Importance of Athlone’s strategic location ignored
Local TD Denis Naughten has expressed dismay at the decision by the Minister for Defence to sanction the downgrade of Custume Barracks in Athlone and to abolish the 4th Western Brigade of the Defence Forces.
“It seems bizarre that the Defence Minister stated in the Dáil, less than a month ago, that it would be at least eight weeks before he even had a definitive timetable as to when he would receive the report on the reorganisation of the Defence forces and that he envisaged that the plans would be agreed before the end of this year,” stated Denis Naughten.
The Defence Minister told the Dáil at the time: “I tasked the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General of the Department of Defence to bring forward detailed proposals for my consideration. Work is on-going in this regard. The Deputies will appreciate that in advance of receiving a final report, I will not be in a position to discuss likely options or recommendations or to release aspects of the approach as this is an on-going deliberative process.”
In response to questioning by Denis Naughten the Minister went on to say: “I will not pre-empt in any way any recommendations or try to second guess any recommendations that might be made to me with regard to the reorganisation that is taking place, in particular with regard to decisions as to where the headquarters of the particular brigades should be located.”
“Yet despite these comments the Minister decided yesterday (Thursday) to do the exact opposite and undermine any proposals that may be considered from the Defence Forces,” commented Denis Naughten.
“The fact is that this decision runs contrary to the only independent assessment of the structure of a two brigade army by Price Waterhouse Coopers, which proposed a brigade location to cover the border and the northern part of the country and a second brigade to cover the rest of the country with a specific taskforce for the Dublin region,” highlighted Denis Naughten.
“The fact is that there is still significant dissident republican activity across the border along with serious problems of smuggling, in particular the laundering of fuel, and the trafficking of women and children. Athlone is the ideal location to base one of the two brigades within the army and it is totally unacceptable that we are now set to see the 4th Western Brigade abolished,” concluded Denis Naughten.