A letter from the Department of Defence addressing how to “dispose” of the 16 acres Clonmel Army Barracks in a way that will “maximise the return to the Defence Forces” has been condemned as “insensitive”
Members of South Tipperary County Council said they were “appalled” by the letter, which was sent to County Manager Billy McEvoy a week after the announcement that the barracks is to close.
However there was also a feeling from councillors that a meeting sought between the department and the County Manager might be the best way of obtaining information on the closure.
In the letter, the Department of Defence asks if the County Council would be interested in acquiring the site. It goes on to say the Department is entering into discussions with other departments, local authorities, state agencies and community groups “regarding the possible purchase of the properties to benefit the local community as a whole but with particular emphasis on job creation.”
The letter also seeks a meeting between the Department and Council officials, particularly to explore “the planning considerations that might apply to the site, the structures of buildings on the site.”
Speaking at last Monday’s meeting of the County Council, Cllr Bobby Fitzgerald said the letter was “very insensitive” and that the way it was phrased was “appalling.”
There was agreement from Cllr Pat English who described the letter as “a bit premature.”
“Those 200 jobs would be real jobs,” Cllr English added.
County Manager, Billy McEvoy, said he was in favour of arranging a meeting with the department.
Cllr Darren Ryan said the Department were quick to send out letters but not reply to letters from public representatives. He said if the meeting goes ahead it might be a way of finding out what is going on.
Cllr Richie Molloy disagreed, saying that if they do meet with the Department it could be seen as “giving up the fight straight away.”
He suggested it would be better to write back and say the Council is waiting for a response to its own resolution, taken at its special meeting after the closure announcement, before they will look at alternatives.
“If we start looking at alternatives before the end of March we are giving away our hand.”
Cllr Molloy proposed the Council write and say they are awaiting a response to their own letter, a proposal seconded by Cllr Darren Ryan.
“This letter is proof that it was a knee-jerk decision,” Cllr Seanie Lonergan said. “No thought went into it, they never gave any indication they knew they were listed buildings. They talk about creating local jobs - the jobs are already in the barracks.”
The meeting heard that Clonmel Borough Council did not receive the same letter.
Cllr Siobhan Ambrose said it was “disgraceful” the way the Borough Council had been treated.
She told the meeting that Fianna Fail have made a Freedom of Information request for all documentation concerning the closure decision. It would not be a bad idea for the manager to meet with the department, she added, but it should be postponed until after they have received a copy of the feasability report used to take the closure decision.
Mr McEvoy said that if the government make a decision they had to work with it and he saw no reason not to engage with the Department of Defence at the same time.
Meanwhile, Cllr Darren Ryan said the Borough Council still has not received from the Department of Defence a copy of the feasibility study, which formed the basis of the decision to close Kickham Barracks three weeks after it was requested.
And the Kickham Barracks Army Wives & Partners Committee are this week preparing to take their campaign to stop the closure of the barracks to the Dail next Wednesdy, December 14 where they will meet with opposition party leaders and independents.
The group has also requested to meet with Labour and Fine Gael representatives on the day but is currently awaiting a response.