People on the streets of Clonmel voiced anger and sadness at the closure of Kickham Barracks, which has been central to the town’s economy, social life, history and identify for generations.
Tara Moran, who lives on the Fethard Road, Clonmel said she and everyone she had talked to about the barracks closure were horrified at the Government’s decision.
She is particularly concerned about what will happen the 16 acres barracks site once the Defence Forces leave at the end of March next year.
“I think with the buildings empty they will fall victim to vandalism because the Government won’t be able to sell the site. This is a desperate decision for the town.”
John O’Sullivan of O’Sullivan Insurances, Mitchel St., Clonmel said it was terrible news and as many people, like him, had very emotional connection to the barracks and he believed a part of the town’s history will go overnight when it closes.
“I wouldn’t be here only for the barracks. My father was the youngest of 13 and times were hard back in the 1920s and he ran away from home to join the army in Clonmel. My wife’s father, likewise, was a blow-in to Clonmel who came to the town to join the army. Everyone loved him, he was in the Military Police.
He knows people who worked in the barracks in his parents times and also some of the young generation based at the barracks. The closure would hit not only the 200 soldiers based at the barracks but also the town’s economy. He had read in The Nationalist that its closure would cost the town about €10m.
“Absolutely crazy”, was how Annie O’Brien, who works in Hearn’s Hotel on Clonmel’s Parnell Street described the Government’s decision to close Kickham Barracks.
“I think it’s crazy because the amount of people that will have to transfer to other barracks and the travelling they will have to do. It will be very disruptive.
“I think it will cost the Government money rather than saving them money. If the soldiers are going to have to relocate to other station they will have travelling expenses and what will happen the barracks site? There are rumours that it’s going to be turned into a Garda station but I think it’s too far out from the town centre for a garda station. If the site is left closed up, people will just go in there and destroy it.”
Fred Binchy of Binchy Solicitors, The Quay, Clonmel said the closure of Kickham Barracks was a very sad moment for Clonmel because it was so much a part of the town’s fabric going back generations.
“There are so many families directly affected by it. Clonmel is a town that has been very much regarded as an army town. I remember there were people at school whose dads were in the army. Now all those army people and their families are being uprooted. The loss of the barracks will also affect the traders and town’s people.
“It’s a very sad moment. While I can’t say what our politicians have to do and decide, I feel it’s the kind of thing that if it could be avoided it should be,” he said.
Mr Binchy said when the Defence Forces are gone, he hoped the barracks site would be used in some way to benefit the town of Clonmel because nothing of that nature was done during the so-called “Celtic Tiger” years.