Dáil Éireann - Volume 411 - 31 October, 1991

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Collins Barracks Esplanade Field.

11. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Defence if he has any proposals to hand over to Dublin Corporation the Esplanade field which is part of Collins Barracks so as to enable Dublin Corporation prepare a secure and well-located camping site for visitors to Dublin which would ensure that the regrettable instance which took place in the Phoenix Park could be avoided and that Dublin city would, under the supervision of Dublin Corporation, be in a position to offer secure and well located modern camping facilities as an integral part of Dublin's tourist infrastructure; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. Daly: My Department have received no such proposals. However, due consideration will be given to any proposals Dublin Corporation might make in this regard when overall plans for the disposal of Collins Barracks are being finalised.

Mr. Byrne: I would be horrified if the Minister were to consider disposing of this field to Dublin Corporation for the purpose outlined in the question because it would be the most inappropriate location for a tourist camping site. We are talking about Collins Barracks, a magnificent building, partly because of the vista it affords across the Liffey, across the field in question and the magnificence of the buildings themselves. Is the Minister aware of any interest on the part of Dublin Corporation to use this field as a tourist camping site? As a member of the City Council certainly I am not aware that they have expressed any such interest. Indeed I would be disappointed and surprised if any planner in Dublin Corporation were to contemplate [2274] applying to anybody to have this site used as a camping site. I do want to record my concurrence with the view that there is urgent need to have a tourist camping site made available. For example, a suitable location might be found within the Phoenix Park itself to be organised by Bord Fáilte in conjunction with the Office of Public Works.

Mr. Daly: My Department have received no such proposals. I suggest that perhaps Deputy Byrne would use his good offices in Dublin Corporation to ascertain what they have in mind. The Government decided in December 1988 that Collins Barracks should be disposed of and that the troops stationed there be located elsewhere. The property, including the esplanade, consisting of a five-acre open space fronting on to the quays, comprises an overall area of some 19 acres. In February 1990 the Government approved a plan to relocate the personnel accommodated in Collins Barracks in new, refurbished accommodation in McKee Barracks and Cathal Brugha Barracks. Progress towards an early evacuation of Collins Barracks, however, has been impeded because of the difficulty in having the new accommodation provided. It is expected that Collins Barracks will be offered for sale by public tender following evacuation — that is at this time — and any appropriate public uses of part of the property, if there is demand for such, will be considered within the overall plans for disposal of the property. The esplanade is zoned K, open space, in the 1987 draft Dublin city development plan. What is normally permissible in zone K is open space, recreational buildings and halting sites.

Mr. Byrne: Will the Minister give the House an outline of the plans for the disposal of the site? As the Minister quite rightly said, we were told on 25 October 1990 that by the end of December 1991, approximately, the site would be vacated. Can the Minister inform the House when he envisages the military [2275] personnel will have been evacuated from Collins Barracks?

Mr. Daly: I cannot give the Deputy any precise dates now. I recently visited the barracks and had discussions with the personnel housed there in regard to the overall position. The Deputy will be aware that these are areas of some historic and architectural value. I might add that we are very conscious of their importance.

Mr. Byrne: Would the Minister reconsider their total vacation? Would he consider retaining at least portion if not all of the barracks under his control? Would he agree that perhaps a decision should be taken to reverse the original one to remove the present regiments from Collins Barracks? Would the Minister reconsider the proposal to move them at all?

Mr. Daly: I would not wish to go into that matter in detail here. At this stage what we are hoping to do is evacuate Collins Barracks so that we can dispose of the property, putting it up for sale. At this stage it is not possible to give a precise date on which we will be able to totally relocate the personnel at present housed there. In view of the important historic and architectural aspects of this site, which must be protected, I should like to have more time before giving the Deputy a more detailed reply.

Mr. Byrne: Would the Minister reconsider disposal of the property?

An Ceann Comhairle: I am calling Question No. 12.