Save Kickham Barracks campaigners will stage their first protest demonstration through the streets of Clonmel on Saturday afternoon and its organisers and the Mayor of Clonmel are appealing for the people of South Tipperary to join them in the march.
The Stop Closure of Kickham Barracks protest march will be led by the families of soldiers serving at the Clonmel army barracks leaders and will start from St Mary’s Church in Irishtown at 2pm on Saturday.
It will proceed through the town centre to finish at Clonmel Town Hall where there will be a rally featuring speeches from campaign leaders and political figures.
The protest will follow hot-on-the-heels of a high powered deputation of politicians, business representatives and soldiers families meeting with Justice, Equality and Defence Minister Alan Shatter to appeal to him directly to keep the Clonmel army barracks open.
The deputation comprising South Tipperary TDs Tom Hayes, Seamus Healy and Mattie McGrath, Senators Denis Landy and Labhras O’Murchu, Mayor of Clonmel Darren Ryan, Co. Council Chairman Michael Fitzgerald, a Clonmel Chamber of Commerce representative and Eleanor Prout and Elaine Troy of the Save Kickham Barracks Action Group will meet with Minister Shatter at the Department of the Taoiseach at noon on Thursday.
“This will be our one opportunity as a group to sit face to face with the Minister and lay our argument on the table,” said Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes, who will lead the deputation.
“I’ll be saying to the Minister that there are little to no cost savings to be made from such a closure, and that Clonmel has a long and proud military tradition that we don’t want to see come to an end”.
Deputy Hayes said the pressure to close Kickham Barracks along with barracks in Mullingar, Castlebar and Cavan was coming from Defence Forces chiefs and the Department of Defence, who are recommending the closures will achieve a lot of savings and are needed for strategic reasons, which he completely rejects.
“The army and Department of Defence are in cahoots with each other on this. We are up against a lot,” he said.
Catherine Kennedy of the Save Kickham Barracks Action Group, founded by the wives and partners of Kickham Barracks soldiers, said their two representatives will put across in the strongest terms to Minister Shatter how the closure of the barracks will affect the town of Clonmel, the soldiers and their families.
They will also present to the Minister letters from army families outlining the impact losing the barracks will have on their lives and their town.
A public meeting organised by the action group last week heard that shutting down the barracks would cost the economy of Clonmel about €10m and would be the equivalent of losing two factories.
Catherine urged the people of Clonmel and surrounding areas including business people and members of community and social organisations to turn out in force to support the protest march on Saturday.
During the protest, members of the Save Kickham Barracks Action Group will be seeking signatures for the new petition opposing the barracks closure, which the group plans to send to Minister Shatter in the coming weeks.
Mayor Darren Ryan has echoed Ms Kennedy’s appeal to the public to join the army families in the march, stressing that its closure would impact on the whole economy of the town.
“For this protest we need not hundreds but thousands of people to come out on the streets to send a clear message to Minister Shatter that we won’t accept a closure of the barracks. I am appealing to as many people as possible to take part.
“This is about a group of dedicated people, who have served our town for hundreds of years, who have come out to assist the people of the town in our greatest hours of need including the floods and the cold weather snaps. And they opened the barracks to the community anytime we needed the facility,” he added.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fail senators will put forward a motion in the Seanad this evening, (Wednesday), opposing the closure of Kickham Barracks and the barracks in Mullingar, Cavan and Castlebar that are also under threat.