Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 30 Jun 1999

Vol. 507 No. 3

Other Questions. - Army Barracks.

Willie Penrose


32 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Defence the position on the sale of the six barracks; the number of meetings he has had with local communities and councils in each area; and the projected value to his Department of the sale. [16664/99]

On 15 July 1998 the Government approved a programme of evacuation and sale of six barracks which are considered surplus to military requirements. The barracks in ques tion are located at Fermoy, Ballincollig, Naas, Kildare, Castleblayney and Clancy Barracks, Dublin. With the exception of Clancy Barracks, which will be vacated by 1 July 2000, the other five barracks have been evacuated.

The decision to close barracks was part of the relocation, refurbishment and re-equipment of the Defence Forces, as recommended in the context of the Price Waterhouse report regarding the rationalisation of military installations generally. The purpose of the decision was to remove from the Defence Forces the burden imposed by manning and maintaining unnecessary installations and to effect savings in relation to security and maintenance costs at the locations concerned. It was also designed to release troops for operational duties which would have a positive impact on the security duty capacity of the Defence Forces and free up resources for necessary re-equipment.

Price Waterhouse consultants commented that 'security military tasks' were the highest consumer of military manpower at home. Essentially this activity is concerned with the military guarding, or otherwise securing, of its facilities. Troops engaged in this activity are not available for operational tasks. The high level of manpower involved in this area is partly a function of the excessive number of facilities occupied. All personnel affected by the closures were reassigned to other posts or were offered voluntary early retirement if they satisfied eligibility criteria.

Following the Government decision of 15 July 1998 to dispose of six barracks considered surplus to military requirements, I had consultations with public and community representatives in each of the five locations in which barracks were subsequently evacuated. In addition to those initial meetings, I met Members of the Oireachtas and local councillors about Castleblayney Barracks on 3 February and 3 March 1999 and local councillors and officials from Naas Urban District Council on 3 and 10 March 1999 about Devoy Barracks, Naas. My officials met councillors and officials of Kildare County Council on 11 February 1999 about Magee Barracks, Kildare. Discussions also took place between my officials and officials of Cork County Council on 2 December 1998 about Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy, and Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig. Further meetings will take place as required.

Additional Information.

Two of the barracks properties, Castleblayney and Fermoy, have already been offered for sale and a decision on the offers received will be made shortly. In relation to Devoy Barracks, general agreement has been reached between my Department and Naas Urban District Council on the transfer of part of the property to the council for local purposes. The balance of the property has been rezoned for housing in line with the development plan for Naas UDC, which was adopted on 19 May 1999, and will be put up for sale as soon as is practicable.

Arising from a request from the Department of Foreign Affairs for accommodation to house Kosovar refugees, I offered that Department the opportunity to inspect the five vacated barracks to check out their feasibility or otherwise for accommodation of the refugees. Magee Barracks, Kildare, is currently being used for this purpose on a temporary basis. The sale of the barracks will proceed as soon as is practicable.

In relation to Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig, a tender competition for the appointment of independent consultants to draw up an integrated action area plan for the future development of lands at the former Murphy Barracks has been completed by my Department. It is expected that the appointment will be made in the very near future, after which the successful firm will be required to submit an integrated plan within three months. It is expected that up to £50 million will be raised from the sale of the barracks.

How close is the Minister to concluding the deals in regard to each of the six barracks? In view of the overall cost of security, the amount of money the Department will receive at the end of the day will be drastically reduced if we are not in a position to close the deals in the short-term. How far advanced is the 15 per cent of the sales which the Minister stated would be given to local communities and councils in each area?

We are very close to concluding a deal in regard to Devoy Barracks, Naas, and Castleblayney Barracks. Delays will occur with Magee Barracks in Kildare as a result of the refugee situation. We are well advanced in Ballincollig and are very close to disposing of the lands at Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy. Clancy Barracks will be vacated by 1 July 2000.

There is some misunderstanding in regard to security costs. Our figures indicate that the maintenance costs for these buildings, with the payment of security duty allowances, is practically equivalent to the security costs associated with security firms. The Price Waterhouse review spelled out that a great number of personnel was solely dedicated to securing buildings and should be on operational duties. The cost of security as against the total value of the properties will be insignificant in the long run.

The Minister briefly referred to the cost of security duties and the drain they place on barracks resources. While I realise he cannot become involved in the nitty gritty day to day running of barracks, will he give a commitment to consider this issue? Archaic security systems are in place in many institutions, particularly military institutions, throughout the country. They place a drain on manpower and resources and it would make life easier for everyone concerned if a more enlightened view were taken.

This is not the first time Deputy Timmins has pointed to necessary changes in the Defence Forces. More sophisticated systems, which are easier on personnel, are being utilised nowadays by many progressive companies. We must recognise the existence of such opportunities and reach agreement as quickly as we can. This is the progressive way to go and would release personnel for operational duties and UN activities. Too much pressure is being placed on manpower in terms of minding the house.