Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Ceisteanna (146, 147)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

150 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Defence the progress, if any, that he has made in securing alternative use for Columb Barrack, Mullingar, County Westmeath; the number of potential groups his Department has met in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23193/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Robert Troy

Ceist:

151 Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Defence if the Reserve Defence Forces based in Mullingar, County Westmeath, have been accommodated with a new premises since the closure of Columb Barracks, Mullingar. [23194/12]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Defence)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 150 and 151 together.

As the Deputy is aware four barracks, including Columb Barracks Mullingar, closed on 30th March 2012. Military personnel occupied on security and support functions within the four barracks have been released for operational duties leading to an efficiency gain of around €5 million per annum. In addition, there are direct cash savings of approximately €1.3m per annum arising from utilities, maintenance and security duties allowances in the four barracks.

When the Government took the decision to close the barracks, I asked my Department to enter into discussions with other Government Departments, Local Authorities, State Agencies and community groups regarding the possible purchase of the properties to benefit the local community as a whole but with particular emphasis on job creation measures. In this regard officials from my Department have met with officials from the various agencies and the relevant local authorities. These discussions are ongoing. I can assure the Deputy that every effort will be made to dispose of Mullingar Barracks so as to maximise the benefits to the local community.

As a result of the closures there is a requirement to provide alternative accommodation for the local Reserve Defence Force Units. In this regard my Department placed advertisements in the relevant local newspapers seeking tenders for the provision of suitable accommodation. This is a normal arrangement for Reserve Units in other locations around the country. At present my Department has 10 permanent rentals and 30 part time rentals in place including part time use of parish and community halls as well as some commercial premises. The total annual cost is less than €100,000 for all forty premises.

Given the savings from the barrack closures you will appreciate that the renting locally of alternative accommodation for the Reserve Defence Force Units is the most appropriate course of action and there is no economic argument for keeping a full barracks open to cater for a Reserve Unit that may only train for a few hours once or twice a week when alternative rented accommodation can be provided for a small fraction of the cost.

Following receipt of the tenders and their evaluation I am pleased to say that suitable alternative accommodation for the local Reserve Unit has been identified in Mullingar and the necessary documentation (Tax Clearance Certs, etc.) has been requested from the owner of the property. When the documentation is received a formal lease agreement will be entered into and the local Reserve Unit can then take possession of their new training accommodation.