Dáil Éireann - Volume 446 - 02 November, 1994

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Naval Service and Air Corps Role.

9. Mr. Bradford asked the Minister for Defence if he favours a more autonomous role in the Defence Forces for the Naval Service and Air Corps. [2777/94]

Mr. Andrews: As Deputies are aware, at present the organisation and structure of the Defence Forces, including the Air Corps and Naval Service, are being reviewed by the efficiency audit group. As this exercise is not yet complete it would be premature of me to engage in discussion on the desirability or otherwise of specific issues which fall within the remit of the review.

Over the past number of years, there has been considerable investment in new ships, aircraft and other equipment. There has been major growth in the capabilities of both the Air Corps and the Naval Service. I assure the Deputy when any proposals for the reorganisation of the Defence Forces are being considered by the Government, the important and distinctive roles of the Air Corps and the Naval Service will be fully considered before any decisions are taken.

I am pleased to announce an initiative I took in the recent past which will shortly be brought to fruition. As the [1477] Deputy is aware, I have given blue uniforms to the Air Corps which will distinguish them from other divisions of the Defence Forces. That is an important psychological break through.

Mr. Bradford: The Minister mentioned the efficiency audit group. Do I take it he had a preliminary look at the report before the group at present and examined the Price Waterhouse proposals regarding the future of the Naval Service and the Air Corps?

Mr. Andrews: I would be less than honest if I said I did not have a preliminary look at the Price Waterhouse report. The report is with the efficiency audit group which comes within the purview of the Taoiseach's Department. The group has yet to report to the Taoiseach who will then seek the views of other Departments and bring a memorandum to the Cabinet. In addition to that lengthy process RACO, PDFORRA and other groups will be consulted before any action is taken. The Price Waterhouse report is one document in a series of initiatives that may be taken. It is a lengthy process but it is my intention to ensure the best for the Defence Forces, the Army, Navy and Air Corps. They have a Minister who is very supportive of them.

Mr. Bradford: Will the Minister assure us that he will be the arbitrator in matters of policy regarding the future of the Defence Forces, that he alone and not the Taoiseach will decide whether Collins Barracks in Cork is closed down? I note what the Minister said about the reports going to the Taoiseach's office but can he reassure us that defence policy and installations will be decided on by his Department without taking into account outside consideration, for example, from the Department of Finance or the Taoiseach?

Mr. Andrews: Any decision taken would be in the atmosphere of the collective responsibility of the Government. Either I or my successor in office [1478] would be duty and honour bound to implement the collective wisdom which emanated from Cabinet. As far as closures are concerned the only barracks being closed is Collins Barracks in Dublin.

Mr. Bradford: Is Collins Barracks in Cork safe?

Mr. Andrews: As safe as my seat, which is very safe.

Mr. Bradford: Is it safe only until 10 November?

Mr. Carey: That is what we were told about Shannon.

Mr. Andrews: I know that.

Mr. Carey: The Government said it would never pull the plug on Shannon.

Mr. Andrews: The Deputy pulled the plug on Shannon a long time ago and he may be trying to pull the plug on the Government jet too.

Mr. Carey: The Minister's Government did that.

Mr. Andrews: We will not go down the road of who pulled what historical plug.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Priority Question No. 10.

Mr. Andrews: I assure the Deputy that the only barracks closure under discussion is Collins Barracks in Dublin. Ballincollig and Collins Barracks Cork are very safe as far as I am concerned.

Mr. Bradford: Could the Minister mention Fermoy as well?

Mr. Andrews: The Defence Forces realise they have a Minister who is on their side.

[1479] Mr. Bradford: Even if it is only fish and ships.

Mr. Andrews: It does no matter.

Mr. E. Byrne: Does the Minister intend to answer my question?

Mr. Andrews: I answered it last Thursday on the Adjournment but I will answer it again arising from my obligation to do so.