The future of Custume Barracks is uncertain as the headquarters for the 4th Western Brigade came under question this week as Minister for Defence, Alan Shatter, failed to give a definite answer on which brigades will be kept on under a new two-brigade structure.
Speaking at the launch of a new air ambulance service, which is to be based in the Athlone barracks, Minister Shatter said, “I want to make it absolutely clear that Athlone barracks is safe. Those that are here are safe. This is a very, very important barracks within the Defence Force structure, indeed the numbers have increased as a consequence of the closure of other barracks.”
However when questioned on the future restructuring of Athlone as the HQ for the 4th Western Brigade, Minister Shatter did agree that the Defence Forces would be losing a brigade.
There are currently three brigades in the country, of which the 4th Western Brigade headquarters are in Athlone while the 2nd Eastern Brigade is based in Dublin, and the 1st Southern Brigade is based in Cork.
“We announced previously, in December, that we are moving from a three-brigade to a two-brigade structure. There is a process of reorganisation now under discussion... I’m not going to pre-empt the continuing deliberations that are taking place with regard to those discussions. When they have concluded I expect to be presented with a proposed reorganised framework for the Defence Forces.”
Minister Shatter reaffirmed that he was not going to pre-empt the discussions that are taking place. “We’re going from a three- to a two- brigade structure. We had a three brigade structure when there were 11,500 members in the Defence Forces; we’re now down to a Defence Force of 9,500. We want to optimise the use of resources we want to maximise the capabilities of our Defence Forces and ensure there’s a reasonable proportion between enlisted men and officers and we’re moving in that direction but as it’s a process, I’m not going to prejudge that process, and I’m awaiting the outcome,” he concluded.