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 Header Item Defence Forces Reorganisation (Continued)
 Header Item Defence Forces Properties

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 835 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl] I am trying to deal with very legitimate issues for the Defence Forces and it would serve the Minister better to focus on the particular issues before us. I am not suggesting the closure of an installation in Donegal or the opening of a new one in Dublin. I am simply asking if there are costs involved in the transport of personnel on a regular basis from Donegal to Dublin. Are there implications in terms of the process of transportation? Are vehicles required? Is there an implication in terms of wear and tear on particular vehicles? Are practical day-to-day difficulties arising for the operation of the forces as a result of the Minister's reorganisational process?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter There are no practical day-to-day difficulties of which I am aware. The Defence Forces have managed during my period in office to come in annually on budget in accordance with the Estimates prescribed for them. I am sorry if the Deputy thinks I am engaged in party political sniping. I understand that members of his party, including his party leader, think the world started on 9 March 2011 and that they want to forget much of the devastation they visited on the country in their preceding years in government.

Defence Forces Properties

 129. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Defence Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter if he will halt all eviction notices and court proceedings against Curragh camp residents who are either former serving soldiers or the families of former serving soldiers until the technical assessment of the housing stock has been completed.  [13717/14]

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly This is an issue of which the Minister is obviously very well aware, namely, the almost 30 families and individuals who are classified as overholding in the Curragh camp, particularly those against whom legal action has already been initiated. In the context of the technical assessment of the dwellings which the Minister has commissioned, would it not be an idea to hold off from actively pursuing legal action pending the outcome of that technical assessment?

Deputy Alan Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I welcome the recent meeting Deputies Daly and Wallace had with officials from my Department on the issue. I hope the exchange of views and the explanations given were helpful and worthwhile from their perspective.

As I have said previously, military personnel are obliged, under Defence Forces regulations, to vacate married quarters within 21 days of retiring or being discharged from military service. The term "overholder" is used to describe former members of the Defence Forces and their families who have refused to leave married quarters when obliged to do so.

The situation of overholders continuing to occupy married quarters is no longer sustainable and measures to resolve this are being progressed. Properties located outside barracks are offered for sale to the occupants. Those located within barracks, such as the Curragh camp, are not for sale for security reasons. My Department is, in accordance with normal procedures, seeking vacant possession of married quarters which are being overheld and will continue to do so until the overholding issue is resolved. Any initiative to resolve overholding must support and complement the current policy, which dates back to 1997, of withdrawing from the provision of married quarters.

In the period since January 2013, 12 properties which were being overheld in the area of the Curragh camp have been returned by the occupants. Currently, there are 28 overholders remaining at the camp and ten of these do not pay any charges in respect of their use of the property.

I cannot support the illegal occupation of military property by those who have no entitlement. It is also important to remember that the Department of Defence does not have a role in the provision of housing accommodation for the general public and cannot provide housing for people who have no entitlement to housing provided from the public purse and whose requirement is likely to be significant, as the currently unoccupied properties are for the most part uninhabitable, with many in extremely poor condition.

In any event, the assessment of the current vacant housing stock does not change the fact that there are occupiers of houses in the Curragh camp who have no right to those houses and, therefore, the process for obtaining vacant possession must continue.

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly Both Deputy Wallace and I were happy that Department of Defence officials took up our offer of a meeting. This issue and a number of others were discussed at the meeting in regard to accommodation in the camp. They made it clear that as a policy issue the Government does not want to see families living in the Curragh camp. I appreciate that, although I do not agree with it, and I recognise it is the Minister's view. However, this question specifically relates to the immediate concerns of those families who, for whatever reason, were led to believe that they could stay after they left the Army, either as a result of no contact from the Department of Defence or because they were told they could continue to live there. As a result of that, some of them find they cannot get alternative accommodation because they are too old or have too many needs to qualify for social accommodation.

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