Around 1,500 civilian jobs are to be axed as part of a sweeping military normalisation programme in Northern Ireland, it was announced today.
Defence chiefs have also decided to retain just 11 bases and sites for the North’s peacetime army garrison.
The headquarters for the Royal Irish Regiment – whose Home Service units are to be disbanded – is being shut down.
As well as closing the St Patrick’s base in Ballymena, Co Antrim, Shackleton Barracks at Ballykelly, Co Derry, and St Lucia Barracks, Omagh, Co Tyrone, will also go.
With troop levels in Northern Ireland due to be cut to 5,000 by July 31 next year, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram has now confirmed the scale of civilian staff also being laid off.
The workforce of 3,400 will be reduced by 1,500. Another 340 new posts are expected to be created to support the new military arrangements, although retraining will be required.
Mr Ingram said: “The Ministry of Defence has thoroughly researched the requirements of the future peacetime garrison and taking all factors into consideration – not least efficiency and value for money – has now identified the bases most fit-for-purpose.
“Inevitably, there will be a substantial number of surplus posts as a result of the wider security normalisation programme but every effort will be made to lessen the impact of redundancy with transfer and voluntary retirement.
“The Department fully recognises the magnificent support to the military over the past 35 years by its civilian staff, and is committed to engaging and supporting them at every stage of this period of change.”
Ministry of Defence officials have begun a 90-day consultation process with the trades unions over how the changes will be implemented.
Talks will also focus on redundancy packages made available, with special enhancements expected.
With 19 Light Brigade, currently based in Catterick, due to be relocated to Northern Ireland and Scotland, Mr Ingram announced what sites are to be retained.
They are: RAF Aldergrove; Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn; Abercorn Barracks, Ballykinler; Palace Barracks, Holywood; Massereene Barracks, Antrim; Kinnegar Logistic Base, Holywood; Ballykinler Training Camp; Magilligan Training Centre; Duke of Connaught Unit, Belfast (a hospital wing); Laurel Hill House, Coleraine (an adventure training centre, retained subject to a review of adventure training provision); Divis Mountain mast, Belfast (a hilltop communication site).
Shackleton is set for closure in April 2008 when the infantry battalion it houses, the 2nd Battalion, The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, departs.
St Lucia Barracks will shut by July 2007 when the Royal Irish Home Service battalions disband. St Patrick’s Barracks will close by March 31 2008.
By that stage the last Home Service personnel will have been discharged or transferred.