Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy called it a “a dark day for Athlone” as the Government admitted that the 4th Western Brigade will lose out in the reorganisation of the Defence Forces.
Speaking to the Advertiser, Deputy Troy said that after pushing Junior Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe during a Dáil session yesterday, Thursday June 14, it was revealed that Athlone would be losing Brigade status.
Athlone loses out to the 2nd Eastern Brigade which is based in Dublin, and the 1st Southern Brigade which is based in Cork.
“It’s a devasting blow for Athlone and the wider community. This news puts a dark cloud over the Midlands,” said Deputy Troy.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister for Defence, Deputy Kehoe said he could “confirm that the headquarters for the two Brigades will be located in Cork and Dublin”.
He also said that the number of personnel in Custume Barracks after the reorganisation will be in the order of 1,000, a reduction from the current 1,050.
“I can also confirm that the numbers serving in Custume Barracks will be of the order of 1,000 personnel. When the current Government came in to office in March 2011, there were approximately 900 personnel in Custume Barracks and there are presently approximately 1,050 personnel in the Barracks. Consequently, the new arrangements with regard to the Brigade will have no dramatic impact on the numbers in Custume Barracks.”
He added that Minister Shatter was disappointed to have to announce decisions on the reorganisation at such an early stage.
“Unfortunately, there is an ongoing campaign of misleading speculation about Custume Barracks, Athlone raising unnecessary concerns locally about the barracks and going so far as to suggest that the removal of the Brigade Headquarters would result in some 600 personnel being withdrawn from the barracks.
“To dispel this negative campaign and to support the completion of the preparatory work, the Minister finds it necessary to clarify the position with regard to Custume Barracks.”
Deputy James Bannon, who tabled a motion in the Dáil yesterday, said he was “extremely disappointed that the redrawing of brigade structures will see the 4th Western Brigade removed from Athlone”.
“That the Midlands is to be left without a brigade of the army for many years, even centuries, is criminal - we have lost too much already,” said Deputy Bannon.
“It is time that the Government accepted that the Midlands is not the kicking post of the country and will fight back.”