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Criticism over Cathal Brugha Barracks study as Ryan spokesperson says 'no final decision' made

“It’s the jewel in the crown of the Defence Forces and it shouldn’t be touched in any way or form,” TD Cathal Berry said.

Eamon Ryan in Dublin earlier this month.
Eamon Ryan in Dublin earlier this month.
Image: Sam Boal

SOME MEMBERS OF the Oireachtas have criticised the announcement of a feasibility study into the potential use of the Cathal Brugha Barracks site in Dublin 6 for housing.

The launch of the feasibility study was first announced as part of the government’s Housing for All progress report released yesterday.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan also posted a video about it on Twitter later that evening. 

The Transport Minister said yesterday that the barracks site could provide “one thousand high-quality new homes close to the city centre”.

“The prospect of putting high quality housing into Cathal Brugha Barracks, within walking distance of the centre of town, where we don’t have to have car parking, where we can break down the cost of development and provide really low cost-rental housing, because you can actually build better in this sustainable, really high quality way,” he said. 

Independent TD and former Army Ranger Cathal Berry said some people “are completely, completely upset and outraged” by the announcement. 

“If there is money available for housing, the simple solution is give the money to the Defence Forces and they’ll build housing in there to address the military housing crisis which is even more acute than the civilian housing crisis,” he told RTÉ radio’s News at One. 

“I agree to an extent that it would be worth looking at if there was an alternative location going to be built.

“But the military understand that having experienced these barrack closures for the last 25 years, there is never an alternative facility provided. The military is just evicted and you have to make do with what’s left.”

He added: “It’s the jewel in the crown of the Defence Forces and it shouldn’t be touched in any way or form.” 

Fine Gael TD and former minister Charlie Flanagan said on Twitter it was “insensitive & somewhat premature” to “make such announcements”. 

TD John Brady said in the Dáil that the announcement “sent out a negative message to the Defence Forces, which are on their knees and concerned about their future and viability”.

It was “totally ill-judged and was made at the wrong time”, according to the leader of the Seanad Regina Doherty.

A spokesperson for Eamon Ryan said “both Minister Ryan and the government were very clear last night that what was being announced was a feasibility study”.

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“No final decision has been made on this, nor did the Minister try to give the impression that one has,” the spokesperson said. 

They added that the minister “has long been of the belief that this proposal would be mutually beneficial for both the Defence Forces and young people and families who are struggling to afford high-quality homes in central Dublin”. 

“Relocating the barracks to a larger and better-equipped site outside the city centre would give the Defence Forces greater opportunity to develop and modernise,” the spokesperson said. 

“Equally, it would allow up to 1,000 low-cost social and affordable homes to be built in a location that is within walking distance of thousands of workplaces and schools and which has significant transport links.”

The south inner city military base has long been touted as a potential location for housing, with Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffee writing in The Journal in 2018 that it could “house thousands of new residents and provide sports fields, parks and playgrounds in this part of the city”.

Also speaking to The Journal in 2019, Eamon Ryan said that Cathal Brugha Barracks would be an ideal candidate for the ‘Vienna Model’ for public housing, where rental prices are based on construction and maintenance costs rather than market rents.  

Asked yesterday whether the Defence Forces had been consulted, Ryan said he has been speaking to them “for many years on this” and that the future of Defence Forces sites is about facilities and not locations. 

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