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Curragh Defence Forces training camp 'not fit for anybody' claim members of Oireachtas Committee

The Defence Forces’ training camp in the Curragh features “bad sanitary conditions” and is "not fit for anybody”, members of an Oireachtas Committee claim.

Curragh Defence Forces training camp 'not fit for anybody' claim members of Oireachtas Committee

The Defence Forces’ training camp in the Curragh features “bad sanitary conditions” and is "not fit for anybody”, members of an Oireachtas Committee claim.

The Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence yesterday met Junior Defence Minister Kehoe to discuss recruitment and retention issues in the Defence Forces, and a delegation from the Committee who had visited the Curragh aired their views on the conditions in the County Kildare camp.

Committee chairman and Fianna Fáil TD, Brendan Smith, said the delegation saw “the good, the bad, and the ugly” of the camp.

“I can go so far as to say that some of the accommodation for recruits was not fit for purpose, with severe lack of facilities, and poor to bad sanitary conditions,” he said.

Fine Gael Senator Gabrielle McFadden said the conditions she witnessed first-hand “are not suitable for anybody”.

In one of the sets of rooms where the new recruits go there are six to 10 young people sharing a room, bunk beds, with no provisions, with rotten floors, with mould on the walls, no proper showers, at the end of the corridor two toilets were locked because they couldn't be used.

"I have a son in second year in college, and if I drove my child to those conditions, and was saying goodbye to him my heart would be broken leaving my child there. I don't think that that's good enough for any recruit that commits himself to the State like they do,” she said.

Mr Kehoe defended the Government’s record on investment in facilities, and said the poor conditions are a legacy of the recession when previous governments did not fund necessary works.

“The portfolio of Defence Forces properties include many that are very old and require significant levels of investment and I think if you drive through the Curragh camp, you will see that, it would literally take millions upon millions of euro to be able to do all the work that is needed,” he said.

On the issue of pay and retention, Mr Kehoe said any accusation that the Government is neglecting the Defence Forces is “untrue and a gross distortion of the facts” and that “there is perhaps an unhealthy focus on headline turnover rates”.

“With a turnover rate of 8.1 % in 2018, this is not significantly at variance with other military forces internationally,” he said.

“As with many other areas of the public service, difficulties in the recruitment and retention of personnel have arisen in a buoyant economy, with many personnel, including pilots, air traffic control staff and Naval Service technicians, having scarce and highly marketable skills,” he said.

Mr Kehoe’s handling of Defence matters came in for repeated criticism throughout the committee. Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers claimed that the Department of Defence goes from crisis to crisis, and that Mr Kehoe has his ‘head in the sand’ about the issues facing the Defence Forces.

Senator Gerard Craughwell, a former member of the Defence Forces, said that while the Minister for Defence is Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, in reality, responsibility for the brief lies with Mr Kehoe.

“Your policies are a failure, a total failure, you have failed the Defence Forces and the members serving in there, you have lost the respect of all ranks,” he said.

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