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High-flying ministers confined to barracks

There's something about being in the presence of shiny action man stuff such as helicopters and tanks which turns even the most important of chaps into giddy boys.

Custume Army Barracks in Athlone is bristling with impressive ordnance and yesterday not one, but two government ministers landed there.

Both Alan Shatter and James Reilly were there to launch a 12-month project whereby the Air Corps will provide a flying ambulance service for the HSE, and they happily posed for photos beside the new airborne ambulance, an EC135 helicopter.

The Health Minister was quite giddy. "Who's going in the boot?" he joked as he peered inside.

But the Justice Minister seemed to be spending his day keeping a beady eye out for ambushes. When a question was lobbed about whether there was any possibility that defence cuts would hit the 4th Western Brigade which is based in Athlone, he stressed: "I want to make it absolutely clear that the barracks is safe.".

He then moved on to Longford to hand over the keys of Sean Connolly Barracks to its new owner, the county council which paid a knockdown €450,000. It was all very cheery in the council chamber as the minister and a melee of mayors assembled for the official signing-over of the barracks which closed in 2009.

• Mr Shatter has deferred the transfer of the Czech killer of a Longford mother-of-two from jail here to finish his sentence in his home country. After meeting with the family of Sharon Coughlan who was raped and then strangled just yards from her home in Longford in September 2007, it was announced that the repatriation of David Brozovsky would be delayed. The dead woman's family were outraged when they were informed last week that the killer was being granted leave to return home.

Irish Independent