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Barracks closures will not have major impact on local economies - minister

Junior defence minister Paul Kehoe says closing four rural barracks will help make the Defence Forces “more professional”.

A CABINET MINISTER has conceded that the closure of four rural army barracks will not result in major savings for the government – but has denied that their closure will have a major impact on local economies.

Junior defence minister Paul Kehoe – who sits at cabinet as the Chief Whip – told the Dáil that the closure of the four barracks in Castlebar, Clonmel, Cavan and Mullingar would result in “efficiency gains” of around €5 million per year.

It would cost the State around €1m to provide immediate accommodation for army staff being displaced in the moves, he added, while the move will also require between €4m and €5m in works at other barracks over the next three years.

Kehoe – deputising for Minister for Defence Alan Shatter, who is attending an EU summit in Brussels – said the closure of each barracks was part of an effort to make the Defence Forces “more professional” and was not motivated only by cost.

He added that the closures would not result in job losses in the Defence Forces, and that no other companies were likely to “go to the wall”.

“You can’t keep a barracks open just because there might be a few pounds less in a community,” Kehoe said.

While local traders or suppliers may experience a downturn in revenue as a result of the closure of each barracks, Kehoe said it was his belief that any commercial supplier to a barracks would likely be a supplier for other facilities that were remaining open.

Fianna Fáil’s defence spokesman Dara Calleary accused the government was unable to quantify the €5 million savings that it expected to derive in “efficiency gains”.

The closure of the four barracks prompted Kehoe’s fellow ‘super-junior’ minister Willie Penrose – who was the Labour party’s minister for housing and planning, and who is based close to Mullingar – to resign from the government.

In his resignation statement, Penrose said he was “not prepared to stand over a decision that was not backed up by the facts and figures”, and said the closure would have an negative impact on the town’s economy.

In other Dáil business this afternoon, Kehoe disclosed that Ireland is owed over €11.5 million from the United Nations in respect of its peacekeeping duties.

€6.8 million is outstanding from peacekeeping duties carried out in Chad, while another €4.8 million is due for work carried out in the Lebanon since 2006.

Ireland is still awaiting payment of around €280,000 expenses for the deployment of forces, Kehoe said, adding that the recovery of defence expenses from the UN was “pursued on an ongoing basis”.

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Gavan Reilly

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