Dáil Éireann - Volume 450 - 08 March, 1995
Private Members' Business. - Defence Forces Review: Motion (Resumed).
The following motion was moved by Deputy Michael Smith on Tuesday, 7 March 1995:
That Dáil Éireann calls on the Government to consult adequately with the representatives of the Defence Forces on the implications of the EAG report on the relevance of the Defence Forces before decisions are implemented, to consider the economic and social consequences of barrack closures and to reassure members of the Defence Forces that barracks will not close.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
 To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:
—accepts the need to modernise the structure and organisation of the Defence Forces;
—commends the Government for maintaining the impetus for the reform of the Defence Forces;
—notes that the Minister for Defence is consulting widely with all interested parties, and
—supports the co-ordinated approach outlined recently by the Minister for Defence, including the formulation of a phased implementation programme to be drawn up when the Government has considered the report of the Efficiency Audit Group.” —(Minister for Defence).
Mr. Dempsey Mr. Dempsey
Mr. Dempsey: May I share my time with Deputy Brendan Smith?
An Ceann Comhairle Seán Treacy
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sure that is very satisfactory and agreed.
Mr. Dempsey Mr. Dempsey
Mr. Dempsey: Last night I paid tribute to the professionalism and dedication of our Defence Forces and welcomed the fact that defence is now on the agenda as it should be in the run-up to the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference. I also indicated to the Minister that he should be wary of a slow implementation of the EAG lest other Departments, particularly the Department of Finance, might use the recommendations of the EAG as a pretext for starving the Defence Forces of resources. I would like to repeat that point tonight. During my contribution the Minister informed me that the Government would make a decision on the EAG recommendations in the very near future. I welcome this as it is very important.
At that stage the Minister should have his round of consultations. I know he has spoken to PDFORRA, RACO and other organisations but it is only  when he has the general recommendations that he can tell representative organisations what exactly is involved, what recommendations have been made and how he proposes to implement them. Therefore, at that time the Minister must undertake full consultations with the Defence Forces irrespective of what talks he has already had because he is talking now in a vacuum.
I would like to pay tribute to the role of the military in the whole process of the EAG review. They played a full role in which I was very much involved. I found them to be very open to ideas, recognising the need for change as did other people. They deserve that tribute because they have been depicted as not wanting any changes.
I regret that the Price Waterhouse report was leaked selectively and used by the media very selectively. It was part of a process and the leak was damaging in that it sent the debate off at a tangent the real issues were ignored and its many fine recommendations were also ignored.
Barracks closures are emotive and they have predominated in this debate. They are obviously important but I do not think that we should allow the whole debate to become clouded by that issue. I am conscious of the social and economic reasons for maintaining barracks but we should also look at the strategic military viewpoint. The Minister should engage in the widest possible consulations before any action is undertaken.
Mr. B. Smith Mr. B. Smith
Mr. B. Smith: In his contribution last night, the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Defence and the Marine, Deputy Michael Smith, spoke in great detail about the duties and functions of the Army and the very varied nature of those duties. He identified some problem areas such as the very high age profile of the Defence Forces; the need to rationalise numbers and strengths of units; and the need to put in place a proper recruitment campaign at an early date. He also highlighted the difficulties  accruing from the insufficient number of troops in different units.
Coming from a Border constituency where we have two major Army barracks — Dún Uí Neill in Cavan, and Monaghan Barracks — I am very proud of the work of all the Army personnel in the area over many years. I know that I speak for the vast majority of my constituents when I emphasise that their work, particularly since 1969, has been most beneficial, much needed and appreciated during that period of severe political trouble on our doorstep.
Many young constituents of mine are actively seeking enlistment in the permanent Defence Forces as they have seen at first hand the Army in operation and appreciate its high standing within the community. I know from those young people, who have spoken to me about their desire to join the Army, that they consider this career path very challenging. The quality of those seeking enlistment is very high, both from a character and academic viewpoint.
It is not just we at home who are proud of the work of the Defence Forces, we are all also conscious of the great service they have given abroad on many United Nations missions. The work of our soldiers is not always given the recognition it deserves and generally the number of people serving abroad, or the extent of these missions, is not known by the population at large. Perhaps a better presentation of that segment of the work of the Defence Forces would be worthwhile.
Our Army's participation in peace-keeping duties demonstrates this country's commitment to the United Nations and to the establishment and maintenance of peace throughout the world. Of course, at home the duties of the Defence Forces are varied, such as providing assistance in emergencies, industrial disputes, fishery protection and life-saving missions — all necessary duties which will no doubt continue.
We must have an ongoing recruitment campaign to ensure that the age profile of the Defence Forces is not too  high, and obviously constant recruitment and a proper system of retirement would help mobility and promotional outlets.
Decisions should not be made on the Efficiency Audit Group report prior to the widest possible consultative process and a proper and thorough examination of the implications of any scaling down of military activity. That is the concern of the Fianna Fáil Party.
I am very glad that Fianna Fáil, while in Government in 1988, placed the contract for the construction of a new Army barracks in Cavan town which was later named Dún Uí Neill after Eoghan Ruadh O'Neill, one of the dominant figures in Irish history. The most up-to-date facilities provided in this fine new barracks are of tremendous assistance to the Defence Forces in carrying out their duties in the Border area, and provides an excellent headquarters for the 29th Battalion as well as first class facilities and amenities. The construction of this barracks was a positive development, replacing the old military barracks in Cavan which was constructed in the late 17th century.
Many members of the Defence Forces have had long and arduous hours of work on Border duty since 1970. Border patrolling and acting in support of the civil power prevented many potentially difficult and dangerous incidents from arising. Thankfully the advancement of the peace process has ended the need for those patrols.
I am sure that members of the Army, Navy and the Air Corps would have no problem in having improved structures put in place, or an improvement in the efficiency of their operations.
I appeal to the Minister to ensure the widest possible consultation before decisions are reached. I would like to pay tribute to officials in the Departments of Defence, Foreign Affairs and Justice for the caring and sensitive way in which they have dealt with representations from public representatives and the public at large in relation to sensitive Border patrol and security issues since 1969.
Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Mr. Barrett) Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Mr. Barrett)
 Minister of State at the Department of Defence (Mr. Barrett): I would like to share my time with Deputies Ferris, Mulvihill, Penrose and Eric Byrne.
An Ceann Comhairle Seán Treacy
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.
Mr. Barrett Mr. Barrett
Mr. Barrett: I begin by placing on record my appreciation of the positive tone of the contributions made by the Opposition Deputies in the debate so far. The future of the Defence Forces is an important issue. It is an issue which, in the past, may not have received the attention it deserves. It is not, however, an issue which should give rise to major disagreement among the parties in this House. We all share a common objective. There is a consensus about the range of problems facing the Defence Forces. We wish to see these problems dealt with in a positive way so that the Defence Forces can be reorganised and developed to meet the challenges of today. There has been some questioning of the bona fides of the Government in relation to its approach to the report of the Efficiency Audit Group. I would like to make two points in reply.
First, the problems facing the Defence Forces did not materialise out of fresh air in the past couple of months. The difficulties facing the Defence Forces, the rising age profile, the multi-layered system of administration, the imbalance between pay and non-pay spending and so forth have grown up over a long period. During much of that period the Deputies opposite were in Government. I feel obliged to point this out as at least one speaker last night did not seem to be aware of it.
Second, I must remind the House that the Efficiency Audit Group, which was established by the then Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey in 1988, was requested, quite rightly, to conduct an examination of the Defence Forces. It is not as if this Government entered office and headed off on a scalp-hunt with the Defence  Forces as the victim. The process of review was virtually completed by the time this Government took up office. The issue now is how to address the many and wide-ranging recommendations the EAG has made regarding the Defence Forces.
The Minister for Defence has already made it clear that the Government regards this issue as a priority. There are many problem areas to be addressed. Clearly if reform is to succeed, it is important that Defence Forces personnel should feel a sense of involvement in the process. To that end, the Minister is consulting widely with all interested groups, including the representative associations. While it is understandable that there is a certain impatience for a definitive announcement of the details of the programme of reform, there is an overriding need to get this right. Accordingly, the Government, having taken office only in the past few months, will make no apology for giving this issue the detailed attention it deserves. When all the relevant considerations have been taken into account, an integrated plan of action will be drawn up.
I have every confidence that the implementation of a reform programme will prove to be a positive experience for the Defence Forces. It will be the intention of the Government to develop many areas of the Defence Forces. For example, the Army School of Equitation has a long and distinguished record in show-jumping at home and overseas. The school has played a major role in promoting the non-thoroughbred Irish horse. The Minister has asked me to look at ways of developing the school. In particular, I will be addressing the question of ensuring that a continuing supply of horses will be available for competitive teams in the future. I will also be anxious to ensure that the school continues to produce top class riders to represent Ireland in international competitions. I intend working on that matter as quickly as possible. We are all  very proud of the success of our Army riders and the reputation they have built up for this country abroad. They are great ambassadors. I hope the Government will ensure that the Army Equitation School will continue to expand and continue its great work.
The Reserve Defence Forces are another area which merit re-organisation and development. I am encouraged by the fact that the Reserve Defence Force Representative Association has welcomed the prospect of change. The Minister will be meeting their representative association later this week to obtain their views on the future of An Forsa Cosanta Áitúil and An Slua Muirí, the naval reserve. The FCA and An Slua Muirí are often overlooked in the debate about the future of the Defence Forces. Members of the Reserve Defence Forces devote a substantial part of their leisure time during evenings and at weekends to the service of the State. Throughout the country, the FCA and An Slua Muirí play a central part in the community. In any programme of reform of the Defence Forces, the important role played by the reserves will be fully recognised.
It is regrettable in the extreme that, for a variety of reasons, the process of reform in the Defence Forces has been represented in negative terms. The Government wishes it to be clearly understood that the objective of this process is developmental. Our objective is to have a Defence Force which is organised, deployed, staffed and equipped to meet the requirements of the 1990s.
Attempts to denigrate the reform process by references to the EAG review as a cost-cutting campaign are unhelpful in the extreme. It has already been made clear that what is envisaged is a refocusing of resources, not an economy drive. In the course of this debate Deputy Smith referred to the decline in the share of available resources devoted  to equipment. There is no disagreement about the need to address this issue. I am pleased the Deputy seems to agree that a 70/30 split between pay and non-pay expenditure would be more appropriate than the present proportion of 80/20. The present imbalance did not occur today or yesterday; its correction will be a central aim of the reform process. The intention will be to increase the share of resources available for areas such as transport and equipment.
In relation to the age profile of the Defence Forces, there is a clear need to develop an integrated manpower plan. Consideration will have to be given to an early retirement scheme. This problem has worsened gradually over the past number of years and will take time to correct. I would like to emphasise that the Government is mindful of the need to take into account the personal and domestic dimensions involved in any future reorganisation of the Defence Forces. It goes without saying that there will be no compulsory redundancies.
I thank Deputies for their positive remarks about the staff in the Department of Defence and the personnel in the Defence Forces. We can be very proud of the long and good service given by members of the Defence Forces, backed up by the Department. As a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs I had the pleasure of visiting Somalia and Lebanon and I came away from both feeling proud to be Irish and to be involved with such fine men and women who give service to this country and the United Nations.
Mr. Ferris Mr. Ferris
Mr. Ferris: I thank the Minister of State for allowing members of the Labour Party to share his time. A special committee was set up in the Labour Party to work on this matter in consultation with the Minister. The report which came before the previous  Government has not been formally considered by this Government. My colleagues, Deputy Michael Bell, chairman of our parliamentary party, who led a delegation on this matter. Deputies Mulvihill, Penrose and others were most impressed by the fact that the present Minister for Defence already has a great awareness of this subject. He has met the concerns expressed. The Minister is aware of the importance not only of the reorganisation of the Army, which has been requested by Army personnel, but also of providing for a new streamlined unit for the future. He is also aware of the importance of the participation of Army units in barracks throughout the country, and my constituency, South Tipperary, is no exception. We realise the important role the Army's presence plays in Clonmel and the town would be devastated if anything were to happen to Kickham Barracks without the social and other implications being taken into account.
I commend the Minister on his open and frank manner. He is implementing the report and not consigning it to the waste paper basket as predicted, which would be a disservice to those who prepared it. It is imperative that we look at what needs to be done and the Minister has given a commitment to consult the organisations representing Army personnel such as RACCO and PDFORRA. By reaching an agreement through consultation we can streamline the Defence Forces and bring in new blood at the appropriate time. Serving troops will be able to avail of voluntary redundancy commensurate with the service they have given to the State. When phase one has been put into operation we can then consider equipping the force properly for its peacekeeping role. I join the Minister and Minister of State, and the previous Minister of State, in commending the troops who have served with the United Nations; they are a credit to us. We have earned a worldwide reputation for our positive  contribution to peacekeeping. I am satisfied the Minister understands what needs to be done and has the courage to do it but he will have regard to the economic consequences of barrack closures. As he said, no barracks will close during his term of office but he will be taking the first important steps to rationalise the Army and bring it into the 21st century.
Mr. Mulvihill Mr. Mulvihill
Mr. Mulvihill: I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this debate. The Defence Forces, that is the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps, have played a vital role in the life of this State. As a former member of the Naval Service I am keenly aware of the contribution of the Defence Forces.
I congratulate my fellow county man, Deputy Coveney, on his appointment as Minister for Defence and the Marine. I wish him well and believe he will serve to the best of his ability. I congratulate Deputy Barrett on his appointment as Minister of State.
The Defence Forces are facing change but I believe changes must be introduced to upgrade and modernise all aspects of those forces. Together with my Labour Party colleagues I recently met the Minister to discuss the Price Waterhouse report on the future of the Defence Forces. The Minister gave the Labour Party delegation a clear and unequivocal undertaking that no Army barracks would be closed. On behalf of my constituents, many of whom work in the Defence Forces, I welcome that statement as it shows that the Government recognises the social and economic contribution of Army barracks to towns throughout the country. This news has been warmly welcomed by the people of Fermoy who were very concerned about their barracks.
When that report was first leaked in the media during the summer constituents expressed concern about the mass closure of barracks throughout the country. The fundamental flaw of the  report is its narrow focus as those who compiled it used the methodology of an accountant but excluded the knock-on economic and social benefits of barracks to the towns in which they are located.
I take a keen interest in developments affecting the Naval Service. The Naval Service does not get enough credit for the excellent job it does and which is being made increasingly difficult by Spanish fishermen who are allowed to fish in Irish waters. I am sure the Minister is well aware of the situation. I urge him to increase the number in the Naval Service as well as upgrading their equipment. The Minister should also improve the accommodation at Haulbowline. We must modernise the technology and equipment. How can we expect them to do a good job with out-of-date, obsolete equipment? The Naval Service plays an important role in combating the growing drugs problem. I have said that we should establish a national anti-drugs unit which should be based in Haulbowline Naval base comprised of Naval personnel, Customs Officers and gardai. They should have the latest technology such as lightweight craft to patrol the small inlets around our coastline.
The wreck of the Lusitania is located off the Cork coast. The Naval service has stated that it has neither the time nor the manpower to protect it by patrolling the area. I suggest that the Minister deploy An Slua Muirí on a fulltime basis until this problem is sorted out.
Mr. Penrose Mr. Penrose
Mr. Penrose: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I was one of the Labour Party Deputies who met the Minister for Defence. I was reasonably happy with the assurance he gave us on threatened Army barrack closures which seems to have emanated from the Price Waterhouse report. As a person who studied economics I have very strong views on the way reports are formulated. I am totally unhappy with the drip by drip leaks from the Price Waterhouse report, especially those that concentrated on the closure of Army  barracks. The recommendations of this report, if implemented, would have a devastating, negative effect on many rural communities. In addition they would have a devastating impact on the morale of the Defence Forces. It represented an attack on the economic and social contributions of every barracks.
In recent years the decline of many towns and villages has been hastened by cutbacks in public spending. Ask any person living in a small rural town or village about this decline and they will say that the railway stations, small schools, post offices and Garda stations were closed down. A series of closures in any town or village will ultimately result in its demise.
Many people, including politicians, are inclined too often to pay lip-service to the notion of rural regeneration. It is ironic that this is now a buzz word. Rural degeneration is a problem we must tackle. It makes no sense — this is where I differ from the report — to adopt balance sheet type accounting criteria when examining the economic role and social contribution made by an army barracks to a town. I am completely opposed to such methodology on the grounds that it is a fundamentally crude approach. It fails to evaluate the knock-on social effects of such a decision on the community.
Some of the proposals, particularly those dealing with army barracks, are not only one-sided and myopic but a grave threat to the economic livelihood and social fabric of the community. It is ludicrous and incomprehensible that barracks which play a strategic role should be closed down.
There are two major barracks in County Westmeath which illustrate the county's well established, honourable military tradition. Through their service with UNIFIL, the soldiers of Columb Barracks in Mullingar and Custume Barracks in Athlone have made an enormous contribution to the resolution of conflict throughout the world. At home the barracks has made a significant contribution to the growth and development of the two largest towns in  the county. Nowhere epitomises the importance and pro-active participation by the Defence Forces better than the military presence in Mullingar. In financial terms — and this is the crux — the Army base in Mullingar contributes directly an estimated £4 million to the local economy each year. Those who advocate the closure of Army bases have ignored that part of the equation to all intents and purposes. The Department of Defence has been treated as the Cinderella of the public service for far too long. Look at the recruitment figures. It is clear that the lifeblood of the permanent Defence Forces is continued annual recruitment. In 1990 some 648 people were recruited into the permanent Defence Forces and 116 people into the Naval Service. In December 1990, 30 people entered the Naval Service. In December 1991, 50 people were recruited into the Naval Service. However, there was no recruitment into the permanent Defence Forces between 1990 and 1994.
Mr. Power Mr. Power
Mr. Power: A resigning matter.
Mr. Penrose Mr. Penrose
Mr. Penrose: In 1994, 420 people were recruited into the permanent Defence Forces and 80 people into the Naval Service. It is no wonder that the age profile is distorted. We need an annual recruitment campaign. I hope the 1995 campaign will be announced without further delay. Annual recruitment to the permanent Defence Forces should not be sacrificed on the altar of financial rectiude. The Minister should bring forward, in consultation with the relevant representative organisations, an early voluntary retirement package which should go hand in hand with a commitment to a recruitment campaign.
The refurbishment and upgrading of Army barracks should be carried out on a planned basis. The Minister should direct that the recruitment of civilian tradesmen and general operatives be permitted as these people have carried out top class work in the refurbishment, renewal and maintenance areas.
I support the establishment of an  Ombudsman for military officers in the permanent Defence Forces and this could be done by enacting enabling legislation or through the appointment of a deputy Ombudsman.
Mr. E. Byrne Mr. E. Byrne
Mr. E. Byrne: Most countries would consider they owe a debt of gratitude to their Defence Forces and in the case of Ireland there is an international as well as a national debt. We are proud of our forces. They have served with outstanding distinction in countries ranging from the Congo to the Lebanon. All too often, Defence Forces serving internationally do so in an aggressive capacity but our forces have always served abroad in a peacekeeping capacity. It is a tradition of which we are proud and rightly so.
Modern times demand modern responses and the current review of the Defence Forces is designed to equip the Army with the means to meet the challenges not only of the nineties but to bring us into the 21st century. Increasingly, Defence Forces throughout the world take on extra duties in the realms of civil defence, for example, air/sea rescue operations and so on. Many of these duties require specialist technical and managerial skills. I hope the reforms proposed by the Government contain a strong and ongoing training element. We live in an age of specialisation and this applies to the Defence Forces as much as to private enterprise. We must ensure that our Defence Forces keep up with international developments in the relevant fields.
I pay tribute to our Naval Service, which far too often is viewed as the Cinderella of the Defence Forces. Ask any fisherman about his indebtedness to the Naval Service and you will hear him talk in the highest terms——
Miss Coughlan Miss Coughlan
Miss Coughlan: Not in Donegal in June.
Mr. E. Byrne Mr. E. Byrne
Mr. E. Byrne: ——of the service it provides. Changes introduced by the European Union beleaguer the fishing industry and it depends on the Naval  Service to protect its interests. I hope the role of the Naval Service will not only be reviewed but expanded. I welcome the commitment to full consultation. The closed door approach adopted by the previous administration gave rise to the most incredibly exaggerated rumours about wholesale redundancies, barrack closures and the like. These rumours reached their height last autumn and I hope the more open approach adopted by this Government will have allayed some of the fears.
Miss Coughlan Miss Coughlan
Miss Coughlan: Open and shut.
Mr. Power Mr. Power
Mr. Power: Thank you for telling us.
Mr. E. Byrne Mr. E. Byrne
Mr. E. Byrne: One of the most disturbing rumours to emerge last year was that Ireland's international commitment would be scaled down as a result of the review. Some of the bizarre rumours, allowed by Fianna Fáil in Government, had us abandoning our UN commitment altogether. Unlike Fianna Fáil. I urge the Government to ensure that the Defence Forces peacekeeping role is not only maintained but expanded. It is clear that because of our historic neutrality Ireland, together with other countries such as Finland and Fiji, is in a unique position to not only keep but promote peace and reconciliation in other parts of the world.
The review is intended mainly to address management structures. I hope the need for an Ombudsman will be addressed. Senator Sherlock pointed out recently that the structure of the Defence Forces is such that soldiers often feel they have little redress for grievances. The existing grievance procedure lacks transparency and is extremely cumbersome.
The consultation in which the Government is engaged in preparing the proposed reforms must be reflected within the Defence Forces. As a former serving member of the FCA I would  like to give the regular forces and part-time soldiers due credit for their incredible personal commitment and dedication to this nation.
Mr. Power Mr. Power
Mr. Power: I wish to share my time with Deputy Clohessy and my junior colleague Deputy McCreevy. I thank Deputy Penrose for his support for the motion. It is necessary to look at recent reports which addressed defence matters.
The report of the Gleeson Commission was produced in the summer of 1990 and, while concentrating mainly on remuneration and conditions of service, highlighted some organisational and structural deficiencies the Commission suggested should be rectified. The Efficiency Audit Group in 1991 commenced a study involving the examination of the overall organisation of the Department of Defence and, in turn, advanced a number of proposals for its reorganisation. That group undertook a second study the following year, this time examining internal military administration and methods of improving efficiency within the military structure. The EAG decided to commission an independent study by consultants in order to bring that review to a successful conclusion.
It is clear that much time and energy has been expended on examining our Defence Forces. All groups or organisations must adapt and develop to meet the changes of the modern world. Everybody realises that such change is needed and will take place. Members of our Defence Forces recognise this more than anybody else. Any accusation that the Army is reluctant to change must be firmly knocked on the head. However, such changes can be effected only following negotiations with the representatives of the Defence Forces. Surely that is the road we should follow.
Let us examine what has happened to date. The Government has refused to publish this report, leaving the members of our Defence Forces dependent on Tom Brady for information. Is it any wonder they are angry? They have  every right to be. This report must be published to allow an open debate.
On 14 February 1995 the Minister for Defence decided to outline his plans for our Defence Forces on national radio, when he informed the nation that this Government would close down barracks around the country — there appeared to be no doubt in his mind at that point. However, a few hours later, he changed his mind, his backbenchers having made hasty telephone calls informing him that that proposal was not acceptable. The Minister took their advice and decided to issue a further statement. Speaking in this House the following day, 15 February 1995 at column 619 of the Official Report the Minister had this to say:
Before action of any kind can be contemplated on foot of the recommendations of the Efficiency Audit Group it will be necessary to establish an implementation group to prepare a fully costed implementation plan for phase 1 of the proposals. The first phase, covering a period of three years, will not involve the closure of a single barracks. It will concentrate instead on the more fundamental issues in the recommendations. I will not, therefore, be presiding over the closure of any barracks.
I think that used to be called an orderly retreat. In this case, that was much welcomed.
The problem is that none of us can be sure what is the Government's real policy in regard to barrack closures. This Government has treated the Defence Forces with disdain. The report proposed the closure of 17 of the country's barracks and reducing the numbers of defence personnel by 3,000. It is clear the Government is treating this report simply as a cost-cutting exercise. We will not allow this happen. The message going out to many towns is that their barracks will not be closed until after the next election. Does the Minister realise that members of the Defence Forces and their families are living in real fear, knowing that he was really serious when he spoke on “Morning Ireland” on 14 February?
The Army has a major influence on  the sporting and social life of Kildare. It is obvious the Government is not aware of the interaction between members of our Defence Forces and the communities in which they live. For example, on a number of occasions I and my football team, Raheens, have been at the receiving end of that interaction. The Sarsfields football team in Newbridge often included members of the Defence Forces, although I must admit they broke my heart on a number of occasions. In addition, the Suncroft hurling team and the Curragh rugby team enjoyed the same support from Army personnel. My team won a Leinster club championship, having been trained by a Limerick hurler, also a member of the Defence Forces. Today Kildare footballers are pinning their hopes on the shoulders of another Army man from Roscommon, though we shall have to await developments in that respect.
Before the Minister makes any serious decision let me remind him that he is dealing with people, not merely with numbers and pounds. It is nothing short of disgraceful that these Defence Forces families must read the newspapers to ascertain what plans are being drawn up for them by the Departments of Defence and Finance. Last evening the Minister mentioned his consultation with PDFORRA and RACO. Listening to him one could be forgiven for believing that everything in the garden was rosy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consultation must be a two-way process.
The Minister stated last evening he wanted to deal with some apprehensions that have arisen about the review of the Defence Forces. He must accept responsibility for much of this confusion. Unless he publishes this report and enters into real negotiations with representatives of the Defence Forces, progress will not be possible.
The Minister has taken over the reins in the Department of Defence at a most challenging time. He has outlined some of the problems to be tackled, recognising wide agreement on the need for change. While nobody expects him to wave a magic wand and cure all ills overnight, some immediate action is  necessary, none more than a decision to open up recruitment.
I am disappointed to note the Minister's colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Defence, Deputy Seán Barrett, has left the House. When Deputy Andrews, as Minister for Defence, last year initiated recruitment for an additional 500 Army personnel, the then Fine Gael spokesperson on Defence, the same Deputy Séan Barrett, castigated the Minister on his new style of recruitment, referring to the new recruits as the “yellow pack” brigade. Obviously, it did not mean much to the Fine Gael Party at that time but there can be no doubting its positive effect within the Defence Forces.
All reports on the subject recognise the rising age profile of our Defence Forces. The simplest solution to the problem is by way of recruitment. In the Gleeson report the importance of recruitment was fully understood. It stated:
Irrespective of overall manpower limits, the commission is convinced of the need for regular recruitment. In the past there has been stop/go recruitment into the Defence Forces with periods of intensive recruitment followed by periods in which no recruitment took place. This practice has resulted in serious manpower problems, the effects of which will continue to be felt for a number of years to come.
Regardless of what overall manpower limits are agreed, regular recruitment is an absolute necessity and, unless this becomes Government policy, there is no point in talking about a highly trained, well-armed mobile force. Recruitment is the lifeblood of an Army. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that his colleague, the Minister for Finance, does not have his way and to insist that proper funding is provided for regular recruitment. It would appear that the Labour Minister for Defence does not fully appreciate what recruitment means to our Defence Forces. I wish the Minister good luck in that battle, which he must win.
 The Government has yet to show its real commitment to the Defence Forces, as a result of which morale is fairly low. The Army Apprentice School at Devoy Barracks in Naas, has a capacity for 60 apprentices, and is a typical example of the Government's lack of commitment, yet how many apprentices are there? Fifteen are to be taken on this year. Anybody familiar with Devoy Barracks will be aware that this is a school with a tremendous record. I am disgusted at the manner in which the Government is allowing this barracks to be run down. There is no other place where apprentices can obtain better training. The teachers there have produced some marvellous people and trainees from Devoy Barracks have won many international awards. At a time when so many other semi-State bodies, such a Bord na Móna, CIE and others have ceased recruiting apprentices, the opportunities of young people to learn a trade are becoming ever fewer. The role of the Army Apprentice School at Devoy Barracks should be expanded. Is it not ironic that we appear prepared to throw money at any scheme that will take people off the live register, yet an apprentice school that has withstood the test of time, would appear to be facing closure?
On many occasions I have appealed in this House for major investment in the Curragh, the ideal training ground for an Army which must be developed as such. Unfortunately, through lack of funding, many of the buildings and houses there have become very decrepit. Unless major funding is allocated for the Curragh, they will have to close the complex because many of its buildings will collapse. I say that in all sincerity because, as a public representative for Kildare, I find it very embarrassing that the Curragh has been so neglected. I do not attach blame to the new Minister. The barracks at the Curragh is in a poor state because Governments down through the years have neglected it. I suggest that there is no Army barracks in Ireland more in need of renovation than the Curragh. There will no doubt be savings in the area of  defence as a result of the peace process. I appeal to the Minister to direct those savings to the plains of Kildare. I am aware he has a difficult job, but money will have to be found as the Army Barracks at the Curragh needs the kind of refurbishment that will require major expenditure.
I fully recognise that some of the necessary changes in the Defence Forces will be painful but I appeal to the Minister to negotiate with the representatives of the Defence Forces before decisions are made. Reform must take place in an acceptable manner while at the same time the best qualities of our Defence Forces must be preserved. For the good of our country let us play our part in improving the structure and capabilities of our Defence Forces. I call on all Deputies to support the motion.
Mr. McCreevy Mr. McCreevy
Mr. McCreevy: This is the first opportunity I have had to congratulate the new Minister for Defence, Deputy Coveney. I wish him well in his onerous portfolio and I am sure he will be an excellent Minister. I am sure he will learn, as I have, that commonsense, business acumen and decision making will not always be appreciated by all his colleagues. However, the Minister has my good wishes and, perhaps, condolences in that regard.
Having been in Government, I am aware that when cutbacks have to be made in overall expenditure figures, it is inevitable that a few million pounds will be cut from the Defence Estimate because it is regarded as being low on the list of priorities. If it is a decision between cutting expenditure for the Health Estimate or the Defence Estimate, the Defence Estimate will lose out. I expect it was that attitude that led to matters in the Defence Forces being so bad in 1989. For a number of years prior to that, particularly between 1982 and 1987, due to the constraints on public expenditure successive Government probably adopted that principle also with the result that my party, in particular, because it has been in power from only 1987 to 1989, found the chill wind  of Army opposition blowing against it at the time of a general election.
My party, rightly or wrongly, has always been perceived, at least in Kildare and probably in other counties, as having been good for the Army but, by 1989 Army personnel had come to the end of their tether and we paid a heavy price nationally. Deputy Power and I were lucky that we did not pay the price but the resentment probably denied Fianna Fáil the opportunity of securing an overall majority, or near it, on that occasion. The most alarming thing at that time was not that my party had to pay a heavy political price, but that in the course of the election campaign, for the first time in my political experience in County Kildare, everyone connected with the Army from high ranking Army officers to NCOs and their wives all were of the one opinion, that was, that they were being neglected. The former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, who formed the incoming Government with the Progressive Democrats, recognised that during the course of the election campaign. Through the Gleeson Commission, and with the assistance of Deputy Lenihan, he set about repairing the damage. Even though the position was not made public at the time, I conveyed to the then Taoiseach its seriousness and implications for the State. I cannot remember the matter being raised on either side of the House then but it may have been mentioned outside it. We should have learned a lesson in that we were perceived as not appreciating the Army until its members had created a racket.
We have been lucky in this State, that, irrespective of what party was in power, Army personnel from top to bottom have never made overtures to political parties. We should aim to keep it that way. Organisations, such as PDFORRA and RACO emerged from the discontent and have worked well. The Government must ensure that morale in the Army remains high. The discoutent in 1989 was the result of the neglect of successive Governments. We should learn from that and not adopt  the attitude that we have a great Army on which we can call when necessary and then ignore.
As my colleague, Deputy Power said, there are three Army barracks in Kildare but if they are not refurbished will soon to fall down. I cannot understand why the Army headquarters has not been located at the Curragh. Successive Governments have ignored the fact that it is the best location for that purpose. I am not being parochial or constituency-minded in saying that. As we are aware, from the decentralisation of other Government Departments many civil servants, their spouses and families, have vested interests in not relocating. The same applies to Army personnel. I say to the Minister that this is not a pie in the sky aspiration and should be seriously considered.
There is an Army tradition in County Kildare. I am aware that up to eight years ago it was common to find members of three generations of a family in the Army. That has been the tradition in other counties also. When people reached recruitment age they were able to enlist and become part of a proud family tradition. Due to necessary cutbacks in public expenditure in the 1980s and to restraints imposed by successive Governments, that tradition has declined. Even though some criticism has been levelled at the former Minister, Deputy Andrews, for recruiting applicants on short term contracts, that is better than no recruitment. I wish the new Minister well. I am aware he has a difficult task, but he should recognise appropriate parameters in making decisions and try to have his Government colleagues, consider the points I have made.
It has been suggested that some of the buildings on the Curragh could be converted into a home or hospital for old soldiers. I am aware that such a possibility has been explored by the Department and the Army. I hope there will be some such development. The Government must realise the need for a revitalised Army.
Mr. Clohessy Mr. Clohessy
 Mr. Clohessy: My party and I fully support the motion tabled by Deputy Michael Smith. The members of our Defence Forces are among the unsung heroes and heroines of Irish society. They are our last line of defence in the face of terrorism and lawlessness. While we all hope and pray that the ceasefire in Northern Ireland will be permanent, we must never forget the vital role played by the men and women of our Defence Forces in combating terrorism over the past quarter of a century. They have served us well. People usually ignore or forget about the Army, Navy or Air Corps until there is a strike in a key service area affecting petrol deliveries, refuse collections or closing electricity stations. Then the cry on everyone's lips is “bring in the Army”. In the past, Army personnel have done vital emergency work keeping essential public services operating. The Air Corps is constantly engaged in life-saving operations on and off-shore and its personnel have often risked their safety to save life in rescue operations at sea.
There is also the vital peacekeeping work our Army has performed in trouble spots from the Lebanon to Somalia and Bosnia. Its daily work is essential to law and order in that it helps to secure and safeguard cash-in-transit consignments. The presence of armed soldiers is a vital deterrent to vicious gangsters. Much of that work is humdrum, routine and unpleasant. Manning Border checkpoints in all kinds of weather and at all hours of the day and night is not interesting and can be dangerous but is essential to the security and welfare of the State.
I make these points because there is a tendency to take the Defence Forces for granted. They are the Cinderella arm of the State — often ignored and generally under-resourced. This is underlined by the fact that the strength of the regular Army is 30 per cent below establishment. That is unsatisfactory and disturbing. For all those reasons, on behalf of the Progressive Democrats, I  welcome the initiative of the Government's Efficiency Audit Group in undertaking a major review of the operations of the Defence Forces. Its report, and more particularly the report of the consultant the Efficiency Audit Group commissioned, known as the Price Waterhouse report, provides the basis for a comprehensive debate on the nature, functions and future of the Army. This is an initiative welcomed by everyone in the Army, and people generally who are concerned about the future of our Defence Forces. It is most unfortunate that the leaking of the Price Waterhouse report last year, and the alarmist reporting surrounding it, should have generated so much concern and anxiety, not only within all ranks of the Army, but in the barracks towns where our Army is housed.
To underline this, one has only to recall the directive from the then Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Bergin, last August, in which he expressed his concern regarding the “damage to the morale and operational effectiveness of our personnel, both at home and overseas, which has been caused by the leak of the confidential consultant's report, and the related media comment and speculation”. That is a matter about which everyone concerned with law and order here should be concerned.
More significant, in the context of the findings of the Price Waterhouse consultant, was Chief of Staff Bergin's comments in that letter to all ranks that he, along with the Adjutant General and the Quartermaster General, regarded many of the key recommendations as “impractical, unworkable and potentially inhibiting to the maintenance of the operational capacity and future development of the Forces”. This is a serious conclusion by the three key men charged with running the Army and it continues to have particular significance given that the then Quartermaster General, Gerry McMahon, is now the Army Chief of Staff.
 Given the seriousness of how some of the key proposals in the Price Waterhouse report are viewed by the Army, it was unfortunate that the Minister for Defence, Deputy Coveney, should have recently ploughed in and at least given the impression that he would take unilateral action in implementing some of the more sensitive and controversial recommendations of the consultants. Since then the Minister has adopted a more reasonable and responsible line and has rightly indicated a willingness to have full discussions and consultations with the representatives of the various branches of the Defence Forces and especially with their representative bodies RACO and PDFORRA. I welcome the Minister's statement last night that he will meet these bodies tomorrow. I wonder whether the timing of these meetings has anything to do with the tabling of the motion before the House.
Mr. Coveney Mr. Coveney
Mr. Coveney: It has not.
Mr. Clohessy Mr. Clohessy
Mr. Clohessy: That is as it should be. The Progressive Democrats have no difficulty in supporting the proposal before the House urging the Government to “consult adequately with the representatives of the Defence Forces on the implications of the EAG Report on the relevance of the Defence Forces before decisions are implemented”. As I understand it, the representative bodies have no difficulty in participating in a major review of the operations of the Defence Forces but they rightly point out that a range of considerations have to be assessed and carefully balanced. In other words, it is not simply an accountancy issue of how much money can be spent on the Defence Forces but the social impact of whatever programme of changes is undertaken must also be taken into account.
In fairness to the EAG in its report to Government, it recommends that “this reform programme should be developed with the full involvement of the Military Authorities”. Since that is the case, and given that the leaders of the Army  believe that some of the Price Waterhouse recommendations could adversely affect the operational capacity of the Army we have to be careful how we move forward.
Many of the Price Waterhouse recommendations are sensible and appropriate and should be implemented. I understand from some of the representatives of the Defence Forces that up to two-thirds of the 90 or so recommendations, dealing with matters such as operational and administrative matters, are generally acceptable and should be implemented. Clearly, the contentious issues are the overall size of the Army; the brigade structure — whether one, two or three brigades; the size of the Army, which is directly linked to the number of brigades and the future of some of the 34 permanent barracks and posts occupied by the Army.
The Efficiency Audit Group recommends that a separate study be undertaken on the emotive subject of what it delicately calls “a programme of rationalisation of the use of facilities”, which most of us understand as barracks closures.
I welcome the commitment by the Minister in the House last night that this special study will be undertaken. This is a difficult issue involving many complexities. Army barracks represent a vital economic lifeline to provincial towns. I am aware of the important role played by Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick city and its vital contribution to life in Limerick.
I hope the current debate on the future of our Defence Forces, stemming from the Efficiency Audit Group report, will result in a comprehensive Government policy on the role and future of the force. This is something we have never had in the history of the State. All sides in this debate accept the need for comprehensive change. There must be an attractive early retirement scheme to improve the overall age profile of the Army.
 Major changes are essential in light of redefining the key role of the Army away from defence of the State against outside aggression, giving greater priority to its current operational role in aid of the Garda, especially in maintaining internal State security, in participating in UN peace-keeping operations, providing fishery protection services and other functions such as air-sea rescue.
All sides are agreed that there is no question of standing still in the operations of the Defence Forces. Major change is essential and must be made carefully and sensitively, in the context of full consultation with all the relevant people and representative agencies, from the military authorities to the various Army representative organisations, and the wider community.
Mr. Dukes Mr. Dukes
Mr. Dukes: This motion in the names of Deputies Michael Smith and Power focuses on only one aspect of the EAG report, that is the location of barracks. It seems to set out to whip up fears and to exploit them for short term political purposes. It is not concerned with the effectiveness of the permanent Defence Forces or the welfare of the members of the force. It is cynical scaremongering by the two Deputies. I am astonished that Deputy Power, who is a decent and honourable person, would associate himself with that. I can only conclude that he has been led into error by Deputy Smith.
I wish to remind the Deputies opposite that the terms of reference given to the EAG by the former Fianna Fáil Minister for Defence, Deputy David Andrews, specifically provided that the study should have “a particular reference to geographical locations”. I would also remind them that a new statement of roles for the permanent Defence Force was announced by the then Minister, Deputy David Andrews, on 21 September 1993. That statement of roles was announced without any reference to the House, notwithstanding the provisions of Articles 15.6 and 28.3 of the Constitution. That was a serious  omission by the then Minister and I invite the Deputies to look at the terms of those two Articles of the Constitution.
Mr. E. Ryan Mr. E. Ryan
Mr. E. Ryan: It is almost as bad as the budget leaks.
Mr. Dukes Mr. Dukes
Mr. Dukes: The new statement of roles for the Defence Forces emphasised the need to focus primarily on the on-island threat of armed aggression on a contingent basis. While this substantial change in the mission statement of our permanent Defence Force was very welcome and long overdue, it had fundamental implications for the structure of our Defence Forces and their distribution. I have not heard any of the Deputies opposite make reference to those considerations during this debate. I invite them to tell the House, if they can, how they think our Defence Forces could fulfil the role set out for them in 1993 on the basis of a distribution of barracks and other military posts determined at various stages between the 15th and 18th centuries. I invite them to tell the public — it would be convulsed with helpless laughter if it ever tried to listen to them — how that role could be carried out on the basis of a distribution of military posts and personnel designed for the needs of armies of occupation which moved about on foot, horseback or in horsedrawn wagons.
Deputies opposite may not yet have realised it but it is a long time since the Garda Síochána moved away from the distribution of barracks which was decided for the RIC and the Dublin Metropolitan Police. Deputy Power occasionally passes a splendid old RIC barracks on the Curragh, Herbert House. No one would ever pretend that there should be a Garda station at that location but it was needed there during the 18th and 19th centuries to quell the occasional rebellious moments of Deputy Power's forebears in the land surrounding the Curragh. Are we to conclude that the Fianna Fáil Party wants our permanent Defence Force to  stay rooted in the 18th century? Will it explain how this is relevant to the needs of the country today and how it would help us to continue to make the kind of contribution to UN peacekeeping of which we are all so rightly proud?
Mr. Martin Mr. Martin
Mr. Martin: The Deputy should read the motion.
Mr. Dukes Mr. Dukes
Mr. Dukes: I hope the House will have an opportunity to debate the EAG report. So much of the document has been leaked and so much mischief has been stirred up by partial leaks that it would do all of us, in particular, the Defence Forces good if we knew exactly what we were dealing with. I know what I am talking about because some months ago when Deputy David Andrews was Minister a somewhat incomplete copy of the report fell off the back of a lorry in my immediate vicinity. Although it does not suit them to admit it, Deputies opposite will not be surprised to hear that a great many more important matters are dealt with in the report than have been mentioned by them in the debate.
Mr. E. Ryan Mr. E. Ryan
Mr. E. Ryan: Fine Gael uses a fax.
Mr. Dukes Mr. Dukes
Mr. Dukes: I invite them to reflect on the following points. We need a permanent Defence Force which is more flexible, composed of larger units, capable of rapid deployment, with high mobility and a better teeth-to-tail ratio than the present force. The Army needs armoured personnel carriers, additional trucks and more ranger training much more than it needs mouldering buildings which in many cases cost more to keep than they are worth. We need to maintain our capacity to contribute to the UN. I have reason to believe that PDFORRA and RACO agree more with me — perhaps in private — than we have heard so far.
If we are interested in maintaining a UN service, we should reflect on why there is such a high level of interest among the serving members of our Defence Forces to participate in these operations. Real soldiers want action.  They do not want to be square-bashing or peeling potatoes which is what the tacticians opposite would be consigned to if they ever joined the Army on the basis of what has been proposed here.
Mr. Davern Mr. Davern
Mr. Davern: On whom would we declare war?
Miss Coughlan Miss Coughlan
Miss Coughlan: I wish to share my time with Deputies Eoin Ryan, Martin and Davern.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Joe Jacob
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Miss Coughlan Miss Coughlan
Miss Coughlan: This is the first opportunity I have had to congratulate the Minister on his appointment. I do not know how he will reconcile his Marine and Defence portfolios during June. I will wait until then to see how he manages.
As usual, Deputy Dukes went off on a tangent. Maybe he was outlining Fine Gael policy on the Defence Forces and, if so, it was an absolute insult.
Mr. Dukes Mr. Dukes
Mr. Dukes: Soldiers want an Army which works.
Miss Coughlan Miss Coughlan
Miss Coughlan: With all due respect, I come from a county where the Army has been working since 1969.
Much reference has been made to the need for change within the Defence Forces. Nobody would disagree with this but it can be brought about only by real action, not consultants' report. The role of the Defence Forces has evolved without due cognisance of the need to provide adequate resources to address their changing needs. One of the major requirements of the Defence Forces is human resources. While everyone agrees with the reduction in the age profile, the absence of a comprehensive recruitment policy in recent years has caused many difficulties and many young recruits do not know if they will be kept on after their five year contract. Will there be any permanent jobs in the Defence Forces and will men and  women be able to have a career? Will the Minister give a guarantee that there will be continual recruitment to the Defence Forces? What remedies does he propose to redress the age imbalance?
While there have been many rumours about redundanc, packages, we do not know the eligibility criteria, the amount to be paid or whether the redundancies will be imposed or voluntary. It is important to nip these rumours in the bud and address this issue as a matter of urgency. We do not want to create any uncertainty within the Defence Forces where morale is quite good at present. I ask the Minister to consult the representatives of the Defence Forces before taking any decisions.
There are approximately 300 people, members of the Defence Forces and civilians, working in Finner Camp in my constituency. This camp provides employment for approximately 200 families in Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo and Donegal. While there has been a welcome investment in the camp, we are looking for additional investment. The air-sea rescue service is also located there. The closure of the barracks would be detrimental not only to the Ballyshannon area but to the west and north west. The people who work in the barracks cannot be transferred to Athlone, the nearest barracks to them. It would be imprudent and ill-advised to close Border barracks. Despite the peace dividend, a rash decision to close barracks would catch us off guard and leave us ill prepared, as we were in 1969. The Defence Forces are an integral part of the community in which I live. People in Donegal want our barracks to remain open but they also want a modern, well equipped force and to obtain that I call on the Minister to ensure there is open and meaningful dialogue on this matter.
Mr. E. Ryan Mr. E. Ryan
Mr. E. Ryan: I also congratulate the Minister on his appointment. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the Defence Forces who have served us well at home and abroad. Nobody is saying that the Army should not change; of course it  should, and be flexible and mobile. The motion calls on the Minister to consult the Army. I understand the report of the Efficiency Audit Group, which is about to be placed before the Government for decision, is primarily based on the Price Waterhouse consultant's report which was leaked to the media in August 1994. It became obvious at that time that there was a fundamental difference of opinion between the military general staff and the remainder of the steering group to whom Price Waterhouse reported. Those difficulties were so serious that the military general staff felt compelled to make an independent submission to the Efficiency Audit Group. In addition the then general staff issued a letter to all units of the Defence Forces stating that many of the comments and recommendations in the report are impractical, unworkable and potentially inhibiting to the maintenance of the operational capacity and future development of the force.
As the Minister is aware, the present Chief of Staff was a member of the general staff who issued that letter. Consequently, there appears to be a serious conflict between the general staff and the Minister in regard to the best way forward. Having regard to the Efficiency Audit Group's plans for Dublin where — excluding the headquarters of the Defence Forces — there are more than 1,500 military personnel, I concur with the views of the general staff. I hope this is not another attack on permanent jobs in Dublin city because we have lost too many already through decentralisation. Under the present Price Waterhouse and Efficiency Audit Group proposals approximately 700 jobs would be axed.
While the Minister may not close any military barracks during the first phase of implementation, by implementing recommendations of a fundamentally flawed report he will force the next Government to do his dirty work. How can the Minister stand over his decision given that it is in direct conflict with the general staff the Government recently appointed?
Mr. Martin Mr. Martin
 Mr. Martin: Our motion is constructive. It calls for consultation with all parties and an end to the uncertainty created by statements from the Minister in this House and publicly about implementing the recommendations of the report of the Efficiency Audit Group. Talk of phased implementation of the report's recommendations and of no closure of barracks for three years does not help the Army, the Navy or others who may be concerned. It merely adds to the uncertainty. Interim measures at this stage will determine, shape and, to a certain extent, tie the hands of future Administrations. People are suspicious that, in the context of a damage limitation exercise, the Government is endeavouring to get by until the next general election so that the next Administration will have to make the difficult decisions in this regard.
We need decisions now and for that reason the report should be published. I am surprised it was not published in advance of this debate. We have all heard about the selective leaks, people being in possession of the document and so on but, in the interest of transparency and all concerned, the report should be published. Furthermore, not enough consideration has been given to the serious implications of the report for the Naval service. I understand the report recommends a reduction in the strength of the Navy, which is already below required levels.
As a man of the sea, I urge the Minister to give particular priority to the Navy as a total of 16 per cent of European waters is now within its remit. In an effort to combat the illegal importation of drugs the Navy should be given powers of arrest. I call on the Minister to publish the report and to give greater priority to the Navy in the overall scheme of things.
Mr. Davern Mr. Davern
Mr. Davern: I, too, congratulate the Minister on his appointment as Minister for Defence and compliment him on his initiative regarding the Army Equitation School. While we are all very proud of that school, no Member — not  even Deputy Dukes — referred to it tonight.
Mr. Dukes Mr. Dukes
Mr. Dukes: I prefer to ride horses than talk about them.
Mr. Davern Mr. Davern
Mr. Davern: Deputy Dukes is a friend of the bookies, not the horses. I welcome the Minister's initiative in this regard and hope that more people, such as his fellow Corkman, Noel C. Duggan, will consider leasing horses to the Army. I compliment Noel C. Duggan on leasing a horse to the Army and hope that trend continues. From the time of Colonel Gerry O'Dwyer to Colonel Ringrose today we have been very proud of our Army Equitation School. It has been one of the biggest selling points of the Irish horse abroad. There were many great Irish horses, such as Loch an Easpuig and Rockbarton. Today many of our great horses are not identifiable as being Irish because their names are changed by their new owners abroad. I hope the Minister adheres to his commitment in regard to the Army Equitation School.
It is regrettable that Deputy Dukes announced the Minister's policy tonight. The Deputy wants to close every barracks, regardless of the social consequences. I am not ashamed of being parochial on this matter. I will not tolerate the closure of Kickham Barracks, Clonmel, the only military barracks in County Tipperary. I represent not only the military personnel of that barracks but their wives and families and support its social and the commercial aspects. Deputy Dukes outlined what the Army and public believe the Minister will do, namely, close barracks all over the country. What the Minister is saying is  that he will not do this immediately, but following the next general election that is what will happen. That is the interpretation of what the Minister is saying and it is causing great uncertainty in the Army. People wishing to leave the Army are considering staying on for another year or so to avail of the package when it comes. The uncertainty is also preventing young people from enlisting because they do not know if the barracks to which they will be assigned will be open in a few years' time. They are fearful of being sent to a barracks outside their area. The tradition of localised Army may vanish causing much uncertainty among its personnel.
I ask the Minister to review the situation as the Army is vital to the social and economic life of many towns, particularly those that have been hard hit by unemployment, factory closures——
Mr. Davern Mr. Davern
Mr. Davern: Deputy Dukes is the bookies' friend. He is certainly not a friend of the Army Equitation Centre at the Curragh. He has not done a thing for it. He has done nothing for Kildare but wants everything in Kildare closed——
Mr. Davern Mr. Davern
Mr. Davern: I am not a bit ashamed to be parochial. It is fair enough if Deputy Dukes wants to be above that. I know what I was sent here to do and I will do it on behalf of my people and my area.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 76; Níl, 70.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Barrett and Ferris; Níl, Deputies D. Ahern and Callely.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Dáil Éireann 450 Private Members' Business. Defence Forces Review: Motion (Resumed).