A public meeting is to take place in Mullingar this week in reaction to news that the Government is considering putting Columb Barracks in Mullingar up for sale by public auction.
The news was announced by Deputy Paul Kehoe, Minister of State at the Departments of the Taoiseach and Defence, after Fianna Fáil's Robert Troy asked the Taoiseach and Deputy for their plans for the future of the barracks.
Deputy Robert Troy said that since the closure of the barracks in 2012, the Department of Defence has done nothing to try to secure an alternative use for the premises and the facilities that remain there.
Deputy Kehoe responded by saying that since the closure of the barracks his Department has explored a number of avenues to try to secure the long-term future of the facility. He said Departments and other public bodies, including Westmeath County Council, were invited to declare any interest in acquiring the property, however to date no interest has been declared.
"As the barracks is no longer required for military purposes, the current financial and administrative burden resulting from the retention of the barracks cannot be sustained," Deputy Kehoe said. "The disposal of the property by public auction will be actively progressed in keeping with the Government’s policy and recent practice to dispose of surplus property no longer required for military purposes."
Deputy Troy argued that there had been little interaction between the Department and Westmeath County Council on the issue. He said there are community groups using that facility at the moment, including the GAA, youth cafe, and the Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel. He called on the Minister to "press the pause button" in order to give the community an opportunity to carry out a feasibility study and present a plan.
Deputy Kehoe said that the Department cannot be expected to act as landlord to a facility which is falling into disrepair. He added that his officials will be in contact with Westmeath County Council to ask whether it has a future in mind for the barracks. However, if there is no proposal from the council, the Department will go ahead with the sale.
The public meeting will take place at Columb Barracks on Thursday, June 23, at 8.30pm.