Army general snapped at match hours after closures announced
Published 20/11/2011 | 05:00
IT comes under the old heading of 'you can't go anywhere'.
A picture of the crowd in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin last Tuesday night watching Ireland and Estonia clearly features one of the Army's 'top brass', Brigadier-General Paul Pakenham, officer commanding the Southern Brigade.
Unfortunately, his attendance at the match came just hours after the Government announced it was closing four Army barracks, including Clonmel, which comes under the Brigadier-General's jurisdiction.
Even more unfortunately, he was sitting almost directly behind Ireland's manager Giovanni Trapattoni when he was at his most animated -- and the photograph in which they both featured was splashed across the Examiner newspaper.
According to the Army press office, General Pakenham was away on "official military duty" when the announcement was made, and as it was important that the troops were addressed as soon as possible, General Pakenham's second in command went immediately to Clonmel to address the troops last Tuesday evening at 5.30pm.
Sources in the Army described General Pakenham as "an honourable man" and said he would have made the announcement himself, but he was away on military business.
Instead he addressed personnel from Kickham Barracks, Clonmel, before their deployment overseas, on Wednesday night.
"As a matter of concern for the personnel affected by the announcement, and in order to ensure that the information concerning Kickham Barracks was delivered as speedily as possible, the second-in- command of the 1st Southern Brigade travelled to Clonmel at the earliest opportunity on Tuesday to address personnel," said the Army statement.
The unfortunate incident happened as the Government and Minister for Defence Alan Shatter ordered the closure of barracks in Mullingar, Thurles, Cavan and Castlebar.
The announcement led to the resignation of the popular Minister for Housing Willie Penrose, a TD for Mullingar and a 'super junior' minister who sits at the Cabinet.
Former ministerial adviser Derek Mooney said: "Willie Penrose's resignation is about a lot more than just Mullingar barracks; it is about a part-time defence minister who fails to appreciate what he is doing, or is simply not bothered.
About 500 soldiers are affected by the decision, including 170 at Columb Barracks in Mullingar.
Of the four barracks involved, three are former British army outposts which are protected structures, while Cavan barracks is a purpose-built military installation.
Traders in all four towns -- Mullingar, Cavan, Thurles and Castlebar -- believe that the closures will lead to millions of euro in lost business and that the State will not save any money as the buildings being vacated are virtually unsaleable in the current property market.