In light of the current modernisation
of the Defence Forces, Dara Fox
and Robyn Hessinger ask several
TDs with major defence centres
in their constituencies about
their record of representing
defence issues.
Minister for Public Enterprise, Mary O’Rourke Sean Power TD,
“Following consultations with both represen- good example whereby members of the local Fianna Fáil, Kildare South
area could avail of the facility at times of low “Kildare South is a relatively new constituen- cy and has as its bedrock the country’s duced a Fianna Fáil election manifesto on equine industry, and also the largest concen- defence in time for the 1997 general election.
Senator John Dardis,
tration of defence force personnel in any of Progressive Democrats,
the electoral constituencies. The Defence Fianna Fáil has delivered on the promises Kildare South
Forces are one of the largest employers in the made, including the preparation of a White “I am in the Senate now for nearly 13 years, and I have participated in all of the debates gramme of reform to be implemented over a on Defence Force issues, including sending derived from service in the Defence Forces.
peace enforcement units to Somalia and else- In addition, many of those employed in the where. I have been involved in some of the services sector are indirectly reliant on the Defence Acts which have been passed during Defence Forces for their livelihood.
reform I am aware that change of this mag- that period. I have also been involved in the “As a Dáil deputy for some years I have nitude does impact on those serving in the negotiations on the reorganization of the been acutely aware of the problems with the Forces. In addition I am aware of the fact Defence Forces, on the result of the White that key personnel are being poached by the Paper; I would have been involved in some private sector and that pay levels have fallen of the talks that went on subsequent to that.
process appeared intent on delivering only behind. Managing change of this magnitude I liaised with RACO during the period that the negative aspects of reform. Many of the the White Paper was being actively debated representations that I received outlined the importance of a fair and equitable outcome to the public service benchmarking cannot urgently required to develop a policy frame- work within which the reform process could “At local level I am anxious that where Partnership for Peace and being part of the grow and develop. In addition, I was per- spare capacity exists within the military Rapid Reaction Force. I think apart from our suaded of the necessity for the appointment organisation that it be fully utilised where of an Ombudsman for the Defence Forces to practicable by the local community. The new dimension of Defence Forces’ activity, now Lebanon, I think we need alternative placesto contribute to world peace and I would like to see our Defence Forces continue to beinvolved on the international stage in peace-keeping and peace enforcement. The other aspect is that we have had a reasonableamount of investment in the buildings andthe equipment in the Curragh, but there ismore to do to ensure that we have a modern,properly equipped army that can hold its ownwhen it goes abroad on theses missions. But Iam definitely in favour of the Defence Forcesheadquarters being located in the Curragh.
“The other issue is in regard to bench- marking; benchmarking is something that Iwould support. In regards to retired person-nel and this matter of the military serviceallowance not being reckonable for pensionpurposes for personnel who retired prior to1990; in my view it should be included intheir pension and I have argued that case atparliamentary party level and with theTánaiste. I will continue to press on that.” Mary Coughlan TD, Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands, Fianna Fáil. Mary O’Rourke TD,
Since 1997, I am pleased that this govern- that considerable monies were spent in the Minister for Public Enterprise,
ment has recruited 3,000 personnel into the area of telecommunications, and upgrading Fianna Fáil, Westmeath
Defence Forces and, under the White Paper “As a public representative for Westmeath, a constituency with two Defence Forces bar- unprecedented €320 million investment pro- are being vocal in advocating the protection gramme, including new equipment and facil- of the two existing military installations in ities. Over €120 million has been spent so the county. Obviously Custume Barracks is Minister Michael Smith in relation to the far on new equipment. Under a Fianna Fáil- the headquarters in Athlone and that bar- led government, this investment programme progress on modern facilities and equipment, headquarters. It is absolutely vital that and the need to ensure that personnel num- Columb Barracks is not allowed to run down facilities, training and equipment to allow in terms of numbers, and so we will certainly them to carry out the vital role they play be seeking and continually highlighting the need for increased numbers of recruits.
“Throughout my period in public life, I have continued to maintain close links with people from the area who want to join the Defence Forces’ representatives bodies, reflecting the strong and enduring ties which “I feel that Mullingar has a very impor- my family has enjoyed with such organisa- tant role to play because of its geographical tions and the personnel they represent.” location. It’s vital from the perspective ofmilitary requirements such as training for Cllr Willie Penrose
overseas missions. And indeed, as the base Labour, Westmeath
Mullingar there are a significant number of pensioners, and they have been in contact in Mullingar, which by the way is the only with us in relation to the pension scheme as remaining artillery barracks left in the coun- they feel they have been deprived. I will con- try, means that we have a tremendous tradi- tinue to highlight the issue of the military tion of military service here in Westmeath.
service allowance, for there are a number of Over the years in my role as public represen- personnel who should have received that.
tative I’ve highlighted concerns of the mili- tary personnel and other issues such as get- both in terms of wages, pensions, and the ting monies to upgrade facilities, particularly purchase of ancillary services by the military Councillor Willie Penrose, Labour. at Columb Barracks. I have to acknowledge in both Athlone and Mullingar is phenome- nal - they make a vital contribution to the local economy. I want to also emphasize the base camp, with improved facilities.
participation of army personnel in the vari- “We have got to try to achieve a modern ous activities and community projects, as army, as small as we can. For a modern army they make a vital contribution to the com- they need to be given the right equipment, they need to be housed in the right accom-modation, and everything needs to be Mary Coughlan TD,
Minister of State at the
Department of Arts, Heritage,
Gaeltacht and the Islands,
Dan Wallace TD,
Fianna Fáil, Donegal South-West
Minister of State at the
“Finner Camp is in my constituency, and Department of the Environment
Lifford and Rockhill, although outside it, and Local Government,
Fianna Fáil, Cork North-Central
Throughout a lot of the south of the county “I have an extremely close relationship with Collins Barracks here in the constituency, Defence Forces, so it’s very important for me and with many commissioned officers. It has to keep in touch, and to act when important long needed upgrading, and in recent years a substantial amount of capital has been spent “I met the Minister in recent weeks and on facilities such as a new NCO’s mess, cost- received assurances that there is no question ing over €1.7m, and storage facilities, worth of Finner closing, and also an assurance that there will be no amalgamation of Finner and through for further work. If and when other Dan Wallace TD, Minister of State at the Department of facilities are needed I’ll follow it up with the “A lot of work has been done in the last the Environment and Local Government, Fianna Fáil. couple of years renovating Finner. There’s “Collins Barracks is benefiting from some still more to be done, including the renova- for us in the North West and for the fishing of the recommendations in the White Paper, tion of the old barracks, transforming it into fleet and other seafarers and if an accident which in my view is proceeding successfully.
a small museum, and my role is to push the did occur, on sea, land, or even in mountain- It’s important however to remember that agenda and get it expedited, as I did when I ous regions, they are rescuing people and change, however necessary, is never easy, and helped get a fire tender organised for the we have to marry the various emphasis of the “I appreciate and support the efforts of “While Finner won’t be closed there is a the army personnel and their peacekeeping facilities together in a balanced way.
problem in getting new recruits, and the age duties overseas under the flag of the United “I’m also interested in the role of our profile there has increased. There’s a tentative Nations, and would encourage ongoing par- Defence Forces internationally. I’ve repre- agreement to recruit over the next number of sented the Minister for Foreign Affairs a years, and it’s right and proper to keep this James White TD,
months, including at the joint forum of the Fine Gael, Donegal South-West
ous about civilianisation, and I feel it’s better done by agreement, and confined to limited cerned with the fallout from September 11, types of area. More important is the need for spokesman, I visited most of the barracks all and was an opportunity to dialogue in rela- greater access onto courses and training.
around Ireland looking at that time at the Currently there is a lot of competition for bad conditions that they had. I raised lots of questions in the Dail about these unsatisfac- that the world is a smaller, more interde- tory conditions, because the facilities at that pendent place than ever, and that the future time were not what they should have been.
participation of our Defence Forces in UN- mandated cooperative operations is vital.” Seamus Rodgers TD,
pushed for better facilities, that a lot of the Labour, Donegal South-West
good facilities that they have now in the dif- Deirdre Clune TD,
“I am very close to the Finner Camp. I would ferent camps are because of what I saw when Fine Gael, Cork South Central
be a strong advocate of retaining the military “I would be very supportive of the naval base presence in the area, given that apart from its significance in relation to security, it is a Maritime College is a wonderful addition to source of employment and any income gener- from the outside has improved dramatically.
the community. I will continue to support ated for this region is bound to be beneficial.
All the old corrugated, sheeted huts have The fact that Finner is the base for the air been replaced. Another thing that I pushed sea rescue service and that is very important

Source: http://raco.ie/attachments/067_1_1_voxpoll.pdf

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