Wednesday, 22 October 2008
Question 17: To ask the Minister for Defence if he will honour the commitment he made to the 12 families who have been living in Cathal Brugha barracks married quarters for more than 30 years in view of the recent notice to vacate the houses issued by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35951/08]
Question 42: To ask the Minister for Defence the situation regarding the married quarters at Cathal Brugha barracks, Dublin; if he will report on the meeting held with the residents on 23 September 2008; the options available to the existing residents; his plans to achieve a solution favourable to all concerned; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34616/08]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 42 together.
Defence Forces married quarters are provided to serving members until their retirement or resignation. Defence Forces regulations state the quarters must be vacated within 15 days of leaving the service. The current situation has arisen as a result of a failure to do so.
Following previous attempts to resolve the situation regarding the unauthorised occupation of the quarters in question, a letter was sent to the occupiers on 11 September 2008 as a first stage in commencing a process of dialogue. The occupiers were requested to make arrangements to vacate the premises and to make alternative arrangements for their accommodation as soon as possible, but no later than the end of October 2008. On 18 September, a further letter issued to the occupiers inviting them to a meeting with the Department on 23 September. At that meeting they were informed the deadline was not set in stone and that my Department would, if at all possible, welcome the opportunity to work with them to achieve a solution favourable to all parties. It seems all occupiers wish to purchase the quarters.
My officials undertook to review the possibility of selling to the occupiers and a further meeting has been scheduled for the end of October. It is hoped substantial progress will be made by that time to facilitate a solution that meets the needs of both the occupiers and the Defence Forces. I am encouraged that the process of dialogue has commenced and hope it will come to a satisfactory conclusion.
Given that the families concerned have occupied these houses for the last 30 years, the letter of 11 September was most insensitive. It was a strange way of commencing dialogue to tell the families that they must vacate their homes by October. That is not good practice. Given that the people concerned are now to be given an opportunity to purchase their homes, will the Minister ensure that enough time and every assistance is afforded to them in securing finance, which may be difficult to do in the current climate? The matter should be put in abeyance for a time to allow all concerned to purchase their homes. In the event that some — probably only a small number — are not in position to do so, will the Minister afford them further opportunity by lengthening the period of time available to them?
The decision to allow the residents to purchase their homes represents a welcome step forward in addressing their concerns. Will the Minister confirm that he will be in a position to allow them so to do? Is he confident he can resolve this issue without the need for the families to be dislocated?
I agree with Deputy Deenihan that the first letter may have been a tad insensitive. When it was brought to my attention, a second letter issued. A meeting with the families is to take place towards the end of October. I am aware of the difficulties for people in securing loans in the current economic climate. I assure Deputies Deenihan and Andrews that I will instruct my officials to be as reasonable and sensitive as they can and to do everything possible to assist these people to purchase their homes.