Independent councillor, Michael O’Brien, called into question the political motives of some councillors after a motion requesting a letter be written to the Taoiseach and Minister of Defence asking for the reinstatement of the 4th Western Brigade at Custume Barracks was raised.
The motion by Independent councillor Kevin “Boxer” Moran came up at Monday’s March meeting of Athlone Municipal District.
Cllr Moran said there had been “no word about it even though four TDs all made promises. Nothing has come up at any Ard Dheis... people feel let down,” he said. “A number of groups have come together and there’s a lot of worry out there about the future of the barracks.”
“This is no disrespect to Fine Gael councillors, it’s your leader,” he added.
Fianna Fáil’s Aengus O’Rourke said that his party leader, Michael Martin, has given a commitment that his party would reinforce the 4th Western Brigade when next in power. “Cllr Moran I’m with you totally - but you might as well be writing to Santa Claus as to anyone in Government to ask for the Western Brigade to be reinstated.”
Fine Gael’s John Dolan said he has total trust in Taoiseach and party leader Enda Kenny - “You have to take the man at his word. He has given a commitment. But we also have to support soldiers here. I know two or three personally and it’s not right that they have to travel to Dublin for work. I’ve no problem sending a letter,” he added.
“There’s a lot of politics going on here,” noted Cllr O’Brien. “Fianna Fáil closed Longford and Mullingar barracks, you’re playing politics with people’s lives. Commitments and promises are taken with a pinch of salt these days,” he added.
Sinn Féin’s Paul Hogan noted that it was very sad to see soldiers from the area having to travel up to the Curragh for work. “I support this motion. I’ve raised it before and have been accused of scaremongering. I hope we receive a response to the letter, if only out of respect.”
Cllr O’Brien wasn’t the only councillor, to voice his concern over the motion - Mayor of Athlone Frankie Keena, and Fiánna Fail councillor agreed that the timing of the motion ahead of the 2016 General Election was questionable. “I’m conscious of the fact there are real people and families affected - will you push it along after the election?
“I know there are General Election candidates sitting around the table. I’m conscious of the politics and timing of it all. We need to keep it on the agenda after the elections,” said Cllr Keena.