Fianna Fáil by-election candidate in Longford-Westmeath, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke says that two attempts in recent weeks by Fianna Fáil to find out exactly how many army personnel are based in Custume Barracks, Athlone have not been answered by the government.


In the second attempt, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who is acting as Minister for Defence, said it was not possible to get the information in the time available.


“I find it absolutely incredible that the Department of Defence would need more than a fortnight to tell us how many army personnel are actually based in Custume Barracks, Athlone. Far more detailed questions, such as the gender breakdown across all ranks of the entire Defence Forces, have previously been answered in a week.


“The question tabled by Fianna Fáil’s Defence Spokesperson Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD specifically sought to establish the number of Defence Forces personnel whose home station is Custume Barracks, Athlone.


“This question was put down because I understand that not everyone currently in Athlone is permanently based there so the barracks is not their home station.


“The fact that such a straightforward question could not be answered in the fortnight before the by-election lacks credibility and smacks of a vain attempt to hide from the voting public the true extent of Custume Barracks’ downgrading.

“The Taoiseach paid a visit to Custume Barracks this week to reassure the people of Athlone that its future is safe, yet he has no idea of the number of troops actually stationed there. The Government is trying to keep the truth from the people of Athlone and it will not work.”