Barracks closure would break a ‘thread’ stretching back 350 years

Aileen Hahesy

Aileen Hahesy

The people who flocked to the Save Kickham Barracks public meeting on Monday highlighted the importance of Kickham Barracks to Clonmel’s social, community and family life while business representatives pledged their support for the campaign.

Former Defence Forces sergeant Seamus Dolan, who served with the 12th Battalion at Kickham Barracks for 22 of his 25 years in the force, spoke about the barrack’s rich history at the meeting and also the strong ties many local families like his had with the barracks over generations.

In his speech to the meeting, he said there were people alive in Clonmel today, who had fathers and brothers who served in the barracks before independence. One of them was his grandfather, who served in the Royal Irish Regiment, and was one of 1000s of local men who fought in France in World War 1.

Mr Dolan said his father had served at Kickham Barracks before him and he served there alongside his brothers, uncles and cousins. And he wasn’t unusual in having such strong family connections to the army and Kickham Barracks.

He told the meeting that if Kickham Barracks was closed that “thread” that would be broken and 350 years of military tradition would be gone for ever.

Kevin Hogan told the meeting that campaigners in Clonmel needed to unite with those fighting to save the other army barracks under threat. They needed to get marches in all the towns and make it a national issue and get the people behind their campaign.

Anne-Marie Breen of Clonmel Traders Association, whose husband is a former soldier, said it should be emphasised in the campaign what the soldiers and their families stood to lose if the barracks was closed.

“When times are so hard the best thing we can give our children is time and to keep the family unit as strong as possible. It’s the one thing that is free. By moving all these men up the country and for them to spend half the day in trucks waiting to get back to their families is an absolute disgrace,” she declared.

She also said the barracks closure would have a major financial impact on the town, which was already on its knees in terms of trade. Clonmel’s businesses definitely didn’t need the closure of the barracks to be added.

Clonmel Chamber of Commerce President Tina Mulhearne said Clonmel Chamber was behind the campaign to save the barracks and would do everything it could to help the campaign in areas such as public relations and administration.

Fr Brendan Crowley, PP of St Peter & Paul’s Parish, said he wanted to highlight the importance of the barracks to the social and community life of the town. One of the highlights of his parish’s bicentenary celebrations last year was the event in Kickham Barracks that was enjoyed by around 3000 people from Clonmel and surrounding areas, he recalled.

He pointed out that every second page of the baptism and marriage registers of St Peter & Paul’s Parish over 200 years referred to people connected with the barracks.

Jimmy O’Meara, a member of the army reserves, said he volunteered his time as a reserve and his unit, which was based at Kickham Barracks was the top recruiter of new reserves. “This year we got 14 boys in and only for Kickham Barracks we wouldn’t have that. The community is very important to these lads,” he said.