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Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces Lt General Seán Clancy speaking to the committee. Oireachtas
Lt Gen Sean Clancy

Military Chief: Cathal Brugha Barracks housing for troops must be considered if base is sold

Lt General Séan Clancy also spoke about abuse allegations, European rules on working times, recruitment, retention and resourcing.

THE CHIEF OF Staff of the Irish Defence Forces has said that any plan to move Dublin’s Cathal Brugha Barracks must first realise that the base is a home for personnel who are living there. 

Speaking at the Joint Oireachtas Committee of Defence and Foreign Affairs Lieutenant General Seán Clancy spoke about the issue of housing for military personnel. 

The Chief of Staff also spoke about a number of other key issues including retention and the plans to introduce the European Working Time Directive for personnel. 

He also addressed Senator Tom Clonan’s complaints around culture and allegations of abuse during a three hour meeting in Leinster House. 

During the discussion he spoke about the issue of housing for military personnel which also covered the proposal, first mooted by Minister Eamon Ryan, that Cathal Brugha Barracks in the Rathmines area of Dublin might be moved to facilitate housing for the public. 

Clancy said that a feasibility review was ongoing to determine if it was possible to move the facility out of Dublin city centre. 

“Cathal Brugha is a live, operational barracks and that means that people work there and they live there and to move people, to move the barracks, means moving where people live.

“That’s something that can often be lost in translation during these discussions,” he said. 

Clancy also said that any plan to move the barracks must take into account the “security implications” for Dublin city centre. 

Clancy spoke at length about the issue of housing for military personnel and said that there were key strategies and plans to increase the housing, particularly for recruits and new members. 

He said that Haulbowline Naval Base, Cathal Brugha Barracks and Casement Aerodrome has extensive housing for military personnel after major building projects. 

In response to questions from Deputy Cathal Berry and Deputy John Brady he said there are no plans from Government to remove or demolish existing housing stock on Irish Defence Forces bases. 

Berry spoke of a large swathe of housing in the Curragh which requires work to make them habitable. 

Clancy said that Tánaiste Micheál Martin, who is also Minister for Defence, has directed him to refurbish and repurpose housing at present.  

“We are tasked with refurbishing, repurposing where necessary but let me talk in a holistic sense around the Defence Forces.

“We have a requirement to accommodate quite a large number of our personnel, those that are most vulnerable, our new trainees our new inductees, our young personnel in our organisation.

“Our infrastructure development plan speaks very clearly in terms of where our priorities are at this point in time,” he added.  

Working Time Directive

Clancy also spoke about the Working Time Directive which has been a particularly strong issue for representative bodies PDFORRA and Representative Association of Commissioned Officers.   

This is a European measure which would introduce special requirements for workers to work set hours – An Garda Síochána introduced it more than a decade ago.

Clancy, in response to a question from Berry and Senator Ger Craughwell said that there were a number of operational areas which would be impacted but added that much of the activities of the Irish Defence Forces could be completed without employing an exemption. 

He would not be drawn on the specifics of what the exemptions will be. 

“I am confident it will be done – the protection of rights of personnel are important – I am confident we can get there,” he added. 


Senator Tom Clonan, who is not a member of the committee, but who was invited to speak launched an attack on Defence Forces culture and claimed that the military was not a safe place to work. 

Clonan, a former military officer, and whistleblower around abuse in the military claimed that he has suffered reprisals from officers in regard to speaking out on the issue.

“I’m asking you, would you on behalf of the Defence Forces, apologise to me and my family for the reprisals that was visited upon me and my family over the years, because my crime, if I might put it in that way, was to speak out about sexual violence,” he said. 

He claimed also that military culture has not changed over the last twenty years since he served “and that in fact it has deteriorated”.  Clancy responded and said that he has met with men and women in the Defence Forces and listened to what they have said about their negative experiences.

He said that everyone that comes to work in the military deserves dignity but that he said people must also show that dignity to others.

Clancy said that the Defence Forces have brought in the Rape Crisis Centre to educate officers about the issue of abuse and also “learned lessons from other militaries”. 

He said they have also introduced measures to confront the issue of sexual harassment and sexual violence ahead of the report.  

An Independent Review Group report is due on allegations of sexual violence and harassment in the military by the end of the month.

Clancy speaking directly to Clonan said: “like you I am waiting for the IRG report to come and honestly, it will be strong, I have no doubt about that, I am under no illusions, as you are, my eyes are wide open.”

He said that he has given, in writing, an undertaking to the Government to engage with, and implement, the measures and recommendations in that report. 

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