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To ask the Minister for Defence if he has carried out a cost benefit analysis in relation to renovating and re-using all/any of the many different empty properties in the Curragh camp for military or civilian purposes.

-Mick Wallace

FOR ORAL ANSWER ON WEDNESDAY, 11TH DECEMBER, 2013

REPLY

My Department is engaged on an ongoing building programme designed to modernise and enhance the training, operational and accommodation facilities available to members of the Defence Forces.

Under the building

programme there has been considerable capital investment at the Curragh Camp in recent years. Between 2008 and 2012 my Department has spent in excess of €10.7 million on major building projects at the Camp.

The Defence capital works provision has reduced over the last 5 years, from €25.6m in 2008 to €6.24m in 2013. The reduction in funding of 75.6% has significantly impacted on the number and scale of construction projects which it is now possible to undertake in any given year. Notwithstanding the constraints on the capital budget as outlined above, plans are presently being progressed for substantial works at the Camp as follows: · The refurbishment of the ammunition depot.

· The conversion to natural gas consumption of the major energy consuming facilities in the camp. This is expected to generate significant savings when completed.

The Department and the Defence Forces, similar to all other Government Departments, must take into account the current difficult economic environment we are now operating in. The budgetary situation and the operational requirements of the Defence Forces are the primary factors in determining the individual projects which can be completed within the Curragh Camp, as can be seen from the work undertaken to date, where appropriate, existing buildings within the Curragh Camp are restored. As part of the process for the allocation of funding for individual capital projects an assessment of requirements, which includes a cost benefit analysis, is undertaken.

To ask the Minister for Defence in relation to the Curragh Camp, the number of accommodation units occupied by serving members of the Defence Forces and their families; the number of units occupied by ex servicemen and or their families; the number of empty units previously occupied by families.

-MICK WALLACE.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 11th December, 2013.

REPLY

Overall there are 75 properties occupied as Married Quarters across the Defence Forces. Fifty four (54) of the properties are located at the Curragh Camp.

The properties located at the Curragh Camp include 25 occupied by serving personnel and their families and 29 occupied by overholders.

Presently, it is understood from the military authorities that there are a further 47 vacant properties at the Camp which were formerly occupied as married quarters. However none of these are habitable.

The general upkeep and maintenance of occupied properties is a matter for the occupant.  Routine repairs of an emergency nature are, however, undertaken by the military authorities from time to time as required.  In respect of the properties located at the Curragh Camp, it is understood from the military authorities that the cost of these repairs to date in 2013 amounted to €28,500 and the corresponding amount spent in 2012 was €32,000.  These figures include both military personnel time and materials and the use of external contractors where necessary.

The requirement for more extensive remedial works to properties is overseen by the Department.  It has been found that over time the properties in general would require a significant and disproportionate investment in order to ensure compliance with regulations regarding rental properties. In light of this it was decided to withdraw the properties from use as Married Quarters due to Health and Safety concerns.

The total rent collected in respect of those occupying married quarters at the Curragh Camp was €150,729.36 for 2012 and a total of €144,772.54 has been collected to the end of November 2013.

To ask the Minister for Defence the basis upon which members of the Irish Defence Forces, a declared neutral country under the rules of the Hague Convention, can participate in military alliances such as the NATO Partnership for Peace and EU Battlegroups.

- DEPUTY MICK WALLACE

FOR ORAL ANSWER ON WEDNESDAY, 11TH DECEMBER, 2013

REPLY

Ireland is not a party to the Hague Convention (V) respecting the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in Case of War on Land, and there are no plans for it to become one.

Ireland’s policy of military neutrality is characterised by non-participation in military alliances. This policy has been underpinned by a set of complementary values which include, inter alia, the protection of human rights; support for development, participation in international peacekeeping operations under UN mandates; and the promotion of disarmament and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.

Partnership for Peace (PfP) is a programme of practical bilateral cooperation between individual Euro-Atlantic partner countries and NATO. It allows partners to build up an individual relationship with NATO, choosing their own priorities for cooperation.

Participation in PfP is entirely voluntary and is based on the principle of self-differentiation, that is, a State selects for itself the nature and scope of its participation in PfP activities.   The PfP programme focuses on defence related cooperation and is designed to help increased stability, diminish threats to peace and build strengthened security relationships.  The principal benefit of our participation is that it has allowed us to enhance the capabilities of Ireland's Defence Forces for peacekeeping, preventative and crisis management operations under UN mandates.

It should be noted that a number of like minded, militarily neutral countries also participate in NATO/PfP such as Switzerland, Finland and Austria.

In relation to EU Battlegroups, again these are not military alliances.  They are a fundamental aspect of the EU’s capability to react rapidly to developing crises around the globe.  Battlegroups are made available by Member States to the EU Council and there must be unanimity for their deployment.  Within the EU Battlegroup concept, the purpose of the Battlegroup, as a rapid response capability, includes the role of acting as an initial entry force to stabilise a situation pending the deployment of a follow-on force, to support an established peace support operation which is running into difficulties, similar to the deployment of EU forces in the UN operation in the Congo; and to respond to humanitarian crises.

  It should be stressed that any deployment of an Irish contingent in a Battlegroup context would be subject to the requirements of the ‘triple-lock’.

In 1999, Dáil Éireann approved Ireland’s participation in Partnership for Peace. In 2007 Dáil Éireann approved the Memorandum of Understanding to participate in the Nordic Battlegroup 2008 and again, in 2012, approved the Memorandum of Understanding for the Austro-German Battlegroup 2012.

 

To ask the Minister for Defence he has considered withdrawing Irish troops from Syria following the recent firefight involving Irish troops; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Deputy Mick Wallace.

 

FOR ORAL ANSWER ON WEDNESDAY, 11TH DECEMBER, 2013.

REPL

Following Government and Dáil approval, the deployment of the 43rd Infantry Group to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) on the Golan Heights was successfully completed on 28 September 2013.

The 43rd Infantry Group, comprising 115 personnel, consists of a Force Reserve Company and support elements. Their role includes the provision of a Quick Reaction Force which is on standby to assist with on-going operations within the UNDOF Area of Responsibility. The Irish Infantry Group is also tasked with carrying out patrols and convoy escorts as necessary.

I addressed the question of the incident which occurred on 28 November 2013 involving Defence Forces personnel serving with UNDOF in Syria, in answering a priority PQ earlier.

Irish troops are deployed to the Golan Heights at a time of increased instability in that region.  That was the situation pertaining in the region when Dáil Éireann considered this issue last July, when it decided to deploy the contingent to UNDOF.  It was never the case that this deployment was going to be easy.  Both the political and the security situation in the region is volatile; that is why we are there.

Clearly, when we deploy troops to these types of operations, we must also understand and accept that we are putting them in harm’s way and that situations, such as the recent attack, can and will happen.  My responsibility, as Minister for Defence, is to ensure that our personnel have the resources, equipment and training necessary to deal with such incidents. I am glad to say that the personnel of the Irish Force Mobile Reserve are fully trained and equipped with appropriate force protection assets to undertake their important duties on behalf of the United Nations and that they remain fully committed to this task.  The performance of the equipment and personnel in this most recent incident is testament to the standard and quality of the equipment which the Defence Forces have at their disposal and of the commitment and professionalism of our personnel.

There are no indications at this time to suggest that the Anti Government Armed Elements see Irish troops as a target.  Given the evolving security situation, the UNDOF mission has continued to reconfigure its operations with a view to ensuring the safety of personnel while continuing to implement the mission’s mandate. All necessary Force Protection measures on the ground continue to be implemented by the Irish contingent. In addition, ongoing threat assessments are carried out in the mission area and the Chief of Staff continually reviews both personal equipment and force assets, to ensure that those Defence Forces personnel deployed to the mission are appropriately equipped to fulfill their roles.

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