IN a spirited Dáil speech, Deputy Ann Phelan, defended the retention of James Stephen’s Army Barracks in Kilkenny “as a strategic regional Army presence in the South East”.
Speaking against a Fianna Fáil motion to retain all Army Barracks in the country, Deputy Phelan accused that Party of Cynical opportunism. She said that by setting up the current review of public service numbers in January 2010 the previous government under its Employment Control Framework, cast doubt on a continued presence into the future of a viable unit of Army Defence Forces in Kilkenny.
“The wind is gone from the sail of this motion because Fianna Fáil in Government consistently refused to give any absolute commitment of specific barrack retention in the past - in fact –this is a matter of public record and established practice, they supported the consolidation of Defence Force units into a smaller number of locations, as their objective to maximise the efficiency of our Defence Forces” she stated.
“Perhaps the real value of the Army resource in a civil supporting role was not fully appreciated until recent winters when we had severe weather conditions. For example in January this year the Army stood ready to provide vital assistance to the people of the South East. Their assistance was needed to address what was a national emergency at a time when there was not an adequate national response from Central Government.
“The plight of many of my constituents both in Carlow and Kilkenny, particularly those living in remote and upland areas, owe a great debt to the Defence Forces for their expertise and provision of specialist vehicles to the local authorities, health and community care interests.
The vital emergency support role the Forces played during the bad weather periods in the moving patients, medical staff and supplies, where poor road conditions prevailed was such that It is no use telling a whole region that vital assistance is elsewhere available in Dublin, Cork or Limerick.
As a component part of the 1st Southern Brigade, Kilkenny is rich in accommodation and ancillary facilities so that the financial challenge to meet expansion there is lessened. Critically, in these austere times, viability has to be one of the principal considerations in any decision.
“In rejecting the motion because Fianna Fáil are responsible for the present difficulties they are acting like Prima Donna’s. This small proud country, struggling to maintain its sovereignty is playing a commendable role in international peace keeping, deserves better than this cynical opportunistic motion which could compromise James Stephen’s future and the future wellbeing of the many families who depend on its support, she said.