A Galway TD has described as ‘ridiculous’ the fact that the city’s Army base is overseen from Cork and called for the abandonment of the current two-area structure of the force.
Independent Deputy Noel Grealish, speaking in the Dáil, said that changes introduced in 2012 had resulted in serious operational problems and a fall in morale.
He was supporting a Private Members Motion tabled by Fianna Fáil calling for, among other changes, a a substantial increase in recruitment to the Defence Forces and a restoration of the Army to a three brigade structure by re-establishing the 4th Western Brigade based in Custume Barracks, Athlone.
Deputy Grealish told the Dáil last week that the reorganisation in 2012 has been “an unmitigated disaster”, resulting in endless problems and a suspected fall in morale among members of the Defence Forces,
“I fully support the motion to restore the Fourth Brigade based in Athlone and encompassing Dún Uí Mhaeliosa in Galway. The barracks in Renmore has since 2012 has been overseen operationally from Cork, which is just ridiculous.
“An example of the failure of the reorganisation process has been the fact that soldiers from Galway were transported daily to duties in Cork.”
He believed that the reorganisation of 2012 was a significant factor in the negative findings of the ‘Wellbeing in the Defence Forces’ survey in 2015, which found that less than half of the serving members were satisfied with their life in the military.
“Significantly, the study found that satisfaction had dropped greatly from 64% in 2008, under the old three-brigade structure, to 48% in 2015, three years after the changes,” he pointed out.
Deputy Grealish said that the falling strength of the Defence Forces in recent years was also undoubtedly affecting current morale, with staffing shortages caused by a voluntary outflow of trained personnel compromising operations.
“45% of Dublin Unit based security duties are having to be conducted by regional units. Units such as those in Donegal, Dundalk and Athlone are like Grand Central Station, with troops being transported to and from Dublin.
“The majority of army units are now concentrated in the East and South of the country, leaving the Border with Northern Ireland bereft of troops at a time of political uncertainty there and the upcoming upheaval of Brexit,” he added.
Deputy Grealish also called for retired and former members of the Defence Forces to be presented with the 1916 commemorative medals awarded to current members.
He said he was present at the barracks in Renmore when junior Defence Minister Paul Kehoe presented the special medals to soldiers there.
“But what should have been a joyous celebration left a sour taste in the mouths of former and retired members of the Defence Forces, who were not included.
“These soldiers, sailors and air corps personnel also gave great service to their country and feel very aggrieved that they were excluded from receiving these 1916 medals.
It would surely cost the Government comparatively little to right this wrong now and in doing so acknowledge the valuable contribution to the security of this country made by those not currently serving. It would mean a lot to them,” he added.