Reserve forces cost €3.2m to run as barracks close

It cost in excess of €3m to run the Reserve Defence Force last year, at a time when four more barracks are being closed to save €5m.

Figures released to the Irish Examiner show there are currently some 5,220 reservists making up the Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve.

However, Defence Forces sources have said the figure of 5,220 reservists is merely a “paper figure” as many do not attend regularly, and the reserve force is regarded by many members as a “luxury”.

Members of these reserves are essentially part-time soldiers who need to do a minimum of 24 training parades, each of not less than two hours to receive an annual financial bonus.

In a statement, the Department of Defence said the costs “associated with gratuities and paid training for members of the reserve was approximately €3.2m”.

It was announced recently that barracks in Clonmel, Castlebar, Mullingar and Cavan are due to close this month.

The department will instead rent property in these towns for the purposes of RDF training.

The department has defended the much criticised move, saying it currently has 40 rental arrangements in place for RDF training at a total cost of just €100,000.

The latest barrack closures will bring to 14, out of a total of 30, the number that have been closed since 1998.

The department has said the total realised through the sale of surplus property since 1998 is in the region of €84m.

“This, together with income from the sale of other smaller military properties and married quarters, has been re-invested in providing equipment and infrastructure for the Defence Forces,” a statement noted.

However, of the €84m, just over €4m has come from sales of property since 2004, while Cavan Barracks, due to close this month, cost over €10m to build.

The department has spent in excess of €623,000 since 2006 in providing security to premises it has closed and not yet sold.

Deputy general-secretary of Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association, Simon Devereux, said it was unlikely any of the property currently unsold was likely to be disposed of in the near future. He also questioned whether security was being provided on all properties which had been closed.

“I’m not going to question the figures in terms of securing barracks which have been closed. However, there certainly appears to be no security on the barracks in Kildare town. It’s being used a shooting gallery for drugs. It’s been vandalised and burned. It’s very sad to see,” he said.

Mr Devereux said the long term objective of the Government seemed to be to house all battalions in a number of super barracks.

“It’s not so long ago that we had people changing in cars as there were not enough lockers in barracks. I fail to see where you are going to put these personnel. It seems to be the policy to close the barracks first, move people to another barracks and then see how accommodation works out. There is no pre-planning at all,” he said.


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