Justice Minister Alan Shatter has been urged to clarify the future of Collins Barracks in Cork after it emerged up to 300 soldiers may be leaving it — far more than the 64 mooted by the minister last month.
Fianna Fáil TD Michael McGrath said commandants from the 4th Infantry Battalion briefed privates, corporals, and non-commissioned officers and they were “totally shocked at what they heard”.
“I understand that members of the 4th Infantry Battalion, which is being disbanded by the minister, and the Logistics HQ based at Collins Barracks were advised that up to 250 of them would be transferred to Limerick and Kilkenny between September and November this year,” said Mr McGrath.
“Some of the members I spoke to speculated that when officers are added in to the mix, there could be up to 300 personnel leaving Collins Barracks. Obviously, if anything like this were to come to pass, it would be devastating news for the families concerned, for the future of Collins Barracks and for the local economy in Cork.”
Mr McGrath said that when the re-organisation of the Defence Forces was announced last month, Mr Shatter said the number of personnel based at Collins Barracks would fall by 64, from 1020 to 956.
“The members of the Defence Forces based at Collins Barracks and their families deserve to get an immediate clarification from Minister Shatter as to what exactly is going on.
“How can the minister promise that Collins Barracks would lose no more than 64 jobs while just three weeks later personnel are being told that 250 of them will have to transfer?”
Gerry Rooney, general secretary of PDFORRA, which represents soldiers, said he was aware the figure could be as high as 300 due to the disbanding of the 4th Infantry Battalion.
He said other units in the barracks could be expanded to offset some of the losses in Cork.
However, his organisation has said it is important for all involved in this downsizing of the Defence Forces, including the minister, to know that the “Croke Park Agreement on public service reform deals with the important matters of ‘re-skilling’ and ‘voluntary relocation’, in such circumstances”.
“We are now actively seeking clarification from management on the criteria being used for moving personnel from one post to another,” he said.
“The Croke Park agreement deals with re-skilling in situ, so that relocation can be minimised and we certainly would expect that none of our members will have to experience involuntary relocation as part of the current reorganisation.”
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