Fianna Fáil TD for Longford Westmeath, Robert Troy, has called on the Minister for Justice to immediately state what the future of Columb Barracks is.
Deputy Troy said: “Yesterday, we saw the Army personnel in Mullingar passing through the town for the last time. The affiliation of the people of Mullingar and Westmeath with the barracks was shown by the 5,000 people who were present for the last parade.
“Unfortunately it is too late to reverse the decision, but now the Department of Defence must engage with the local authorities and local groups to make the barracks available free of charge. This is the people’s barracks and not the property of the State.
“Can Minister Shatter really try and convince us the money saved in closing Columb Barracks will be that much higher than the cost of renting premises for the reserve force and the costs associated with making necessary modifications to costume barracks, Athlone to accommodate the transfer of personnel?
Deputy Troy added that there has been a distinct lack of initiative by the government on the future with the Barracks.
“The barracks should be given back to the local community and the Reserve Defence Force should be allowed carry out its good work. I also understand submissions have been made to Minister Shatter by a number of local groups and I believe they are still waiting on a response. Can the Minister clarify what engagement has taken place?
“The Minister should look at establishing a training centre, headquartered at Columb Barracks, for a number of groups like the Order of Malta, Civil Defence, Red Cross, Garda Reserves and more.”
Deputy Troy is also seeking clarity from the Government on the prospect of a foreign college locating at the site, a matter which Minister Shatter discussed with local representatives.
Deputy Troy said: “When the Minister for Defence met the various representatives from the barracks and Oireachtas Members, he gave an indication that a foreign college was interested in locating in the premises. This foreign college seemed to have been interested in locating in Mullingar, Cavan and in Clonmel. Will the Minister confirm if three foreign colleges are interested in locating in the barracks or whether one college may be interested in locating in one barracks?
“Through questions to the Minister in the Dáil last week I failed to receive clarity about what progress has been made with the future of the barracks. The Minister needs to provide answers on this as soon as possible.”