FOUR army barracks and a military hospital are being shut down to achieve savings in the Defence budget.
Defence Minister Willie O'Dea last night confirmed an Irish Independent report last week that barracks, which had initially been earmarked for closure 10 years ago, were finally being shut down.
He said he regretted the necessity for the closure of the four Border posts as it brought an end to almost four decades of close connections between the Defence Forces and the communities in Longford, Letterkenny, Lifford and Monaghan.
He said the decisions made by the Government would enable the Defence Forces to maintain its current level of operations at home and overseas and progress the ongoing modernisation process in the organisation.
Mr O'Dea said that the withdrawal of the British Army deployments, coupled with reduced paramilitary activity, had removed the rationale for having seven barracks/posts along the Border and these would now be consolidated into three posts.
"The closure of the barracks will yield savings in administration and personnel costs and their eventual sale should, in the longer term, produce substantial resources for the modernisation process", he added.
An initial study on barrack closures by consultants Price Waterhouse in 1998 had earmarked 17 barracks for closure. Only six were shut at the time.
The new closures, together with transferring the medical facilities at St Bricin's Hospital in Dublin to the Defence Forces training centre at the Curragh, will involve up to 650 military personnel and up to 40 civilian employees.
All of them will be accommodated in other barracks and additional investment to fund their transfers will be met from existing resources.
The 135 military personnel at Rockhill House, Letterkenny, and 130 at Lifford will be transferred to Finner Camp, Co Donegal while 200 troops in Monaghan will be moved to Aiken Barracks in Dundalk and 130 in Longford transferred to Custume Barracks in Athlone.
The barracks are due to close by the end of January but the sale of the properties will be timed to take account of market trends.
A programme to replace three Naval Service ships has been put back for a year to achieve savings in 2009 but it is intended to have a contract for the purchase of Light Tactical Armoured Vehicles in place by the end of the year.
The overall Defence budget is €1,061m, a reduction of 1.6pc on last year.
A number of capital projects, including barrack improvements, will also be deferred.
The cuts at a glance were:
- Four army barracks and a military hospital shut down
- All personnel will be accommodated elsewhere
- Savings and profits from property disposal will be re-invested in the military
- Defence budget down 1.6pc
- Number of capital projects deferred including purchase of three new ships.