PDFORRA 'very sceptical' of Dept's plans to overhaul Haulbowline accommodation for sailors

PDFORRA 'very sceptical' of Dept's plans to overhaul Haulbowline accommodation for sailors

The organisation which represents enlisted personnel in the Defence Forces says it's "very sceptical" about the Department of Defence's claim that it will address the accommodation crisis at Naval Service headquarters "as a matter of urgency".

PDFORRA's president Mark Keane said plans to convert a Victorian-era block at Haulbowline Island were drawn up in 2014 and since then nothing had happened, even though more and more sailors are now sleeping on ships.

As far back as March 1992, the then Defence Forces Quartermaster General (equivalent today to a Deputy Chief of Staff) recommended that accommodation at military barracks should be adequate and "aspire to the standard within the civilian community generally".

Latest figures obtained from Defence Forces sources show more than 70 sailors are sleeping on ships at the naval base.

Many are young and so poorly paid they can't afford soaring rents and have no choice but to live on board the vessels they crew.

Personnel working on the naval base have traditionally sought houses in the Cobh and Carrigaline because of their proximity to Haulbowline, but the cost of rent in those areas has risen considerably.

The Department of Defence has declined to comment on the figure obtained by the Irish Examiner.

However, on foot of a previous story in this newspaper about the growing numbers sleeping on ships, the Department of Defence issued a statement saying it would address the matter: "The Department and the Minister (Paul Kehoe) are keen to address issues pertaining to accommodation in Haulbowline."

It said it plans to invest in an accommodation block in Haulbowline "and it is intended that this project will be progressed as a matter of urgency in the coming weeks'.

It did not provide a timeline for the start and completion of construction, but even if work was started today it could take two to three years to complete.

Mr Keane said his association was "sceptical" and wanted to know if a feasibility survey was being carried out with regard to the proposed accommodation and if it will contain single rooms or be dormitory style.

"We want to know the proposed start and completion and if those living on ships get priority to relocate to this accommodation," he said.

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