Defence Forces accommodation criticised at officers conference

No fresh water and rat droppings on floor are among the complaints voiced about facilities

An officer based in Cathal Brugha barracks  said he faces spending another  year separated from his wife because there is no available space in the married quarters on the base. Photograph: Dave Meehan

An officer based in Cathal Brugha barracks said he faces spending another year separated from his wife because there is no available space in the married quarters on the base. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

Defence Forces personnel are forced to live in sub-standard accommodation including quarters with no fresh water and rat droppings on the floor, a conference has heard.

There are not enough living quarters for married members of the Defence Force while accommodation for single members is often of poor quality, delegates at the Representative Association for Commissioned Officers’ biennial conference were told on Tuesday.

Furthermore, officers and enlisted personnel do not receive rent allowance to live in private accommodation, unlike members of the garda, several officers pointed out.

A communications specialist based in Cathal Brugha barracks in Rathmines, Dublin said the rent on the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his wife is due to increase shortly from € 1,600 to € 2,400 a month.

He said he has told his superior officers he will have to leave the Defence Forces or “stay and become homeless with my wife who is expecting a child”.

Another officer based in Cathal Brugha barracks who has just returned from a 12-month tour of duty abroad said he faces spending another year separated from his wife because there is no available space in the married quarters on the base.

An officer with 12 Battalion described accommodation with two or three soldiers per room and no soft chairs, common rooms or break-out areas. He said “embarrassingly” some accommodation has no readily available fresh water, with personnel having to go to another location on the base to get drinking water.

Mouse droppings

An officer in the Defence Forces Training College in the Curragh Camp in Kildare said she is “lucky enough” to have accommodation on the base but complained that in one location there wasn’t enough beds for all the officers staying there at one point while in another she found rat and mouse droppings on the floor.

Officers said the problem is exacerbated by the current retention and recruitment crisis affecting the Defence Forces which means, according to Raco, that officers are moved from post to post once a year on average.

“It’s not tenable to move your family, for your spouse to change their job, to change schools every year,” according to one delegate.

The only alternative is a long commute or to rent somewhere privately on a short-term basis “which is generally not tenable based on our salary”. Military quarters are in short supply and those that are available are substandard, he said.

Defence Forces Chief of Staff Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett told reporters he is aware of issues around accommodation for members and said it is being examined in relation to initiatives aimed at retaining personnel.

Asked if he is in favour of rent allowances, the Chief of Staff said he “fully supports” any initiative to improve retention.

Raco delegates voted unanimously to recommend increased investment in accommodation for married members and the provision of rent allowance when married or single quarters are not available.