Representatives of the Office of Public Works and South Tipperary VEC were among the state agencies that toured Kickham Barracks site just before Christmas to assess its suitability for use for other purposes.
The OPW confirmed that an assessment of the 16 acres site’s suitability as a facility for An Garda Siochana was one of the options it’s considering, fueling local speculation that it could become the location for a new Clonmel Garda Station in the future.
But the OPW refused to state outright that it has submitted to the Department of Defence an expression of interest in acquiring the site, which is due to close as an army barracks in March.
“Whether or not the OPW will have an interest in the site will be determined in consultation with its wide range of State clients, including An Garda Siochana,” said a statement from the OPW.
South Tipperary Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes said apart from An Garda Siochana, South Tipperary VEC and LIT (formerly Tipperary Institute) were interested in locating education/training facilities on the site.
Fionnuala McGeever, CEO of South Tipperary VEC, said VEC representatives along with other State agencies were invited to view the barracks site and did so but stressed that they had no firm opinion yet as to whether the VEC would be able to use the site.
A spokesman for LIT was unable to confirm or deny if the college was interested in acquiring the site at the time of going to press.
The Department of Defence said it wasn’t in a position to comment on any of the approaches it has received so far about the Clonmel barracks. It would only confirm that there have been a number of “preliminary approaches”, which were at an early stage and further discussions were required with all interested parties.
Deputy Hayes has welcomed the fact that some interest has been expressed in the site from government agencies. “I don’t want Kickham Barracks closed but I also don’t want it lying idle either after the Defence Forces leave,” he said.
The Kickham Barracks Army Wives & Partners Committee, which is campaigning to stop the closure of Kickham Barracks, said Government was not going to make any cost saving by transferring the Kickham Barracks site from the ownership of one Government department to another. It was just an exercise in moving it from one department’s budget to another.
“In our opinion no Government organisation should be allowed to take this site, as it will increase the cost to the State without creating any jobs for the town. (moving the cost from Defence Forces budget to another Departmental budget does not result in a saving),
“The only way the State is going to make money is by selling the site to a private enterprise,” said the Committee.
The Committee added that there were no plans for the site that will recreate the loss of income to the town from the closure of the Kickham Barracks.
“The only parties that have even expressed interest in its use are organisations within the town that would seek to move office, although, it is difficult to believe any organisation would have the means to secure the site.”
Meanwhile, Independent TD Mattie McGrath accused Deputy Hayes of trying to deflect attention from the barracks closure by disclosing the possible interests in the site.
He said the army barracks should remain open and a new Garda barracks for Clonmel located on one section of the site.
Deputy McGrath said Deputy Hayes had shamefully let down the people of South Tipperary in relation to Kickham Barracks and would be better off standing up to Environment Minister Phil Hogan, whom he claimed had successfully lobbied at Cabinet level to keep James Stephens Barracks in Kilkenny open at the expense of Kickham Barracks.
“Minister Hogan has nakedly and blatantly looked after the interests of Kilkenny at the expense of everyone else,” he declared.