Clonmel Cllr Gabrielle Egan’s decision to resign from the Labour Party over Kickham Barracks closure was prompted by her close family ties to the barracks just as much as her dissatisfaction with the decisions the party is making in Government.
The Clonmel Borough Council member said the Cabinet decision to close Kickham Barracks was the last straw for her and she tendered her resignation last Wednesday hot on the heels of the dramatic resignation of Labour Party Junior Minister Willie Penrose from Cabinet and from the party over the decision to close his local Columb Barracks in Mullingar.
Her move has prompted members of the Workers & Unemployment Action Group to call on Mayor of Clonmel Cllr Darren Ryan and Fine Gael Cllrs Denis Dunne and Joe Leahy to follow her lead resign from their parties in protest but all three have stated they will not be doing this.
Cllr Egan, who joined Labour in 2006, said she decided to leave the party and become an independent because she didn’t feel comfortable with the decisions the party was making in government and the closure of Kickham Barracks at the stroke of a pen without Minister Shatter even visiting the site was the last straw.
“I feel they haven’t been listening to the people of Clonmel and South Tipperary with the closure of St Michael’s Unit in Clonmel and now the closure of Kickham Army Barracks, which will make no financial savings to shut,” said the councillor from Wheatfields, Clonmel.
She said she was also unhappy Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is breaking his pre-election promise in relation to third level college charges.
At a special Borough Council meeting convened last week, Cllr Egan revealed that the closure of the barracks was also a personal issue for her.
Her daughter’s partner was a soldier serving in Kickham Barracks and he was sent to the Lebanon that evening and would be returning from his tour of duty to “no man’s land”.
Cllr Egan said she was also deeply affected by watching the wives and girlfriends of soldiers outside Kickham Barracks last Tuesday night after the soldiers were formally informed of the closure decision by Defence Forces chiefs.
“I knew it was hitting my door as well. It’s a disgrace and that is why I have left. I will still serve the people of Clonmel as an independent to the best of my ability,” added the councillor, who also had uncles and a cousin, who served at Kickham Barracks.
Speaking after the Council meeting, Cllr Egan said the barracks closure was going to be very financially difficult for the soldiers’ families, some of whom didn’t even have a car let alone two cars for commuting to other barracks.
“Their children are going to lose out on the time they spend with their fathers. It’s going to be a huge upheaval for families not just my own. We were told there were not going to be cuts here there and everywhere. I just felt I was selling that message at the doors during the election campaign and then we have all the decisions being reversed.”
She said she was well aware her resignation wouldn’t make any difference to the Government’s plans for Kickham Barrack. She had been a staunch Labour person, who was the party’s branch secretary in Clonmel and South Tipperary constituency treasurer and her decision to leave the party wasn’t taken lightly, she stressed.