Some 183 personnel from Columb Barracks will be moved to Custume Barracks, Athlone after the closure of the Mullingar barracks was announced this week.
Altogether 170 military personnel and 13 civilian employees are attached to the 4th Field Artillery Regiment in Mullingar. The regiment is an element of the Athlone-based 4th Western Brigade, and the Department of Defence has said that the move will allow for greater flexibility in the training and deployment of the entire Western Brigade.
The Department of Defence has confirmed that no jobs will be lost due to the closure of the barracks. Personnel from Mullingar will be able to avail of free transport to Athlone for the foreseeable future and they will receive compensation and change of station allowance. The closing date for transferring troops is March 30, 2012.
After months of speculation, the Government announced on Tuesday, November 15 that it plans to close four barracks across the country including barracks in Cavan, Clonmel, and Castlebar along with Mullingar.
The announcement prompted local Junior Minister Willie Penrose to resign the party whip and lose his cabinet seat.
A meeting has been organised by the Save Columb Barracks committee for this evening [Friday] at 7pm at Davitt and Davitt Insurance to discuss the impending closure.
Committee member Rebecca is the daughter of Noel O’Callaghan, Regimental Sergeant Major in Columb Barracks, who is due back from a tour of duty in the Lebanon next Thursday. Rebecca says the group are disappointed at the manner in which the news of the barracks’ closure was broken to both the soldiers and their families on Tuesday.
“Nicky McFadden rang me when we were standing outside the barracks. The news that the four barracks are to close was a big shock. The soldiers were told at a meeting at 4.30pm, and I had to ring Dad in the Lebanon to tell him,” she says.
“We know the decision won’t be reversed but we want to make some noise and to see if there is anything else we can do for the barracks,” she says.
Angela Madden says the committee are still waiting to hear the details of the decision to close Columb Barracks.
“We are awfully disappointed, particularly with the way the news was delivered to the soldiers. We are still waiting for official confirmation from Minister Shatter. He promised that when the barracks was shortlisted for closure he would make contact with us and engage with us.
“I’m thoroughly confused by the decision, it makes no economic or logical sense. We are waiting for the Minister to explain the cost savings to us. When this Government came into power they said they would be transparent.”
Angela lived in Columb Barracks as a child for 15 years when her father was Regimental Sergeant Major, and says her time there taught her a lot about community values.
“I learned wonderful values such as giving back to the community and to charity. The Government is investing millions to get people involved in volunteerism and sports, and that’s all here in Columb Barracks. The barracks and the town are inextricably linked. Closing the barracks will tear the heart out of Mullingar.”