Thursday, 1 February 1996
Dáil Éireann Debate
4. Mr. Power asked the Minister for Defence the capital building works that will be carried out during 1996; and the capital works that will be carried out at the Curragh, County Kildare in view of its proposed future. [2209/96]
Mr. Barrett: A total of £13 million has  been provided for building and engineering works under subhead V of the Defence Estimates for 1996. This provision will be expected on capital projects, £9.0 million, and maintenance projects, £4 million, throughout the Defence Forces, and will be allocated between a wide range of competing projects on a priority basis. Details of the building programme are being finalised at present. However, I expect that it will be possible to devote at least £1 million to works at the Curragh on current projects, including refurbishment and upgrading of living accommodation and various other buildings, and on a wide range of maintenance jobs. In addition, consideration will be given to the possibility of commencing some new projects, such as the upgrading of the ammunition depot, extension of energy conservation measures and further accommodation refurbishment. The total value of contracts placed for the maintenance and upgrading of facilities at the Curragh between 1987 and 1995 was of the order of £8.37 million.
Mr. Power: The thread running through the Price Waterhouse report is that the Curragh should be earmarked as the location of any new national training centre for the Defence Forces. In that context, will the Minister accept that a figure of £1 million will not make a great impact at the Curragh? Having visited it a number of times last year, the Minister is only too well aware of the necessity for a major capital injection. It is the ideal location for a training centre. I appeal to the Minister to increase the figure to be made available this year.
Mr. Barrett: I do not wish to be smart but, as the Deputy will appreciate, I cannot anticipate the proposals of the implementation group which is considering possible locations for a national training centre which he believes should be sited at the Curragh. The issues raised by him will be taken into account in the consideration and approval of the  implementation group's plan when presented. If it is decided to establish a national training centre at a particular location, the necessary funding will have to be made available. The EAG report was considered by the Government which decided in July last to proceed on a certain basis. It was not in total agreement with what the EAG had recommended. The implementation group is considering the proposition that a national training centre should be located at the Curragh. When its report is presented the question of funding will have to be considered.
Mr. Power: The fact that the implementation group has not yet reported did not prevent the Minister from making the statement yesterday about recruitment notwithstanding the fact that no one has yet opted to accept the early retirement package. It appears he jumped the gun in that regard.
Mr. Power: The crime package announced by the Minister for Justice during the week provides for 50 prison places at the Curragh. When a similar proposal was made in recent years the Department of Defence had serious reservations about the security of the ammunition depot. What has changed in the meantime whereby the Department is now happy to agree to this proposal? In this context it will be necessary to make certain alterations. Will this have any financial implications for the Department?
Mr. Barrett: The answer to the second part of the question is “no”, the alterations will be financed by the Department of Justice. In response to the first part of the question, I did not jump the gun. A sum of £13 million was made available in the budget to offer terms up to 2,300 members of the Defence Forces under the voluntary early retirement scheme and to recruit up to 1,000 personnel over the period of the plan. It  was necessary to make the implementation group aware of this decision.
We hope to commence a number of large projects at the Curragh, such as the upgrading of the ammunition depot, phase II of the energy management programme and the refurbishment of the married quarters at McDonagh Barracks.
Mr. Kenneally: This question relates to capital building works. What plans does the Minister have to upgrade facilities in the south-east, particularly at the barracks located in Kilkenny and Clonmel? It is my information that the barracks in Kilkenny have been down-graded. There are currently only three serving officers living within the barracks. Will the Minister ensure they are maintained?
Mr. Kenneally: Let me rephrase the question. If a certain sum is spent on capital projects in Kildare, does this mean that barracks in other locations, particularly in the south-east, will suffer as a result?
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