The proposed closure of the Reserve Defence Force facility in Clonmel was raised in the Seanad by Labour Senator Denis Landy.
Kickham Barracks closed on 29 March last, thus ending 350 years of a military presence in Clonmel, he said. The Third Cavalry Battalion of the Reserve Defence Force was attached to the barracks and following its closure, negotiations with the Minister resulted in a Reserve Defence Force headquarters being located in Clonmel. As a result, 55 active members continued their weekly meetings and training at the location.
As a result of the Minister’s recent announcement in that the Reserve Defence Force will be consolidated nationwide, the Third Cavalry Battalion will cease to function in Clonmel and move to Cork, he said.
“This decision has come as a great shock to the 55 members of the battalion who serve in the town. This group, which include individuals from Carrick-on-Suir, where I live, Cahir, Fethard and surrounding areas, will have to travel to Cork for training every week if they wish to continue to serve their country. Making this journey of approximately 70 miles in each direction will require the provision of at least two minibuses.”
While Senator Landy said he was aware of the cost of renting, operating and maintaining the building currently in use in Clonmel, the decision to close the facility and incur weekly transport costs to Cork does not make financial sense. Moreover, the loss to Clonmel of this military unit, of which he was a member for many years, will also result in the loss of a military tradition as Reserve Defence Force will no longer be recruited in south County Tipperary.
In reply, Minister Alan Shatter said a value for money review of the Reserve Defence Force, RDF, was recently completed and published.
The steering committee recommended an Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve based on a total strength ceiling of 4,000 personnel, 3,800 of whom would be Army Reserve and 200 of whom Naval Service Reserve personnel, he said. It recommended the retention of a country-wide geographic spread with units in existing Permanent Defence Force installations and 16 locations outside these installations.
“This approach offers significant advantages in terms of accessing equipment and training,” he said. “Under this organisational model, the only Army reserve elements outside Permanent Defence Force installations will be reserve infantry companies. All other Army reserve combat support and combat service support elements will be co-located with their PDF counterparts in PDF installations. This will be in Cork in the case of 1 Brigade. Accordingly, it is no longer feasible to retain reserve cavalry or medical elements in Clonmel. The training and support of reserve elements of defence force units located in PDF installations will be undertaken by the PDF element of those units. The 16 reserve infantry companies outside PDF installations will have additional support from 16 teams of full time PDF personnel.”