Thursday 22 February 2018

Hundreds protest over rumoured base closures

Claire O'Brien

HUNDREDS of relatives and supporters of Army families protested over the weekend amid fears their local barracks are facing closure.

Communities in Mullingar and Cavan were united in their protest against the rumoured closure of Columb and Dun Ui Neill barracks for budgetary reasons.

Clodagh Graham was one of around a thousand people protesting in Mullingar. Her husband is currently serving in the Lebanon.

Any closure would be an "affront to the intelligence of the community", she said on behalf of the families of 200 soldiers and 120 reservists whose presence contributes about €8m to the local economy.

Army families, many of whom receive Family Income Supplement, cannot bear the cost of increased travelling expenses, moving children out of schools and creches and will be unable to sell their homes to move, she said to loud cheers.

And there were emotional pleas from relatives speaking on behalf of servicemen.

"My dad's in the army, and basically the barracks is part of my life," said 12-year old-Gemma.

"I grew up around it and my dad's been overseas a good few times and he was overseas six months after I was born. It's part of Mullingar," she said.

In Cavan, the children of serving members also called on Defence Minister Alan Shatter to save their fathers' workplace.

Fianna Fail councillor Patricia Walsh doesn't know whether her son will have a barracks to come home to when he gets back from the Lebanon in December.

She criticised the lack of decision by the Minister for Defence, who she says has never visited the barracks.

Fine Gael TD Nicky McFadden was booed as she spoke of budget targets and offered her support but said her loyalty is to her party in government.

Irish Independent

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