South Tipperary T.D. Tom Hayes has expressed his deep disappointment with the decision to shut Kickham Barracks, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.
Deputy Hayes has publicly criticised military leadership for providing poor advice to the Minister on the matter, as well as a lack of consultation with army personnel on the ground.
“Having worked with the Army families, we managed to meet with Minister Shatter twice on this issue. We felt that we had been given ample opportunity to put our case across, and were hopeful that our advice would be taken on board. However, what has become clear to all of us is that this is a strategic decision by the Department of Defence, and has nothing to do with the financial state of this country.
“I understand that the Minister for Defence can only go along with the advice given to him by senior military personnel, but it is my belief that this advice has been inaccurate and incomplete. It’s a sad state of affairs that the top brass in the military have been pedalling these closures on a financial argument that is so obviously flawed. I was also disappointed with the Chief of Staff, who refused to even consider a meeting with Oireachtas members on this matter.
“Now that this decision has been, our focus should now shift to two issues. Firstly, I would call on the Defence Forces to look at any transfer applications sympathetically. Many serving members and their families will be unwilling to commute to their newly assigned barracks, and consideration should be given to any transfer requests made by them.
“Secondly, the barracks itself, once vacated, should not lie idle. We have seen in the past that unsecured empty barracks have become a centre for anti-social behaviour. It is my belief that this site should be used for the benefit of Clonmel, and South Tipperary. There have been a number of suggestions for the site, including a foreign language school for Chinese students wishing to learn English overseas. I would certainly be open to these ideas as they also offer important financial benefits to the local economy.
“Today is certainly a sad day for the constituency. Clonmel, and South Tipperary, is proud of its military history, and rightly so. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Defence Forces, past and present, who have done this constituency so proud.
“I’d also like to mention the sterling work done by the Army families who fought tooth and nail alongside the Oireachtas Members against this closure. Their families sacrifice so much, with many loved ones serving overseas. Once again they are being asked to carry another burden, and I hope the Minister and the Defence Forces don’t forget that.” concluded Deputy Hayes.
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