Move to ‘save’ Western Brigade

Government TDs have urged Defence Minister Alan Shatter to revisit the decision to disband the army’s Western Brigade.

Fine Gael TD Nicky McFadden said she was “totally against” the move.

Her party colleague, James Bannon, said Mr Shatter had “probably jumped the gun” and that the issue needed much more debate.

The TDs were speaking after meeting in Buswells Hotel, Dublin, across from the Dáil, with a delegation from Athlone, Co Westmeath, where the brigade has its headquarters.

The delegation briefed the TDs on the implications of the decision. It included Ciarán Ó Catháin, president of Athlone Institute of Technology; John McGrath, president of Athlone Chamber of Commerce; and John Tiernan, former Roscommon county manager.

They told TDs that the disbanding of the brigade would represent a “serious setback” for the region and could cost it up to €50m in lost economic activity. They also said the proposal was in conflict with a 1994 expert report on military reform.

They called for Mr Shatter to put the decision on hold until a proper debate on Defence Forces reform begins later this year.

Mr Shatter announced in last December’s budget the decision to reduce the number of brigades from three to two. It has emerged that the Western Brigade is to be abolished, with the Dublin-based Eastern Brigade and the Cork-based Southern Brigade remaining in place.

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