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Secretary General, General Officer Commanding the Western Brigade, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to be in Custume Barracks this morning to officially open this attractive new NCOs Mess. Since taking up office as Minister for Defence, I have regarded the modernisation of Defence Forces’ equipment and infrastructure throughout the country as a priority, and I am always delighted to see yet another building project being completed.

This fine new NCOs Mess that I am about to open replaces an older facility that was not in compliance with modern Health and Safety Regulations and needed either to be refurbished or replaced. After both of these options had been considered, it was decided to embark on the construction of a new purpose-built mess that would blend in with and enhance, its surroundings. The Athlone-based firm, Heavey Architects was given the job of designing the new mess and as we all can see today, they did an excellent job. The new building contains a bar/reception room, an ante-room, a snooker room, a recreation area and storage facilities.

The main contractor for this project was T. Murray and Son from Athlone and other consultants involved included: Quantity Surveyors: M.J. Turley and Associates, Portarlington, the Civil and Structural Engineers: Malachi Cullen and Associates, Athlone and the Services Engineers: Homan O’Brien Associates, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. All of the companies involved are to be complimented for the efficient manner in which they undertook this project and for the very high overall standard of the work carried out.

This new mess is a welcome addition to the facilities in Custume Barracks. It is extremely important that we provide the best of facilities for all our serving personnel. Gone are the days of substandard accommodation, equipment and training facilities. The men and women of the Western Brigade deserve the very best facilities, uniforms and equipment that we can provide.

This new building, which cost €1.25 million, is part of an investment programme that has seen over €170 million spent on upgrading Defence Forces facilities at installations throughout the country in the last seven years. In fact, a refurbishment contract valued at over €700,000 to provide a new dental suite, office accommodation and storage facilities at the Old Hospital Block in Custume Barracks is due to be signed in the next few weeks.
In addition, the process of evaluating the tenders for the €2.5m refurbishment of the Brigade Block here is at an advanced stage. I want to take this opportunity of restating the Government's total commitment to continuing the process of major investment in equipment and infrastructure for the Defence Forces.

I would like to thank the staff of the Building and Engineering Section of my Department and the Directorate of Engineers for all of the hard work that they put into bringing all these construction projects to completion.

It now gives me great pleasure to declare this NCOs Mess officially open.


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