It was once described as the ‘crown jewel’ of army barracks when it was evacuated by the British after the War of Independence and is believed to be the country’s flagship military camp.
But it collapsed like many other military installations after years of neglect by successive governments.
While some funds have been allocated for upgrades, many fear it is too little, too late.
The images of the Curragh in its splendor and what it looks like today say a thousand words.
They were obtained by Independent Senator Gerard Craughwell and provided to theto highlight the situation.
The Curragh was once a self-sufficient town with many facilities. But as Mr Craughwell explained, it must now be regarded without a doubt as “Ireland’s most abandoned town” and he maintains that it is “an international embarrassment”.
Mr. Craughwell should know: he is a former member of the Defense Forces.
“It was handed over by the British in perfect condition when Ireland gained independence. But it has been reduced to its current state of neglect due to a lack of investment and respect for serving members of the Defense Forces, ”he said.
“It is meant to be a center of excellence for all defense training as it is the training center for the defense forces and provides education to visiting Irish and international military personnel. As a military college, it should be worthy of university status. “
However, he pointed out that although foreign military personnel attend for training purposes, the accommodations there are so poor that they are usually lodged in a local hotel.
“How does that compare to military colleges such as Warminster in England or the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College in Germany?”
“How does the Cadet Training College compare to West Point (US) or Sandhurst (England)? ”
“How come the gardaí can have a state-of-the-art college and housing in Templemore,” the senator asked.
He maintains that it is no wonder that Defense Forces personnel facing such conditions vote with their feet and leave the country’s military.
“Ireland, with its vast experience in peacekeeping, should be at the forefront of military training in Europe.
“The Military College should be a fully accredited third level college and the accommodations and facilities at The Curragh should be the envy of military personnel around the world.
“There is an opportunity to turn the Military College into a Defense cash cow, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone up for the challenge,” Craughwell said.
“There is nothing in the Curragh camp that would make a young woman or a young man want to go.
“The few old family housing that remain are on the whole beyond human habitation and, in any case, are not available because the Ministry of Defense stopped providing family housing to soldiers on duty there. has several years. ”
Mr Craughwell asked why the remaining buildings were not treated as “a national treasure” and added another equally important note.
“Young soldiers at the bottom of the civil service salary scale must compete in the open housing market while contemporaries in other countries enjoy accommodation and medical care for themselves and their families.” .
“Just imagine what the provision of housing for serving soldiers would do to local rental prices as the number of competitors for rental housing declines,” Mr. Craughwell said.
Labor Senator Mark Wall, who lives near the camp, claimed there were 43 abandoned buildings there.
He said it is extremely difficult for enlisted staff, who are poorly paid, to obtain scarce and very expensive rental accommodation anywhere near the camp.
“There are also reports of the lack of adequate showers for staff on duty in the camp and this needs to be addressed urgently,” he said.
Mr Wall pointed out that in December 2018 it was announced that a new high school was going to be built in the camp, but that project did not progress.
He also said that another major problem exists at military bases as there is no suitable accommodation for families.
In response to a question from the Dáil on this issue, Defense Minister Simon Coveney said a policy was introduced in the 1990s to end the provision of married quarters to serving staff.
“It is not intended to reverse this long-standing policy,” Coveney added.
Many accommodations in Defense Force facilities are rated so poor that they are categorized as “insufficient” by military authorities who do not charge people to stay in these rooms.
This is the case with some of the remaining accommodations at The Curragh.
According to PDForra, which represents the enlisted personnel, there are six barracks at The Curragh with a total of 869 beds. Among these, 760 are “transit beds” reserved for those who come there for internship. The remaining 109 are used by people who “live” on the base.
In Block A, there are 50 rooms classified by the army as unsanitary.
Plunkett Barracks has 100 beds in its combined G and H blocks, of which 50 beds are also considered substandard. McDermott Barracks has 40 closed beds and Block Ceannt the same number.
PDForra Chairman Mark Keane said one of the best accommodation facilities is Finner Camp in County Donegal.
“They don’t have a lot of people living there. They have housing available and it is of a fairly good standard, ”said Mr. Keane.
Unfortunately for Finner-based troops, they are routinely dispatched to perform duties in barracks in Dublin where the same cannot be said.
Mr Keane said accommodation was “poor” at the Cathal Brugha and McKee barracks in Dublin.
He added that the photo also isn’t very good at Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick, Renmore Barracks in Galway and St Stephen’s Barracks in Kilkenny.
“Some of these rooms are also substandard,” Keane added.
There aren’t enough beds for cash-strapped soldiers looking to live in Collins Barracks, Cork, and currently there are four people on the waiting list for a bed there. In recent years, rents in the city have increased significantly.
The Air Corps is currently seeing a number of works being undertaken to modernize the accommodation available at its headquarters in Baldonnel.
This work included rewiring, plumbing, etc. There are 38 rooms with 78 beds in total with up to three per room. The apprentices’ accommodation has been recently renovated.
It has been well documented how many young sailors have slept on ships because they cannot afford rents in the Cork Harbor area near the naval service base on Haulbowline Island.
Rents in places like Cobh, Carrigaline, Ringaskiddy and Monkstown would in the vast majority of cases be well beyond their reach.
The island’s ‘Victorian Blocks’ are being renovated and, when completed, over 160 beds will be made available.
Mr Keane said that if the Defense Forces are to be successful in attracting new entrants and retaining personnel, the provision of decent quality housing must be the cornerstone of this retention and recruitment policy in all three branches. of the Defense Forces.
“If we are to attract new entrants to the Defense Forces, we must be proactive in providing the same accommodation services and standards currently provided by companies currently recruiting,” said Mr. Keane.
Following the last budget, Defense Minister Simon Coveney said capital funding for the Defense Forces next year will be € 141 million.
He said this will allow the continued replacement and renewal of essential military equipment and will allow continued investment in facilities.
Mr Coveney said a significant number of defense infrastructure projects will also be advanced under the Defense Force Built Infrastructure Program.
These will include the provision of a new cadet school at The Curragh, a new military medical facility at Casement Airfield, Baldonnel, and allow accommodation facilities to be upgraded at various military sites across the country. such as Collins Barracks, Cork; McKee Barracks, Dublin and the naval base on Haulbowline Island.
However, he did not specify how much of the 141 million euros would be spent on improving housing.