Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Ceisteanna (138)

Seán Sherlock

Ceist:

138. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the provisions in place to support retired members of the Defence Forces once they leave active service. [4975/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Defence)

I recognise the valued public service given to the State by retired members of the Defence Forces. Officials from my Department and I hold regular meetings with three Veterans’ Associations, the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA), the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel (O.N.E.) and the Association of Retired Commissioned Officers (ARCO). The Veterans’ Associations raise issues of concern to their members at these meetings.

As part of the supports currently offered to veterans, my Department has Service Level Agreements with O.N.E. and IUNVA which set out the services the Department provides to these Associations. Under the terms of these SLAs, my Department provides financial support by way of an annual subvention to O.N.E. and IUNVA to encourage their valuable efforts and the range of services they offer to ex-service personnel. The subvention given to O.N.E. was increased from €44,000 to €100,000 per annum last year. This significant increase in the grant will make a substantial contribution to the work of O.N.E. which provides accommodation to homeless, elderly and disabled ex-members of the Defence Forces in Smithfield, Dublin, Athlone and Letterkenny. The subvention given 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 O.N.E.’s plans to increase the number of its Veteran Support Centres (VSCs) around the country. The purpose of the VSC is to provide somewhere for veterans to receive information and advice and a welcoming place to meet former comrades. The VSC helps to prevent homelessness through early intervention and to actively address loneliness. In 2012 O.N.E. established two VSCs in Aiken Barracks, Dundalk and in Lord Edward Street, Limerick. Since the beginning of 2018, my Department and the Defence Forces have worked with O.N.E. to bring to fruition their plans for a network of VSCs nationwide. O.N.E. has opened a further six VSCs in Custume Barracks, Athlone; Casement Aerodrome, Baldonnel; the Defence Forces Training Centre, Curragh Camp; Dún UÍ Mhaolíosa Barracks, Renmore, Galway; Stephens Barracks, Kilkenny; and a temporary office in Collins Barracks, Cork until the permanent VSC is refurbished. Discussions are ongoing with O.N.E. regarding locations for additional VSCs throughout the country.

I provide support by attendance at specific events whenever I can, such as the annual Veterans’ Day and the launch of O.N.E.’s annual Fuchsia fundraising appeal.

My Department, the Defence Forces and I are committed to continued engagement with Veterans’ Associations into the future.