I recognise the valued public service given to the State by retired members of the Defence Forces. I and officials from my Department hold regular meetings with three veterans’ associations, namely, the Irish United Nations Veterans Association, IUNVA, the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel, ONE, and the Association of Retired Commissioned Officers, ARCO. The veterans’ associations raise issues of concern to their members at the meetings.
As part of the supports currently offered to veterans, my Department has service level agreements with ONE and IUNVA which set out the services the Department provides to these associations. Under the terms of the SLAs, my Department provides financial support by way of an annual subvention to ONE and IUNVA to support their work and the range of services they offer to ex-service personnel. Under my direction, the annual grant given to ONE increased from €44,000 to €100,000. This significant increase in funding has made a substantial additional contribution to the work of ONE, which provides accommodation to homeless, elderly and disabled ex-members of the Defence Forces in Athlone, Letterkenny and Smithfield in Dublin. The subvention to IUNVA is €11,000 per annum. The funding provided by my Department is to support the general overheads of the organisations.
I am strongly supportive of ONE’s plans to increase the number of its veteran support centres, VSCs, around the country and, where possible, I have permitted the use of premises in functioning barracks to accommodate such centres. The purpose of a VSC is to provide a location for veterans to receive information and advice, as well a welcoming place to meet former comrades. The availability of VSCs can assist in preventing homelessness through early intervention. They also serve a critical function in addressing loneliness and isolation.