Adjournment Matter. - FCA Accommodation in Granard.

Thursday, 25 June 1998

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 156 No. 5

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Mr. Finneran: Information on Michael Finneran Zoom on Michael Finneran I call on the Minister for Defence to provide suitable accommodation for the FCA unit in Granard, County Longford. I brought this matter to the House because of a letter sent to me by the Granard Town Commissioners concerning the condition of the building which houses the FCA unit in the town. The building was erected in 1959 but has deteriorated substantially to the extent that it is now not suitable for use by the FCA. I would like the Minister to say if suitable accommodation can be provided.

Minister for Public Enterprise (Mrs. O'Rourke): Information on Mary O'Rourke Zoom on Mary O'Rourke My colleague, the Minister for Defence, has asked me to speak on the matter before the House. I welcome this opportunity to outline the position with regard to the study of the Reserve Defence Forces which is being undertaken at present. It enables me to deal with a number of issues which have given rise to some misconceptions and perhaps some unease surrounding the process.

In October 1997 the Chief of Staff established a military review board to conduct a special study of the Reserve Defence Force. This board is required to work in collaboration with a consultative group made up of members of the Reserve Defence Force. The members of this group comprise commissioned and non-commissioned officers from the four Commands and from the Slua Muirí. The Minister has also recently set up a joint military-civilian steering group to oversee the study of the Reserve Defence Force. The membership of this group comprises an independent chairman, three senior military officers, three senior civil servants from the Department of Defence and a serving FCA officer.

The study of the Reserve Defence Force will be wide ranging and will examine such matters as the appropriate strengths of the various elements, equipment, accommodation, training, etc., and although no deadlines have been specified the Minister is confident that the group will conduct its work as quickly as possible and will submit its recommendations at the earliest possible date.

In the second half of this year, a review of the Defence Force's accommodation requirements will be initiated in line with the commitment given in the Defence Forces review implementation plan. The Minister for Defence has stated on many occasions that no definitive decisions on [396] accommodation requirements will be made until that review is completed. In this regard, I emphasise that it would be premature to speculate as to the outcome.

In relation to FCA accommodation, a large number of properties are used throughout the country for training and administration. These include 29 Army barracks, 44 other State owned properties, 22 privately owned properties rented on a full-time basis by the Department and more than 200 local halls and premises rented on a part-time basis. The Department also owns a number of sites on which prefabricated huts erected in the 1950s are situated.

Concerning the specific post at Granard which belongs to this last category of premises, it has been represented by the military authorities that it is now unsuitable for the needs of the FCA unit in question. The provision of suitable alternative accommodation is under active consideration. A number of alternative premises have been proposed and found, for one reason or another, to be inappropriate for FCA use. Currently, one premises in particular is being examined. I can assure Senator Finneran that every effort is being made to find a solution to this problem.

I am very conscious of the significance of an FCA unit to a town such as Granard and to the surrounding area. I used to represent Longford-Westmeath and I am delighted to see Granard making its case. I appreciate the part an FCA unit plays in the lives of the local community. The Government recognises that membership of the FCA and access to the training it provides helps to create discipline and camaraderie among young people at an important stage of their social and personal development. It also gives them a taste of army life and some of them go on to join the Permanent Defence Force where they have an opportunity to serve their country and the cause of peace in troubled areas of the world.

I thank Senator Finneran for raising the matter. The Minister for Defence, Deputy Smith, has spoken to me about it. The Minister is very conscious of the role of the FCA and of the case put forward by Senator Finneran. When the Minister asked me to reply on his behalf I told him I would be glad to do so. He is very conscious of the role of the FCA and is aware of the case made by Senator Finneran. I am sure the Cathaoirleach also has an interest in the matter. I understand that the maintenance of the FCA in a town such as Granard is important. The Minister shares that understanding and is progressive in his views on the Defence Forces. He will take a close interest in the case the Senator has made.

The Seanad adjourned at 3.50 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 26 June 1998.

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