The Minister for Defence Alan Shatter has again refused to give any firm commitment on the future of Custume Barracks following questioning from Longford-Westmeath TD Robert Troy.
Deputy Troy said: “The government is continuing to fuel uncertainty over the future status of Custume Barracks. As the headquarters for the Western Brigade the barracks is extremely important to Athlone. It is crucial that its status is not downgraded by the government. There is a growing fear in the community that the government is not committed to maintaining the barracks and its current functions.
“I am calling on Minister Shatter to give a commitment to publish the report he has sought on the re-organisation of the Defence Forces. However my concern is that the Minister has continually passed the buck when it comes to the closure of Garda Stations across the country and he seems intent on doing the same on the future of Custume Barracks. The Minister seems to want all of the credit for anything that appears positive under his remit and will distance himself from anything unpopular.
“Less than three weeks ago Minister Shatter launched the country’s first emergency aeromedical service at Custume Barracks. This is further proof of the role Custume Barracks can play. The government has already closed Columb Barracks and another blow to the community cannot be tolerated.”
“In reply to my Parliamentary Question on this issue Minister Shatter pointed out that he didn’t want to “pre-empt the work” underway which will see a reduction in the number of Army Brigades in the country from three to two but it was less than three weeks ago that the Minister ensured there were no political representatives other than Fine Gael and Labour invited to the launch of the Emergency Aeromedical Service. The Minister seems very comfortable giving orders within his department on these matters but has done nothing to alleviate the concerns of the community in Athlone about the status of Custume Barracks.
“The Minister could clear up this uncertainty and confusion with a simple statement and his refusal to do so is a further cause for concern.”