Rank and file fall silent as minister outlines the tough choices ahead
THE cash-strapped Government has spelled out the tough choice facing the nation's military -- accept the closure of army barracks or expect a reduction in numbers or in overseas missions.
Junior Defence Minister and Chief Whip Paul Kehoe was greeted with silence when he outlined the Government's options yesterday in Athlone at the annual conference of PDFORRA, the association representing soldiers, sailors and aircrew in the Defence Forces.
Earlier, Mr Kehoe had heard from former PDFORRA member Timmy Murphy that the closures of military barracks in areas such as Cavan, Mullingar and Clonmel would create huge hardship for soldiers and their families as well as impact deeply on the local economy.
The association's general secretary Gerry Rooney congratulated Mr Kehoe on facing the "serried and angry" ranks but added he was disappointed that senior minister Alan Shatter opted for justice business in Geneva rather than attend the conference.
Mr Rooney said that since the mid-1990s a total of 10 major barracks had closed, leaving a total now of 16.
Mr Kehoe later told the Irish Independent that the Government's priority was to maintain the current strength of the Permanent Defence Force at 9,500.