Speech by Mr. Michael Smith, T.D., Minister for Defence,
at the opening of the newly refurbished Headquarters Block
in Ballymullen Barracks, Tralee
Thursday, 25th April 2002 at 2.30 p.m.
Deputy Chief of Staff (Support); General Officer Commanding Southern Brigade; Director of the Reserve; Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I am honoured to be here this afternoon to officially open the newly renovated Headquarters Block in Ballymullen Barracks.
I would like to extend a sincere and warm welcome to our various guests, in particular to the representatives of the construction and design teams of this €422,000 renovation project. The refurbishment work carried out in the building is to be admired. The building was literally taken apart and put back together again (the roof, the chimneys and the external plasterwork were replaced, new windows and heating installed). Those who worked in the Barracks prior to the refurbishment programme will know the full extent of the work carried out over the last year and I think they will all agree that it really is a magnificent job.
The completion of this project is another step in the overall development and modernisation of the Defence Forces. Improvements are taking place in Defence Forces' accommodation and these will continue as long as it is necessary to ensure that we have the best of facilities for all our personnel. This Government has shown its commitment in a very real way to improving accommodation and, since coming to Office, more than €200 million has been spent throughout the country on modernising accommodation for the Defence Forces.
In addition to the building programme, a number of major developments have taken place on updating and modernising equipment. In 1999 and 2000 two new fishery patrol ships, the L.E. Róisín and the L.E. Niamh were delivered and have commenced patrolling. These ships cost more than €28 million each and are modern, powerful and technically sophisticated ships. Forty new armoured personnel carriers, costing more than €50 million, have been delivered and five of them are currently being used by our soldiers in Eritrea. Steyr rifles valued at more than £2 million have been purchased for use by the Reserve. It is hoped to have a contract in place soon for three medium range helicopters for search and rescue purposes. In addition there are plans to purchase trainer aircraft for the Air Corps and light infantry tactical vehicles.
Referring back to the job in hand, it is worth noting that all the architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical design work for this project was executed 'in house' by the Director of Engineering, Col. Michael Cleary, and the engineering staff in the Southern Brigade. Special thanks must go to the main contractor Michael A. Ladden Ltd., from Castlemaine. The company must be complimented for the efficient manner in which they undertook the building operation and for the overall high standard of work carried out, which is very evident today. The Electrical Services were provided by David Doyle Electrical Ltd., from Annagh, Tralee and the Plumbing Contractor was John O'Sullivan from Listowel. The standards of design and construction are most impressive. Finally, I would like to thank the General Officer Commanding Southern Command, Brigadier General Pat Nash and his staff, for the organisation behind this afternoon's event.
The modernisation of facilities and the improvement of accommodation in military barracks contribute in a very positive way to the morale and esprit-de-corps of the Defence Forces. I wish all who soldier in this building well. I now declare the building officially open.