Yesterday's closure of Columb Barracks in Mullingar, coming just two days after the closure of Kickham Barracks in Clonmel, marks the end of an era stretching back several centuries. The closure of these two army barracks is part of cost-cutting programme announced last November by the Department of Defence, which will also see barracks in Cavan and Castlebar closing.
Not surprisingly, given their long history in their communities, the closure of barracks is often a controversial issue in local communities. Willie Penrose resigned both as a junior minister and the Labour whip following the decision to close Columb Barracks.
Unfortunately a rationalisation of army barracks was long overdue. The new state inherited a sprawling network of military barracks from the British in 1922. Most of these barracks had their origins as recruitment depots in the early 19th century, when almost a third of the rank and file of the British army was Irish-born.
Even in 1922 Ireland was over-endowed with military barracks. It is only now, nine decades later, that the nettle has been grasped.
However necessary the closure may be, there is still no denying the attachment many towns felt towards "their" barracks. Mullingar, Clonmel, Castlebar and Cavan have all performed above and beyond the call of duty. They can be justifiably proud of their contribution to Ireland's proud military heritage.