Longford-Westmeath Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy raised the issue of Custume Barracks with the Taoiseach in the Dáil today.  Deputy Troy has expressed surprise that the decision has been made to reduce the number of Army Bridges from three to two in advance of a major reform document being completed on the Defence Forces.

Deputy Troy asked the Taoiseach: “When is it intended to publish the Green Paper on the Defence Forces, and why is the Minister pre-empting its recommendations by announcing a reduction in the number of Army brigades from three to two?  When will the House be informed of the future of the Western Brigade and the status of its headquarters in Custume Barracks in Athlone?  There is great anxiety among Army personnel, their families and the business community.

“The Taoiseach refused to give clear answers to these simple questions today, only confirming that the Green Paper on the Defence Forces will be published before the end of the year.  It makes no sense for the Defence Minister Alan Shatter to press ahead with a major shake-up of the Defence Forces, reducing the number of Army Brigades from three to two, before this paper is published.  The Minister’s decision to proceed anyway has cast a huge shadow over the future status of Custume Barracks as the headquarters of the Western Brigade.

“Last week Minister Shatter told me he didn’t want to pre-empt the work of the review that was ongoing following the decision to reduce the number of Army Brigades.  However by continuing this process the Minister is pre-empting the work on the Green Paper.  That document will be hugely significant for the future of the Defence Forces in this country and it would make much more sense for the Minister to publish that document and not proceed with the Army Brigade reduction in the meantime.

“The Government has cast a major shadow over the future status of Custume Barracks unnecessarily.  It should remain the headquarters for the Western Brigade and I am urging the Minister to reconsider the process he is pursuing here.”