THE future of James Stephens Military Barracks in Kilkenny city has been secured.
After weeks of uncertainty, Environment Minister Phil Hogan has confirmed that Kilkenny is not one of the four army installations set for closure under the government’s budget cuts for the Defence Forces. He was unable to say which bases were under threat but conceded that the barracks would not close under the current government.
It brings to an end months of worry for the families of the personnel stationed there. The barracks is worth an estimated 14 million euro a year to the local economy and the military presence in the city has been a major back-up to the civic authorities especially in times of emergency, like during last winter’s severe weather conditions when they ferried medical personnel to St Luke’s hospital and freed people trapped in their homes on higher ground.
There are between 300 and 400 people posted at James Stephens at any one time and 100 of those are due to leave on a peace-keeping mission to the Lebanon tomorrow (Thursday). The news has been welcomed by the Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council, Cllr Paul Cuddihy.
“This news will be a great source of reassurance to the troops embarking on a tour of duty tomorrow to the Middle East and to their families left behind to worry for their safety and the security of their employment in the city,” Cllr Cuddihy said.
“They now know they will have a military barracks to walk back into when they come from their tour next May,” he said.
He paid tribute to Minister Hogan for “tipping the scales” in favour of Kilkenny and said that he was being true to the commitment he made to the electorate before the general election.