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The State has spent over €100k for security on an empty barracks in last three years

Columb Barracks has been earmarked as a site to develop affordable housing, but has been vacant since 2012.

Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

THE STATE HAS spent over €100,000 on private security in the past three years for an army barracks that has been unused for over six years. 

Columb Barracks in Mullingar was closed in 2012, causing outcry among locals as the 200 troops left for the last time.

It has been vacant since then, with a number of incidents of anti-social behaviour reported at the former barracks. Although it has long been earmarked as a potential site for housing development, no works have yet got under way on the site. 

Minister Paul Kehoe, in response to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil’s Jack Chambers, revealed the private security spending in recent years.

“In the case of former Columb Barracks, Mullingar, which closed in 2012, my department put private security arrangements in place in order to prevent the premises being vandalised and becoming the focus of anti-social behaviour,” he said.

In that regard the effectiveness of the security measures currently in place are being continuously monitored and I am satisfied that the arrangements are warranted for the reasons indicated above.  The security company also assists with the ongoing daily management of the Barracks.

This service has translated to a fee of just under €38,000 in 2016, 2017 and 2018, with a total cost of €113,135.40.

The site of Columb Barracks in Mullingar has been earmarked as a potential site for housing development, but there has been little action in that regard in recent years. 

In September 2018 when Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy announced the creation of the new Land Development Agency (LDA) which would create affordable homes for citizens.

On the list of sites earmarked for development is Columb Barracks. 

Last year, Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe told the Dáil that the government was looking at finding a solution to its continued spending on the now-unused barracks.

“The current financial and administrative burden resulting from its retention cannot be sustained,” he said. 

In response to a request from TheJournal.ie on developments at the site, a spokesperson for the Housing Department said: “The LDA is carrying out a technical due diligence process on the Columb Barracks site to determine the development constraints and opportunities, which will take a number of months. Once this process is complete the LDA will determine a delivery strategy for the site.”

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Sean Murray

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