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Private Member Business, 4 October 2011

Minister Alan Shatter, TD.


I have to begin with an expression of admiration. Courage was always in
short supply when it came to taking tough decisions during the wasted years
of the Celtic Tiger boom. However, there was one area where the deputies
opposite did show a modicum of decisiveness. When in Government, the
Deputies opposite presided over the closure of no fewer than ten barracks.

Their justification was based on a perfectly logical and reasonable
analysis. The consolidation of barracks into a smaller number of locations
was a key objective of the previous Government’s White Paper on Defence. This
was recommended in many reports. It remains a key objective of the ongoing
Defence modernisation programme to maximise the effectiveness of the Defence
Forces.

I accept the previous Government’s analysis. The facts remain the facts,
regardless of who is in Government.

However, there is nothing admirable in the sheer brass neck entailed in
putting this disingenuous motion before the House. As everyone knows,
Fianna Fail led coalitions destroyed the public finances and lead our
country into receivership. As a result, we have had to undertake a
searching reappraisal of every aspect of public expenditure. The legacy we
inherited is so dreadful that no area of expenditure can be excluded from
review.

The proposers of tonight’s motion know this. They also know that I cannot
exclude barracks from this review. I have said so plainly in reply to
questions in this house. I have never resorted to any sort of equivocation
on the subject. The exchequer is under extreme pressure and no amount of
bluff and bluster will bridge the yawning gap between the Government’s
income and current expenditure. More hard decisions will be needed.

There are few opportunities to trim Defence spending without impacting on
front line delivery.


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