RELATIVES of soldiers in Longford demonstrated over the decision to close their local barracks in another protest against a budget measure.
The demonstration took place during a visit by army chief of staff Lieutenant General Dermot Earley, who was meeting troops and families affected by the closure. It was announced in last week’s budget that five military installations in Longford, Monaghan, Donegal and Dublin were to close by the end of January.
While no jobs are to be lost in Longford, 130 soldiers will be incorporated into existing barracks in Athlone. The move will bring to an end about 40 years of the Defence Forces presence in the region.
Antoinette Devaney, who represents a group of army relatives opposed to the closure, said the people of Longford were devastated by the decision. “We are devastated by this blow not only to families of soldiers, but to Longford also. My husband is an NCO and is away a lot as it is. He is in the Curragh for the next four weeks. I have a four-year-old daughter and I don’t need her away from her Daddy,” she said. Ms Devaney disagreed that in the current economic climate soldiers should expect to take a hit.
“I disagree with that. We have all taken hits. We have the 1% levy now, we have taken hits on petrol, on the price of goods, our bypass has been put on hold. How many more hits to people have to take. We have taken enough hits,” she said.
Gerry Rooney of PDFORRA, the representative association for soldiers, said the closures would save very little money because of the amount of money needed to upgrade existing barracks in order to accommodate the extra soldiers.
“This will save very little for the Government in terms of economies of scale. We estimate it will save about 60,000 a year in total,” he said.
A Defence Forces spokesperson said Lt Gen Earley would listen to the concerns, but would also explain why the closures were necessary in order to create economies of scale that would cut down on costs.
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