As Mayor and First Citizen of Clonmel, I want to take this opportunity to express my sincerest gratitude and thanks to the members of the Defence Forces in Kickham Barracks, Clonmel, both past and present for their dedicated work and contribution to the people of the town and indeed surrounding areas.
Kickham Barracks is part of our town’s heritage and will always remain so. When the decision by Government was taken last November to close Kickham Barracks, it shook everyone in the town to the core. It is likely that there is not one family in Clonmel who has not had some kind of association with the Barracks since it first came to our town over 350 years ago. Members of the Defence Forces have made Clonmel their home, have raised their children here and have bought homes here. For others, it has been a great family tradition to serve in Kickham Barracks, with generations of some families from great grandfathers to great-grandchildren.
When our town needed assistance the most, when our citizens were vulnerable and unable to provide for themselves in so many ways, be it in times of flooding, cold weather or indeed in personal tragedies, the members of Kickham Barracks were always first on hand to provide the invaluable service to those most in need. On behalf of the citizens of Clonmel, I want to say a very sincere thank you for the contribution the members of Kickham Barracks have made to our town.
The announced closure of Kickham Barracks has created a lot of debate and discussion within the political establishment of Clonmel and indeed South Tipperary. As Mayor I want to thank those elected to public office, particularly on Clonmel Borough Council, who have worked collectively and tirelessly to try and get this unwelcome decision reversed, and Clonmel should be proud to have them as their Councillors. I also want to acknowledge the contribution that our Oireachtas members have made to try and reverse this decision, but unfortunately our voices went unheard.
In losing Kickham Barracks, the people of Clonmel and the many community groups that operate within the town will be worse off. The members of Kickham Barracks have always opened its gates to the community of this town, and made them feel so welcome and at home. Each group that used the Barracks in so many ways will miss it and the assistance that its members always provided. I want to take this opportunity to appeal to people and organisations in Clonmel to, please, assist these community groups in finding new homes for their activities.
It was my belief and will always be my belief that the decision to close Kickham Barracks was a wrong one, and history may reflect this in time. There has yet to be any justifiable argument or case brought forward which can support the decision.
In conclusion, as Mayor of this very historic Borough I want to pay tribute to and thank the Army Wives & Partners committee who have worked so tirelessly and fought the decision so hard. Clonmel is proud of you and you all deserve so much praise and credit for all your work. I think this will be a time during my Mayoralty that I will look back on with great emotion and sadness. it is always the priority of any Mayor to protect all aspects of their town and I trust that people will remember that I stood side-by-side with the people of the town during this time.
I, as Mayor, will take the final salute from the members of Kickham Barracks when they march out and it will be with a heavy heart that I carry out this function, but also with a feeling of pride, proud that I can take this opportunity on behalf of the citizens of Clonmel to give the soldiers the fitting send off they deserve.