a range of parallel complaint and adjudication mechanisms in law to compensate for the limitations on their access to the normal industrial relations machinery that applies in wider society. They include the redress of wrongs process, a Defence Forces ombudsman and a conciliation and arbitration scheme for members of the Permanent Defence Force. Since its inception in the early 1990s, the conciliation and arbitration scheme has provided the framework to progress many successful negotiated agreements between Defence Forces management and the PDF representative associations. There have, however, been many changes to the industrial relations landscape in the intervening period. In that regard, I have initiated a fundamental review of the scheme to ensure it will remain efficient and effective for all parties. In January I appointed Mr. Gerard Barry to conduct the review. While the focus of the review will primarily be on the operation of the Permanent Defence Force conciliation and arbitration scheme, I have directed that the review consider the findings of the European Committee of Social Rights and this has been incorporated into its terms of reference. It would not be appropriate at this stage to pre-empt any conclusion arising from the review.

I will take follow-up questions from Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh and then Deputy Lisa Chambers.

The extraordinary efforts made by soldiers during Storm Emma and other storms show the lengths to which members of the Defence Forces are willing to go in the interests of the State, over and above what is expected of many other parts of the public sector. However, they had to fight the State tooth and nail in the case they took to the European Committee of Social Rights. The case was defended by the State and the ruling is a vindication of PDFORRA's decision to take it. The complaint was made under Articles 5 and 6 of the European Social Charter and the Minister of State lost. While he has said the ruling is non-binding, I expect the State to live up to the commitments to which Ireland signed up in the European Social Charter. What steps will the Minister of State take to ensure the full collective bargaining rights, not partial rights, all other trade unions or representative organisations have are given to members of the Defence Forces?

As I have said, I welcome the findings of the EUROMIL case and made sure they would be part of the conciliation and arbitration scheme review. In the first instance, I will wait until the independent chairperson of the conciliation and arbitration scheme publishes his report. I expect and hope that all the issues in the EUROMIL case will be looked at in terms of the entire scheme.

I made sure that I did not sit on the findings, and instead acted on them straight away. I could have not included them in the terms of reference, but I included them later in order to act on this issue straight away. I take the findings of the EUROMIL case seriously, and I welcome them. Once the review of the conciliation and arbitration scheme is published by Gerard Barry, I will consider the report.

Obviously, I welcome the Minister of State's review and it is to be hoped it concludes quickly. Does he expect, even at this stage, that legislation might be required given the changes he has implemented in the meantime? We have seen the effects on the families of members of the Defence Forces and personnel when they were not able to enjoy full collective bargaining rights. I also welcome the decision in full and the fact that it stated that the imposition of an absolute prohibition on the right to strike was proportionate. It is important that was found. One of the key findings of the committee was that the complete ban on affiliation with ICTU was unjustified and cut across the charter.

The Deputy is well aware that on many occasions PDFORRA asked to become an affiliated member, or to take up associate membership, of ICTU. These requests create significant challenges from a governmental and societal perspective. The Deputy understands that. I am willing to ensure that all these issues are taken into account under the conciliation and arbitration scheme review. I will consider the review once it is published. I have asked that PDFORRA, RACO, the Department and the Defence Forces participate fully in the review. We have a once-off opportunity to put in place a conciliation and arbitration scheme which is fit-for-purpose, part of which will involve the findings of the EUROMIL case.

I put it to the Minister of State that he is hiding behind the conciliation and arbitration scheme review. I welcome the fact it started in January, but we still have no definite timeline for completion. It serves the Minister of State well to be able to refer back to the report and say that everything is fine until he receives the review. The fact that the case was taken to the European Committee of Social Rights tells him that we have a problem, and that the current system is not working and undermines the rights of members of our Defence Forces.

The European Committee of Social Rights upheld the entitlement of Irish armed forces to better collective bargaining and negotiating rights. However, it also found that the Government is entitled to restrict the right of military personnel to strike. For my part and that of my party, I wish to be very clear. I welcome both findings. When one talks about the challenges to Government and the societal challenge of those members of the Defence Forces seeking membership of trade unions, it concerns the area of strike action. It is accepted by the representative associations and by most of us in the Chamber that it is not permissible for members of the Defence Forces to go on strike because it is not in the interests of the public. Does the Minister of State accept the findings of the committee, given that he opposed them? Will he respect them and, more importantly, act on them?

I am not sure if the Deputy read the press release and statement I issued on the conciliation and arbitration scheme. I said from the beginning of the scheme that I expected the report to be published within six months. I am not hiding behind the conciliation and arbitration scheme review. Had I not included the EUROMIL case in the terms of reference, I presume the Deputy would have jumped up and down today and said I should have included it. Now that I have included it, she has said I am hiding behind the conciliation and arbitration scheme review. That is not the case.

From the minute the findings of the EUROMIL were published, I insisted that they would form part of the conciliation and arbitration scheme review. I hope that PDFORRA, the Department, the Defence Forces and RACO all fully participate in the conciliation and arbitration scheme review, and this case is part of that. I hope the findings of the EUROMIL case will be included in the report from the independent chairperson. I accept the findings of the EUROMIL case.

I can assure the Minister of State that I will not be jumping up and down to make any point. I am well able to make my point without that kind of carry on.

The committee found that restrictions may not go so far as to suppress entirely the right to organise, such as the blanket prohibition on professional association of a trade union. It also said it had not been established why matters like issues of public safety and national security could not be discussed in the course of national negotiations by Government and military representatives. It found that a complete ban on affiliation was neither necessary nor proportionate, particularly as it deprived the representative associations of an effective means of negotiating. It held that the mere hearing of a party on a predetermined outcome would not satisfy the requirements of the European charter.

Most importantly, the committee said it could not conclude that the military representative associations were meaningfully consulted on pay during discussions on public sector agreements. What the Minister of State needs to take from that is that actions are required. A review of the conciliation and arbitration scheme is not sufficient. The committee said that representative associations were not properly consulted about pay and that an absolute ban on association is not necessary or proportionate. The Minister of State did not answer my question. Will he respect the findings of the committee and act on them?

As I said in my original reply, the complaint predates a number of significant Government initiatives over the past 12 months. PDFORRA and RACO were very much part of the public service pay agreement and the negotiations. The EUROMIL case was ongoing while negotiations took place. There have been a number of changes since my appointment. I want representative associations to be at the table and form part of the negotiations, which is only right and proper. They may not be recognised unions but they are representative associations for all members of the Defence Forces. I am happy to say that RACO and PDFORRA subsequently signed up to the public service pay stability programme, which is welcome. I fully accept the findings of the EUROMIL case. I will wait for the outcome of the conciliation and arbitration scheme review to be published to determine the next step.

Defence Forces Remuneration

Michael Healy-Rae


33. Deputy Michael Healy-Rae asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence his plans to address issues (details supplied) in regard to the pay and conditions of members of the Defence Forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13039/18]

Gardaí, prison officers and firefighters all serve Ireland dutifully and are to be honoured to the highest standard. However, another group of public servants also deserve to be honoured, that is, the Defence Forces. This patriotic group of public servants are not treated in the same manner as the other groups. Instead, they are paid much lower wages, are ineligible for overtime, must commute long distances to serve and are in a state of chaotic instability.

I am advised that 1,902 personnel left the Permanent Defence Force in the three-year period from 2015 to 2017, inclusive. This includes 459 personnel who did not complete initial training to qualify as three-star privates or officers. Given the unique and demanding nature of military life, there is understandably a relatively high level of turnover among Defence Forces personnel. This is not new and the Permanent Defence Force has always had a level of turnover that far exceeds other areas of the public service.

For example, in the three-year period 2010 to 2012, 1,903 personnel left the PDF. Going back further, 2,282 left in the three-year period 2001 to 2003.

To balance personnel turnover there is significant ongoing recruitment at both enlisted and officer level. During 2017, 751 personnel were inducted into the PDF. This includes general service recruits, apprentices, cadets and direct entry officers.

Unlike other areas of the public service, and due to the nature of the duties performed, overtime payments are not available to members of the Defence Forces. A military service allowance is paid to all ranks up to the level of colonel. Military service allowance is designed to compensate for the special disadvantages associated with military life. This includes unsocial hours of duty, exposure to danger and the restrictions inherent in military discipline. In addition to basic pay and military service allowance, a range of duties attract additional allowances, including security duty and Naval Service patrol duty. Overseas support allowance is paid to members of the PDF participating in overseas military operations on direction of the Government. Certain positions in the Defence Forces also attract specialist pay, with some 3,554 positions in the PDF establishment attracting technical pay.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Defence Forces pay is increasing in accordance with public sector pay agreements. The focus of these increases is weighted in favour of those on lower pay. The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 provides for increases in pay ranging from 6.2% to 7.4% over the lifetime of the agreement, with the focus of the agreement once again being on the lower paid. The Public Service Stability Agreement 2018-2020 will also restore pay scales to all public servants, including members of the Permanent Defence Force, earning up to €70,000. The reversal of cuts to allowances will also be considered in the context of the agreement. The first instalment of an increase of 1% on annualised salaries due from 1 January 2018 has been paid to members of the Permanent Defence Force.

The starting pay for newly qualified three-star privates and their Naval Service equivalents, inclusive of military service allowance, is €27,257 gross annual earnings, with scope for further income from duty allowances. This is a significant increase on the €21,800 per annum which was the amount prior to the implementation of the increases in pay received through recent pay agreements. The starting pay for a corporal, including military service allowance, is in excess of €37,000 per annum. The first point on the pay scale for a sergeant, including military service allowance, is €40,000 per annum. As I have outlined, further increases are due under the pay agreement.

The working family payment, formerly the family income supplement, provides a means to supplement the income of working families, be they employees in the public or private sector. Family income and the number of dependants are the key variables in determining eligibility. Pay levels in the public service, including the Defence Forces, relate to requirements for specific positions and are not determined having regard to unique family circumstances.

I have previously stated that there are difficulties in recruiting and retaining specialists in the PDF. This includes pilots and certain other technical specialists. The Government has tasked the Public Service Pay Commission with examining recruitment and retention challenges in the defence sector in more detail. The Public Service Pay Commission has commenced this work and has requested detailed information from the Department of Defence. Defence management is preparing its submission, which will be sent to the commission in the coming weeks. The Public Service Pay Commission is due to complete this exercise in the second half of 2018. The findings and proposals arising will be considered at that time.

The capabilities maintained by the Defence Forces are based on detailed consideration of capability requirements and agreed by military authorities. With the support of the Chief of Staff and within the resources available, the Government is committed to retaining the capacity of the Defence Forces to operate effectively across all roles and to undertake the tasks laid down by Government both at home and abroad.

Why are so many members of the Defence Forces on the working family payment, formerly known as the family income supplement? This is a disgrace. Those who serve our country dutifully should not be paid so little that they are forced to take a supplement that, in the Government's own words, gives extra financial support to people on low pay. I will describe to the Minister of State how little those in the Defence Forces are being paid. They make about €420 for 48 hours' work a week, including some weekends. By comparison, the minimum wage is €9.75, and someone on the minimum wage working 48 hours a week would make €468. Many in the Defence Forces make less than the minimum wage. How is this acceptable? Furthermore, unlike gardaí and other public servants, those in the Defence Forces are excluded from the European working time directive, which means they are not eligible for overtime. This means members of the Defence Forces work long hours for little to no pay. It is therefore no surprise that 2,890 soldiers of all ranks have discharged from the Defence Forces in the past three years. The number one reason for leaving is known to be issues with pay and contracts. This turnover rate leads to chaos within the Defence Forces and a lack of structure and consistency needed for a military organisation.

I know the Deputy is reading from an email and I do not accept everything in the email, but let me-----

I am reading from notes that I have prepared. Sorry, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, but I take exception to the Minister of State's comments. He himself is reading from notes that were prepared by officials for him. I am reading from notes that were prepared by people who work with me. I am as entitled to read from a note as the Minister of State is.

The Minister of State has not raised his head once.

Yes, but the Deputy is-----

The Minister of State has been reading from notes since he started here-----

The Minister of State, please.

-----so why did he make a disparaging comment about-----

Please, Deputy Healy-Rae. I ask the Minister of State to continue in a businesslike way.

What I am saying is-----

Hold on, we cannot have two Members standing at the one time.

I am sorry, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, but you know the Minister of State is out of order.

All I will say to the Minister of State is that he should not invite interruptions.

Perhaps the Minister of State might answer the question.

Some of the issues the Deputy has raised in what he has just read out form part of what is called "details supplied" in the question he asked. That is okay; I accept that. However, he refers to the high number of members of the Defence Forces on the working family payment. Less than 1% of the total staff of the organisation is on family income supplement - between 100 and 104, according to the latest figures I received in December 2017. The information he has provided under "details supplied" states there are considerable numbers - far higher than the numbers I have given - which is totally inaccurate. The working family payment is there for a reason, as the Deputy has rightly said, namely, to assist hard-pressed families. This depends on how many kids a member of the Defence Forces has. I have not got time to read it out to the Deputy now but I will send him a note on the pay increases that have been put in place for members of the Defence Forces. There will be full pay restoration under the public service stability agreement for anyone earning under €70,000 per annum. I will get the Deputy the full reply to the question on pay restoration. He was good enough to raise the email I received. I will get him a full reply-----

The Minister of State is well in excess of the allotted time.

-----to that as well.

The Minister of State says there are only so many people on what we will call the family income supplement. No one should have to be on it. People in State jobs in the Defence Forces should earn enough money every week to sustain themselves and their families. They should not have to seek assistance from another arm of the State, namely, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, to allow them to balance their budgets. That is quite simply not acceptable. I am very proud of the work of members of the Defence Forces. The Minister of State knows that when something goes wrong in our country, they are the first people to be called. If there is a problem internationally, if our assistance is sought, we have always been at the forefront. I did not come here to pick a fight with the Minister of State. He might like to pick a fight with me over nothing but I will not rise to that. I ask him to treat these people with the respect they deserve and ensure they have proper remuneration for the excellent work they do. I know in my heart and soul that the Minister of State appreciates their work as well. I urge him to fight at Government level to improve their lot. That is what I am asking him to do in a very ordinary and respectful way, as he would expect me to do so.

I have been doing that and will continue to do so, but we must abide by the public service pay stability agreement as well, and I think the Deputy understands the reasons we must do so. He stated no one should be in receipt of family income supplement. There are members of the Defence Forces who have particular roles or ranks and have no children, or perhaps one or two kids, and then there are those who do the very same job at the very same rank and who could have five, six or seven children. I believe the State should be there to assist those who might be struggling. This is why the family income supplement exists. There is a myth that more than 1,000 members of the Defence Forces are in receipt of family income supplement. This is untrue and unfounded. There are just 100 to 105 members of the Defence Forces in receipt of family income supplement, 1% of the total organisation. The number of people on family income supplement in the Defence Forces, including members from the Department of Defence, must be considered broadly.

Defence Forces Properties

Eamon Ryan


34. Deputy Eamon Ryan asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the strategic development plans for military locations in the Dublin area, including McKee Barracks, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Casement Aerodrome and St. Bricin's barracks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10741/18]

I am keen to hear the Minister of State's views and plans for the development of military barracks in the greater Dublin area. We have the Baldonnel site, Casement Aerodrome, McKee Barracks on the north side and Cathal Brugha Barracks. Is it possible to improve our military operations and the conditions for the Defence Forces? We could look at the Curragh and other potential sites as well and in the process use the likes of the Cathal Brugha Barracks site instead for cost-rental public housing. The Minister of State will be aware of this because we had a Private Members' Bill in this regard. This would be of huge benefit to tackling the rental crisis gripping our city at present, particularly the south side of Dublin. Has he considered, and will he consider, reorganising our military infrastructure in the Dublin area to help facilitate this and to give the Army better facilities as an outcome of this approach? If not, why not?

My Department’s focus is the development and improvement of the physical environment and living conditions in existing military facilities to ensure that the Defence Forces have the capability to deliver on all roles assigned by Government. This is achieved through the Defence Forces built infrastructure programme. The programme is designed to modernise and enhance the training, operational and accommodation facilities of the Defence Forces. It is predicated on operational requirements and is compiled on a priority needs basis by my Department in conjunction with the military authorities.

The capital element of the programme focuses mainly on infrastructure projects, including the construction of new buildings and the refurbishment of facilities. In any one year, the programme provides for new project starts and for the continuation of building projects already under way.

Some €35 million worth of projects are currently at various stages of implementation, ranging from design to construction. Some €14.2 million has been provided for the delivery of these projects in 2018. In addition to capital projects, ongoing works are required under the programme to ensure the upkeep and repair of barracks and other military facilities. Approximately €9 million has been provided for these works in 2018.

To develop a strategic perspective on military infrastructural requirements into the future, the White Paper on Defence identified the need to develop a rolling five-year capital plan that takes account of the capability priority needs of the Defence Forces. This plan, which is based on a comprehensive survey of military infrastructural requirements, has identified potential projects at all the locations referred to by the Deputy in his question. The plan will be finalised in the coming months. It will provide a comprehensive framework for the roll-out of infrastructural developments over the next five years on a priority needs basis.

More generally, the White Paper sets out the policy framework for the development of the Defence Forces in the period to 2025. To facilitate this, the 2018-27 national development plan provides for a capital allocation of €541 million for the five-year period to 2022. The national development plan recognises that defence provides part of the societal bedrock which allows society to function and thus contributes to national well-being across political, social, economic and environmental elements. This investment emphasises the importance attached by the Government to ensuring the Defence Forces have the capabilities needed to deliver on all the domestic and overseas roles assigned by the Government as set out in the White Paper.

There is a chance that the process in which the Minister of State is engaged will look at strategic allocation to and investment in barracks. I think our Defence Forces have lost out and have been short-changed. They did not do well during the difficult period the country went through. More than anyone else, the members of the Defence Forces were affected by pay cuts and under-investment. This can now be seen in a variety of ways. I have been told by people who are close to the ground and have experience of the reorganisation of the Defence Forces that soldiers are now moving all over the country. People are coming down from Finner Camp to do barracks duties at Cathal Brugha Barracks. This involves a huge amount of travelling, which is one of the reasons for the high turnover of people within the Defence Forces. We do not give them enough support and resources. This is an opportunity for the Minister of State and the Defence Forces to modernise. This should not just be about a five-year capital programme involving €30 million or €50 million, as the Minister of State has mentioned, but it should be about thinking big with regard to how best to organise our defence operations in the Dublin area. Some 227 acres are available at Casement Aerodrome in Baldonnel, which is not a small site. Lands are also available at McKee Barracks and Cathal Brugha Barracks. Other nearby facilities include those at the Curragh. Will the Minister of State avail of this opportunity to tackle the housing crisis? More than that, in his role as Minister of State with responsibility for defence, he has an opportunity to change the game by investing in our Defence Forces in a way that will give them a really modern and top-of-the-range facility in one of the locations I have mentioned.

I understand the Deputy has tabled a Private Members' motion on this issue. I assume he is talking particularly about Cathal Brugha Barracks and McKee Barracks, which are in the greater Dublin area.

I am talking about Cathal Brugha Barracks in particular.

These two very important military installations which are in strategic locations in this city are vital for the Defence Forces. I hope every Member of this House understands why we need military installations at such strategic locations within the city. Projects worth approximately €5 million are at different stages, including design, tender and construction, at Cathal Brugha Barracks at the moment. There are absolutely no plans for the Defence Forces to move out of Cathal Brugha Barracks or McKee Barracks, which are two vital installations. I understand that there are housing needs but I am sure plenty of other vacant public sites across the city can be used for housing purposes. When the Tánaiste, Deputy Coveney, served as Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, he started to compile a register of all vacant lands owned by the State. I presume there is plenty of land within the greater Dublin area that can be used without having to touch Cathal Brugha Barracks or McKee Barracks at any stage.

I am afraid it is not the case that there is plenty of land in the area we are thinking of. I am particularly interested in Cathal Brugha Barracks, which is in my constituency. The area in question is at the heart of the rental crisis. I assure the Minister of State that there are no other lands within the city area. What are the strategic military reasons for needing to have two military bases in the city? What is the strategic military risk that would arise if we had just one such facility? I suggest that if we concentrated on one facility, we could really modernise it by putting in first-class facilities. We could get funding to turn it into a top-of-the-range modern facility. Is it not true, as I have suggested to the Minister of State, that we have ended up with the worst of all worlds as a result of the military organisation we have done? Cathal Brugha Barracks has not been updated and kept up to standard. Soldiers are having to travel from all over the country to operate there. It is not worked in a co-ordinated manner. Is there not an opportunity here to think outside the box in a way that would improve facilities while helping to address the housing crisis, which is something we need to do? While I accept the need for certain security details, such as tracking money out of the Central Bank, I do not see why all three facilities are needed in Dublin city at this time. I suggest that Dublin's strategic military interests could be served from McKee Barracks and Casement Aerodrome, which is a half-hour ride down the road. Having armoured vehicles going through the main streets of Ranelagh and Rathmines is not a clever approach in many ways. What is the strategic reason for needing two facilities in the heart of the city?

The reason for the strategic locations is a matter of the security of the State, and I am not going-----

Deputy Ryan was a member of the Government for a while.

He fully understands that I will not discuss issues relating to the security of the State here in the Chamber. We have been advised that the Defence Forces need these two strategic barracks for defence reasons.

Could the Minister of State tell me privately later?

I refer to Cathal Brugha Barracks and McKee Barracks.