The Government is committed to working with the Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen (ONE) to support former members of the Defence Forces who may have fallen on hard times, said Minister for Defence Simon Coveney as he officially opened a hostel for homeless Defence Force veterans.
Mr Coveney said that the Dept of Defence, together with the Defence Forces, had been working closely with the ONE to bring to fruition the charity's plans to establish a network of 15 Veteran Support Centres around the country and the new hostel in Cobh is the 13th such support centre.
Officially opening the new ONE Veteran Support Centre and Hostel at Harbour Row in Cobh, Mr Coveney said it was a proud day for everyone in O.N.E to see the former Social Welfare building converted. The centre will offer a drop in advice centre as well as accommodation for veterans.
"The opening of the Brú na Farraige facility today is a significant milestone in the history ofONE . I know that ONE already has three residential homes in Bru na bhFiann in Smithfield in Dublin, Custume House in Athlone and Beechwood House in Letterkenny, " said Mr Coveney.
"I am aware that ONE has been aware of the necessity to provide accommodation for retired members of the Defence Forces in Munster and particularly in the Cork area and the proximity to the Naval Service HQ in Haulbowline makes Cobh an ideal location for a facility like this."
Mr Coveney said that the the provision of five residential places at Bru na Farraige allied to 35 beds in Brú na Fianna in Dublin, seven in Custume House in Athlone and seven in Beechwood House in Letterkenny brings to 54 the number of veterans that ONE can now accommodate.
"I know that ONE is also planning to develop and open a similar facility, Brú Ui Choileain in Cork city next year, the 100th anniversary of the death of Michael Collins and this facility will accommodate an additional six further retired members and bring the total of rooms available to veterans to 60."
Mr Coveney said that he remained committed to assisting the ONE in its efforts to support its members and having already worked with the ONEto secure funding from Dormant Accounts to fund the €525,000 Cobh project, an application has been made for further funding in 2022.
This application is currently being considered by the Dept of Rural and Community Development but the Dept of Defence is also exploring the possibility of obtaining further funding from Dormant Accounts to fund the further expansion of veteran support centres, he said.
Chairperson of the Board of Directors of ONE Colm Campbell said that Cobh has a long and unbroken association with the Defence Forces and it was important the ONE established a presence in the town to support veterans.
“The Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen was formed to address the consequence of the consequences of the major demobilization after the Emergency and it has now evolved into a charity that seeks to address the needs of veterans in the 21st century,” he said.
“It is particularly fitting that we are officially opening this new centre in Cobh this year on the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Organisation of National Ex-Servicement and continue to build on our four enduring pillars - Support, Comradeship, Advocacy and Remembrance.”
Mr Campbell paid tribute to all involved in securing and developing Bru na Farraige since it was first identified as a suitable site in 2018 including the OPW, the Leopardstown Park Hospital Trust and the Defence Forces and the many people who engaged in fund-raising.
Mr Campbell also paid tribute to incoming ONE president, Diarmuid Higgins from Cobh as Bru na Farraige "could not have been developed without his dedication and leadership" as he also paid tribute to outgoing ONE president, Jim Fay who also attended today's ceremony.
Among those to attend the official opening of the new facility by Mr Coveney were Deputy Mayor of Co Cork, Cllr Cathal Rasmussen, Cork East Fine Gael TD and former Defence Force officer, David Stanton TD and Secretary General of the Dept of Defence, Jacqui McCrum.
Also present were newly appointed Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Lt General Sean Clancy, Deputy Chief of Staff (Support), Major General Adrian O Murchu and Flag Officer Commanding the Naval Service, Michael Malone.