Fianna Fáil TD for Longford – Westmeath Robert Troy has criticised the Government for failing to deliver on its promise to ensure the full utilisation of the site occupied by Columb Barracks following its closure in 2011.
Deputy Troy made the comments after raising the matter in the Dáil with Minister for Defence Simon Coveney.
“When the Government closed Columb Barracks in 2011, a move which seriously damaged the local community in Mullingar, we were assured that the site occupied by the barracks would be fully utilized. Four years later the Minister for Defence has confirmed to me in the Dáil that the site is still largely lying idle.
“In 2011 I made it clear that I was opposed to the closure of the barracks and outlined that the Government had not identified a future plan to ensure the continued use of the facility. Unfortunately my concerns have been realised. If it were not for the proactive effort of Westmeath GAA in securing a lease and acting as anchor tenant then there would be no activity at the site.
“Despite Westmeath GAA utilising the barracks and facilitating groups such as the Irish United Nations Veterans Association and Midland Youth Services in accessing the barracks the site is still largely lying idle. The Government clearly has no plan in place to put the entire facility into proper use.
“The Reserve Defence Force is currently spending in the region of €30,000 per annum to hire premises in Mullingar while the huge facility in Columb Barracks is gathering dust. This is a short-sighted arrangement and a complete waste of valuable resources. I have suggested to the Minister that not only Columb Barracks house members of our local reserves but also act as the national HQ for the Reserve Defence Forces considering its central location, large capacity and suitable quality of buildings.
“The Minister also needs to move to ensure that Westmeath Civil Defence have access to the site for training and accommodation purposes. A similar arrangement has been put in place in other areas across the country where a local army barracks was closed. There is no reason why the situation should be any different for Columb Barracks.
“The Government needs to put in place a strategic plan to ensure the barracks is allowed reach its full potential in the long run. Columb Barracks occupies a prominent site in Mullingar and it is important that the area is put to good use for the surrounding local community” said Deputy Troy.