The Government has dealt another devastating blow to Westmeath with the announcement that the Western Brigade, headquartered in Athlone, is being abolished, Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy has said.
“This is devastating news for Westmeath. There are currently over 1,400 Army personnel attached to Custume Barracks and the Government has announced that there will be a maximum of 1,000 after the army brigades are completely reorganised.
“This means hundreds of personnel will be forced to relocate, having a significant impact on their families and the local economy. This Government seems to have a particular issue with Westmeath, having closed Columb Barracks last year and downgraded Custume Barracks today it has cast a dark cloud over the midlands and the community will feel increasingly isolated by the Government’s decisions.
“The Government has made a complete sham of its own proposals in the Programme for Government to bring forward a Green Paper on the future of the Defence Forces. This announcement, which will see only two brigades – located in Dublin and Cork – completely undermines the merit of a root and branch review of the Defence Forces into the Government.
“I am calling again on the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Defence Minister Alan Shatter to immediately meet with the community and Athlone Town Council representatives to explain this devastating decision. Athlone is the heart of the country and Westmeath is ideally placed for the Defence Forces to serve the midlands and the west of Ireland. Indeed the county has a very rich history with the army.
“This decision is Minister Shatter’s own political decision. It is not based on a sound economic argument. Also, he should now move to publish the report from consultants PWC in the 90s which said that if there were only to be two brigades in the Defence Forces then they should be located in Westmeath and Cork.”