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To ask the Minister for Defence the number of occasions in April, May and June of this year that the presence of Defence Forces personnel at Shannon Airport was requested by An Garda Síochána in relation to visiting military aircraft; if he will provide the countries of origin of these aircraft; if members of either the Defence Forces or An Garda Síochána carried out searches of these aircraft; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- MICK WALLACE.

FOR ORAL ANSWER ON WEDNESDAY, 18TH JUNE, 2014

REPLY

An Garda Síochána has the primary responsibility for law and order, including the protection of the internal security of the State. Among the roles assigned to the Defence Forces is the provision of Aid to the Civil Power (ATCP) which, in practice, means to assist An Garda Síochána when requested to do so.

There is ongoing and close liaison between An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces regarding security matters. The Defence Forces have deployed personnel to Shannon Airport, in response to requests for support from An Garda Síochána, since 5th February 2003.

There were 32 security deployments carried out by the Defence Forces at Shannon Airport in April of this year, 35 in May and 16 up to the 12th of June last.  The length of each such deployment and the number of relevant aircraft that land and take off during each deployment can vary.  For example, if a single aircraft is on the ground for an extended period, perhaps overnight, or over a number of days, this would involve more than one deployment of troops as each shift is generally of 12 hours duration

.

The Defence Forces have no responsibility for searching foreign Military aircraft that land at Shannon and there is no record kept by the Military of the country of origin of each aircraft.  I understand these records are kept by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as foreign Military aircraft are provided with diplomatic clearance to land in Ireland by that Department.

With regard to inspections of aircraft being carried out by An Garda Síochána, I would advise that this is a matter that should be addressed to the Minister for Justice and Equality but my understanding is that An Garda Síochána do not carry out searches of foreign Military aircraft.

To ask the Minister for Defence if he will publish the technical examination which assessed a selection of dwellings at the Curragh Camp; if he will expand the assessment to include all residential units in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

-MICK WALLACE.

FOR ORAL ANSWER ON WEDNESDAY, 18th JUNE, 2014

REPLY

The Department of Defence recently undertook an assessment of vacant former married quarter properties within the Curragh Camp with a view to their potential for future military use.  The properties in question comprise a terrace of 16 houses.  Three of the houses had previously been reconfigured by combining adjacent houses with the result that there are now 13 individual units in the terrace overall.

The assessment indicates that, in order to be viable for military purposes as multi-occupancy Single-Living-In accommodation, adjacent properties would best be combined to give a smaller number of larger units.  The assessment also indicates that the properties are in a very poor state of repair and that the estimated cost of repairs necessary to make them suitable as accommodation is simply prohibitive.

While the outcome of the assessment is still under consideration it is clear that any renovation would be very costly, would only deliver around half the number of viable units and would be very limited in terms of future military needs.  At this stage, this is not considered to be a cost effective solution to meeting accommodation needs in the Curragh.

This assessment was undertaken as the block overall appeared to be structurally sound and contained a sizeable number of houses, the majority of which were vacant.   Given the outcome of the assessment in this case there appears to be little prospect that the outcome would be much different were other, individual or small groups of houses assessed. Consequently there are no plans to expand the assessment to include all residential units in the Camp.

The Curragh Camp is a key military installation.  Among its many functions it houses the Defence Forces Training Centre and as such it operates as the main training facility for military personnel from across all formations.

It has been Department policy since 1997 to discontinue the provision of married quarters across all military installations, as they are no longer a requirement of the modern solider.  Where personnel are now required for military purposes to be accommodated in barracks this is done on a Single-Living-In basis i.e. the military personnel but not their families are accommodated for the duration of the requirement.

In recent years, some vacated former married quarter properties within the Camp have been retained, refurbished and reallocated for use by the military to provide short term accommodation on a multi occupancy basis for those military personnel who are temporarily based at the training centre.

Expenditure from the Defence Vote can only be justified in the context of meeting the needs of the Defence Forces in accordance with Defence policy in a cost effective manner.

It is important to remember that the Department does not have a role in providing housing assistance for military personnel on social housing lists or for members of the public in general.

 

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