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To ask the Minister for Defence his long-term plan for accommodation in the Curragh camp; if he intends to have all of the ex servicemen and their families vacated from their homes; the timeframe for same; the alternative affordable accommodation that is being offered to families and persons being requested to leave..

-Mick Wallace

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 6th November, 2013.

REPLY

In February 1997 the then Minister for Defence set out policy on married quarters on the basis that they were largely an anachronism and that they should be discontinued in a managed and orderly way. Since then my Department has discontinued the practice of providing such accommodation. In addition, given the age of the housing stock it has been found that over time the properties require a significant and disproportionate investment in order to ensure compliance with regulations regarding rental properties.

In recent years much of the stock has become unsuitable for habitation, and has had to be taken out of use. Consequently there has been a sharp decline in the number of married quarters in use with only 25 serving personnel currently occupying married quarters in the Curragh.

Where properties are located outside barracks, they are made available for purchase by tenants. For security reasons, properties located within barracks cannot be sold and are removed from the stock of available housing when they become vacant. There are no residential properties (former married quarters) vacant in the Curragh Camp which are currently habitable. From time to time the overall stock of housing within the camp is reviewed and vacant uninhabitable properties are demolished where it is found to be necessary due to health and safety concerns, to make way for other facilities or in order to improve the layout of the camp generally.

Personnel are obliged, under Defence Force Regulations, to vacate married quarters within a specified period of being discharged from the Permanent Defence Force. The term overholder is used to describe former members of the Defence Forces and their families who have refused to leave married quarters within 21 days of leaving the Defence Forces. My Department is, in accordance with normal procedure, seeking vacant possession of overheld married quarters. The situation of overholders continuing to occupy married quarters is not sustainable. As my Department is no longer in a position to subsidise housing for those who are not entitled to them the Department has had to take necessary action. Each overholder is being dealt with on an individual basis.

The issue of overholders is being addressed in a number of ways. With the assistance of the Chief State Solicitors Office, formal procedures have been put in place to obtain vacant possession of the properties. In the first instance, overholders of married quarters are reminded of their responsibilities to vacate properties under Defence Force Regulations and are asked to vacate. Where the properties are not vacated, legal proceedings are initiated to obtain vacant possession of the properties. It is not possible to give a definitive timeframe for the procedure as the process is different for each individual case.

My Department does not have a role in the provision of housing accommodation for the general public. The securing of alternative housing is a matter for the individuals concerned in the first instance. If individuals are not in a position to secure housing in their own right it may be the case that they qualify for social housing or that they qualify for some level of housing assistance. Officials of my Department have met with Kildare Council officials regarding overholders so they are aware of the situation and will advise overholders of procedures and requirements when making applications for social housing.

 

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