CORK'S Haulbowline naval base living quarters require major investment so sailors will be encouraged to remain serving with the navy, according to the President of the Permanent Defence Forces Representative Association (PDFORRA).
Mark Keane was speaking at this week’s three-day PDFORRA Annual Delegate Conference in Trim attended by over 100 delegates from the three sections of the Defence Forces, the Army, Navy and Air Corps.
Tánaiste and Minister for Defence, Micheál Martin, addressed the conference last week
“While we welcome the previous investment, we would like that to continue,” said Mr Keane in relation to Haulbowline, Ireland’s navy headquarters and main naval base.
“We had a situation previously where we had large volumes of sailors, when they came in from sea they were still confined to ships because there wasn’t accommodation.”
A €4m project to provide single living accommodation for 70 personnel was announced in 2021.
“We have the new accommodation block. We need the other ancillary services with that. We need more accommodation to increase the strength of the Navy. There are proposals there for a new gym and new infrastructure on the island,” added Mr Keane.
“We were devoid of expenditure for many years due to cutbacks, so we are still playing catch up.”
Criticisms of the Government’s level of investment in the Navy have sharpened recently, after Russian warships were spotted entering Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), off the Cork and Kerry coasts.
Salaries and allowances were top of the agenda, said Mr Keane.
A Naval Pay special allowance introduced in 1975, then representing 20 per cent of basic pay, has not kept pace with increases since, now accounting for 3.7 per cent of basic pay.
“The services that people enjoy on the island have to be improved. We are looking for an increase in Naval pay. We need the three ‘Rs’ – we need recruitment, retention and we need renumeration, for our key personnel,” said Mr Keane.
PDFORRA is also campaigning for increased investment in Collins Barracks in Cork city, and around post-1994 contracts for sailors and soldiers. Currently, members can stay until aged 50 at the rank of Sergeant, and above that to age 56.
“These people are the backbone of the Army, they are the mentors, the trainers who train the entrants of recruits.”