State’s defence budget to exceed €1bn in 2020
Almost half of €32m increase already committed to cover pay rises and allowances
A commissioning ceremony for Army officers at the Defence Forces Training Centre in the Curragh Camp, Co Kildare. File photograph: Alan Betson
Some €15 million of the increase will cover a general pay rise received by all public servants as well as commitments made by Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe to increase certain allowances for Defence Forces personnel in an attempt to ease the recruitment and detention crisis affecting the organisation.
PDForra, the organisation representing rank-and-file Defence Forces members, is yet to say whether it will accept the proposed allowances, but Raco, which represents the officer corps, voted to accept it last month.
An additional €10 million has been allocated to fund the pensions of some 12,600 former Defence Forces members.
Capital expenditure, including spending on new aircraft and facilities, has increased by €7 million to €113 million. Some of this will be used to upgrade accommodation and training facilities such as quarters at the Defence Forces Training Centre at the Curragh Camp, which have recently been the subject of strong criticism.
In recent months, members have complained about rodent infestations, a lack of running water and overcrowded quarters, as well as a lack of accommodation for married members at the Co Kildare facility.
Funding for new accommodation facilities at the Naval Base in Haulbowline and Collins Barracks in Cork and the USAC complex in Galway is also included.
“This allocation will allow investment in projects that modernise and enhance the training, operational and accommodation facilities available to members of the Defence Forces in military installations and barracks across the country,” Mr Kehoe said.
Funds will also be allocated for new Mowag armoured vehicles “which will increase force protection measures for those serving overseas,” the Department of Defence said.
Much of the capital expenditure budget will be taken up by the planned purchase of two new maritime patrol aircraft to replace Casa aircraft which are nearing the end of their lifespan.
It is understood the department is finalising plans to purchase two Airbus C-295s at a total cost of more than €60 million. These aircraft will be expected to carry out a wide variety of roles, including maritime surveillance and transporting personnel and cargo.
The department said it had identified a preferred bidder for the aircraft, but declined to confirm the identity before “contract award stage”.
Funding will also be required to continue to purchase replacements for the Air Corps fleet of five Cessnas, which were retired last month following more than 50 years of service. The fleet is being replaced by three Pilatus PC-12 aircraft at a total cost of €32 million, and these will undertake reconnaissance and surveillance missions.
Raco, which represents Defence Forces officers, said this defence budget will actually reduced Ireland’s spending on Defence as a factor of its GDP. Ireland currently spends 0.29 per cent of GDP on defence. In 2020 it will be 0.27 per cent.
“We are at the bottom of the EU table, behind even Luxembourg and Malta, and have been for some time,” Raco general secretary, Commandant Conor King said.
Cmdt King also criticised the €7 million allocated to infrastructure improvements. He said Defence Forces engineers have informed Raco it will cost well over €150 million “at a conservative estimate” to bring the accommodation up to standard just at the Defence Forces Training Centre in the Curragh.
“This says nothing of the rest of the barracks and bases around the country in disrepair.”