Dáil debates

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Other Questions

Defence Forces Property.

4:00 pm

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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Question 6: To ask the Minister for Defence the quantity of land, its location and the funding received that was allocated to other Departments or State agencies for below market value between 2000 and the end of 2006; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2773/07]

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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The Government decided on 1 July 2003 that Magee Barracks, Kildare, and lands at Gormanston Camp, County Meath, would be among the State property released to the relevant local authorities for inclusion in the Sustaining Progress affordable housing initiative. On 16 December 2003 the Government agreed to the release of approximately two acres of lands at the Camp Field, Collins Barracks, Cork, for inclusion in the initiative, as well as 2.5 acres at St. Bricin's Military Hospital, Dublin. The latter site was transferred to Dublin City Council in December 2006 as specified by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government for a nominal consideration.

How land at the remaining three locations might play a role in the delivery of the housing initiative is a matter in the first instance for the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, which is the lead Department for the development of the affordable housing initiative. The legal formalities relating to the transfer of lands at these locations are being progressed in consultation with that Department and the Chief State Solicitor's office.

As part of the Government decision to close and sell six barracks in 1998, it was decided to make provision for a contribution to local communities in the areas involved. In this context, arising from the sale of Murphy Barracks, Ballincollig, comprising approximately 150 acres, an area comprising approximately 27 acres is being transferred free of charge to Cork County Council for community use.

In addition, an area comprising approximately seven acres at Devoy Barracks, Naas, County Kildare, was ceded free of charge to Naas Urban District Council for community purposes at the time of the closure of the barracks. A further 14 acres were sold to that authority for approximately €8.9 million while the balance of the barrack lands, one acre, was sold to Kildare County Council for approximately €400,000 in 2002. Finally, an area comprising approximately 19.2 acres at the former Fitzgerald Camp, Fermoy, was sold to Cork County Council in 2001 for approximately €1 million for economic development of the site in conjunction with IDA Ireland.

As part of a separate arrangement an area comprising approximately ten acres at Ringaskiddy was transferred from my Department to the Department of Education and Science in 2002 as a site for the National Maritime College. There was no transfer of funds involved as the lands were made available as my Department's capital contribution to the development of a project which is used jointly by the Naval Service and the Cork Institute of Technology.

The Government decided in 2000 that Spike Island, County Cork, would be transferred to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The island, which had been under the administration of that Department since 1985, was formally transferred in 2002 for a nominal consideration of approximately €65,000.

A small area comprising approximately 0.25 acres at Castlebar Military Barracks, County Mayo, was dedicated to Castlebar Town Council in 2004 for use as a car park and pedestrian facilities for a nominal consideration.

From time to time land at various locations has been dedicated to local authorities to allow for projects such as road widening or realignment schemes.

Photo of Billy TimminsBilly Timmins (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Does the Minister agree that it is difficult for the Ministry of Defence to obtain funding at the Cabinet table? The sale of property is one way money can be found for reinvestment in refurbishing buildings and procuring equipment, which has happened in recent years. Much of the portfolio of lands listed by the Minister was sold undervalue. He probably will not be around much longer to do so but it is important to make clear to the Minister for Finance that much money which could have been reinvested in equipment and facilities for the Defence Forces has gone to other Departments with nothing in exchange. I do not know what percentage of the true value was achieved in these deals but it seems nominal in many cases, to the detriment of the Defence Forces. I call on the Minister to bear that in mind when he next seeks funding from the Minister for Finance for much needed equipment and refurbishment work for the Defence Forces.

Will the Minister comment on the progress of the proposal by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to build a prison at Kilworth Camp? How much land would be required? The Thornton Hall purchase on the north side of Dublin was controversial and costly. Does the Minister know how much land must be given to the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to build this facility?

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Traditionally, it has been difficult for the Department of Defence to get money at the Cabinet table, but we have moved on from that situation. Last year, more than €1 billion was spent in the defence Estimate for the first time. Since 1997, sales of land re-invested in equipment and buildings have amounted to more than €90 million. We continue to keep the situation under review.

The matter of land transferred at nominal or below value or for free falls into two categories, both of which result from Government decisions. In 1998, when the Government decided to sell six barracks, it also decided to make some of that valuable land available for public use, such as amenity areas, etc. The decision was welcomed widely on all sides of the House and it has been followed through. In 2003, the Department of Defence, one of the land-owning Departments, was instructed to provide some lands to assist the social and affordable housing initiative. This was laudable and everyone considered it a good idea. Anyone who attended last year's military parade saw how much state-of-the-art equipment the Army has. The investment in equipment and improving barracks throughout the country, which has run into tens of millions of euro in recent years, will continue.

Regarding Kilworth, the amount of land in question is approximately 50 acres to 100 acres. It is a loose figure. As Deputy Timmins knows, we own several thousand acres at Kilworth. A joint working group has been established between the Departments of Defence and Justice, Equality and Law Reform to draft proposals. I am advised that, as we speak, the group is examining the site in Kilworth.

Photo of Billy TimminsBilly Timmins (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is in his JCB and wellingtons.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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The working group.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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Does the Minister agree that the sale of Clancy Barracks was a disastrous deal for his Department? Dublin City Council made a bid, but it was quoted an asking price of £40 million, which was more than it could afford. In 2004, the land was sold for €25 million to Florence Properties Limited, a private developer, but it has not been developed. Some 13.65 acres beside Heuston Station is worth at least €50 million.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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Yes.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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The Department of Defence would not make it available for less than £40 million to the local authority, which wanted to build social and affordable housing, but it sold it for almost half the price to a private developer.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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I do not know the details of the case. It occurred before I entered the Department of Defence.

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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I would not attempt to blame the Minister, but would he agree that a deal of that nature is a disaster?

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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I am unaware of the details. I would need to hear both sides of the story. I must talk to my officials before agreeing or disagreeing, but I will make inquiries. Was it Clancy Barracks?

Photo of Joe CostelloJoe Costello (Dublin Central, Labour)
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Yes. The Minister can take it that all 52 members of Dublin City Council agreed that Clancy Barracks should be bought for the benefit of the citizens of Dublin so that social and affordable housing could be constructed. The Defence Forces and the Department of Defence put a price of £40 million on it, exorbitant at the time, but it was sold for €25 million shortly afterwards to a private developer who has not yet turned a sod on the site.

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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My constituents are in dire need of social and affordable housing. I appreciate that the Minister is directed by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to dispose of military barracks in some cases, but would he be prepared to make a case for Cathal Brugha Barracks to be made available to my constituency of Dublin South East? That good gesture on his part would be appreciated.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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Does the Deputy mean sell Cathal Brugha Barracks or make some of the land available?

Photo of John GormleyJohn Gormley (Dublin South East, Green Party)
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The latter. For social and affordable housing.

Photo of Willie O'DeaWillie O'Dea (Minister, Department of Defence; Limerick East, Fianna Fail)
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We keep our property portfolio under constant review. What we dispose of is regarded as surplus to requirements at a particular time. If the Deputy wishes, I will examine the barracks to determine whether any land is surplus to requirements and communicate with him.