Soldiers may retire, join foreign armies or become ‘part-time dads’

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

Some long serving soldiers at Kickham Barracks will be forced to take early retirement while some of their younger colleagues are considering emigrating and joining foreign armies in the wake of the Cabinet’s decision to close the Clonmel barracks.

That’s according to four Clonmel based members of the Kickham Barracks Army Wives & Partners group, who spoke to The Nationalist about the financial burden and impact on family life the closure of the barracks will have on them.

Eleanor Prout said her husband, who is a private with 24 years service, will probably be forced to take early retirement.

“He will retire very reluctantly and sadly because the army is his life and he is too young to retire. He intended to stay but the financial cost of it (transferring to Limerick) is steep and it doesn’t make sense for him to stay on.”

Eleanor believes her husband is just one of between 30 and 40 long serving soldiers at Kickham Barracks who will be forced to take early retirement rather than commute or move to Limerick.

Elaine Troy and Gillian Byrne’s husbands are both facing daily commutes to Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick. Elaine’s husband is a private with 13 years service in Defence Forces and the couple have two young children, while Gillian’s husband is a corporal with 14 years army service behind him and the couple also have two children.

They said the transfer of soldiers from Clonmel to Limerick will place an extra burden of €3000 on their families. For the first nine months, the non-commissioned soldiers will get an allowance that will cover only a small part of their travel costs.

Elaine said her family can’t move to Limerick because they wouldn’t be able to sell their home and she also works full-time in Clonmel. Elaine said they will have to buy a new car as the “battered old jeep” her husband drives to work daily won’t be up to daily journeys to and from Limerick.

“It will mean more costs for us and less time for him with the kids. By the time he gets home in the evening he will only have an hour or two to spend with them. The soldiers will basically become weekend daddies”.

Gillian said she and her husband have talked about emigrating to Australia where he could join the Australian army because she believe there is nothing to keep them in Ireland.

“I am so disheartened by the Government in this country. I am so angry. How dare they treat ordinary people like this. It’s so frustrating. They don’t listen and they don’t care. Some of the younger soldiers are considering joining armies in other countries.

Catherine Kennedy said her husband, who is a private with 10 years service at Kickham Barracks, faces having to live at Sarsfield Barracks on the days he is on duty because he doesn’t own a car and isn’t able to drive.

“He cycles to work and he will literally become a part-time dad. He will be lucky to get home once in the week.”

She said it wasn’t financially feasible at the moment for her husband to purchase a car, tax and insure it and also learn how to drive.

She was at work when a customer told her the news of the closure. “I was just in shock when I heard. I didn’t know what to do. Whatever about us, for the soldiers themselves it was appalling. We knew (about the barracks closure) before our husbands.”

Eleanor, Elaine, Cathering and Gillian also highlighted the huge tradition of serving in the Defence Forces at Kickham Barracks going back generations in all their families and how that will be sadly lost when the barracks is closed.

“The part I find really heartbreaking is that my dad and grandfather, my brother, brother-in-law and cousin all served at Kickham Barracks,” said Gillian. When my son grows up, it’s likely he will want to join the army but he will never get the chance to serve in Kickham Barracks. It’s a big tradition in our family and it’s gone now.”