For this Council to seek an urgent meeting with the Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny TD and the Tánaiste, Mr Eamon Gilmore TD in order for this Council to strenuously object to any proposal to down grade Custume Barracks Athlone and/or the 4th Western Brigade.
I have been given confidential access to confidential information, both documentary and verbal which confirms to me beyond any doubt that Minister Alan Shatter will announce in the coming weeks that we are about to lose the 4th Western Brigade. This post treaty nightmare that is facing our town, our Barracks and this region is unnecessary, illogical and reckless. Here are reasons why:
1. This objective of reducing the force from 3 to 2 brigades was announced by Alan Shatter around budget time last year. It followed no debate either with or outside of the Army – no debate just a maverick decision with no clear or logical reasoning. A diktat from Minister Shatter.
2. Interestingly Alan Shatter has decided to bypass the established Green Paper discussion process (which he had initiated himself) by steamrolling the restructuring of the Brigades through, with an announcement due in the coming weeks to axe our brigade! Any discussion or consultation, political or public, on the issue of the number of army brigades should take place in this Green Paper process.
3. FF in the Dail & Seanad and the media have tried on numerous occasions to find out from Alan Shatter and the Dept. of Defence how much if anything will be saved by reducing the force from 3 to 2 Brigades. He is either unwilling or unable to give that information.
4. Since announcing this ‘Directive’ in December 2011, 6 months ago, morale in Athlone Barracks and throughout the force has been at an all time low. In recent weeks as news filtered out about our brigade, morale has been quite simply ‘on the floor’. We have 1440 serving Defence Force personnel in Athlone all of whom are devastated by this unnecessary and irrational solo run by Alan Shatter.
5. To lose a brigade is to remove the foundation, the vehicle within which highly trained, specialist personnel can ply their trade. Specialised transport, medical, communications, military police, engineering, ordnance, logistics, training and other units will be affected. In total 632 personnel will have to be redeployed, relocated to the remaining two brigades in Dublin or Cork. The overwhelming majority of these would be rank and file members of the Defence Forces, I want to dispel the myth going about that this measure will only impact high ranking personnel, that is not true.
The consequences of this decision:
1. The barracks will still be manned, so no saving there. The 632 personnel will still be employed on current terms, so no saving there. Instead, these solders will be paid a ‘Change of Station’ allowance for 9 months which will cost in the region of €4mil.
2. Solders will have to commute to Dublin or Cork each day or up-root altogether and relocate in these cities. However, selling their homes would be very difficult in the current economic climate.
3. Communities would be decimated, the local economy would take a substantial hit, families would find themselves under immense stress and strain, with children being uprooted from schools, sports clubs, friends etc..
4. The remaining personnel in the Barracks and the entire force nationally would be crestfallen and utterly demoralised by this course of action.
That as a Council we meet with the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to encourage them to postpone any brigade restructuring decisions until a full and thorough debate has taken place through the already established Green Paper process.
I am satisfied that the information I have is accurate and complete. Those who I have been dealing with at the highest ranking levels within the Defence Forces and the Civil Service have given me this information out of their dedication and commitment to the force and the personnel who serve with them.
My proposal is fair and logical, that we ask the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to postpone any decision on a reorganisation of the Brigades architecture before a full and thorough debate is facilitated by way of the Green Paper process.