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Speech by the Minister for Justice, Equality & Defence at the formal hand over of Longford Barracks following its sale to Longford County Council.

Mayor , fellow Deputies, Councillors, County Manager, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen I am pleased to be here to-day to mark the formal hand-over of the remaining part of Longford Barracks following its sale to Longford Local Authorities. Since its closure in 2009 my Department has been involved in the process of disposing of the property and I am pleased to say that this process has now been completed. Part of the site has already been reserved by the OPW for the local Garda Siochana and Co Longford Vocational Educational Authority has acquired another part of the site. The remaining portion, approx 10.4 acres, has now been acquired by Longford Local Authorities. This begins the latest chapter in the history of the site which has been in public ownership since the 18th century.

The site of the barracks was acquired in 1774 from the then Lord Longford and consisted of the Castle and Market House for which 3,670 was paid. Additional lands were bought by the War Department on 31st March 1909 for a consideration of 398. 14s. 0d. The barracks, had by the end of the eighteenth century become the largest Garrison in the Midland District and continued to operate as a British military barracks until its handover to the Free State on 17th February 1922. The barracks was subsequently renamed Sean Connolly Barracks after Commandant Sean Connolly who had been killed in action by British troops at Selton Hill near Mohill on 11th March 1921. Since then the barracks has seen numbers serving there vary considerably over the years and it wasn’t until 1969, with the advent of the troubles in Northern Ireland, that the barracks again began to play an important role with the arrival of troops for border duty. The barracks acquired further status on 15th September 1972 when the 4th Motor Squadron took over Command of the barracks and remained in situ until its closure in 2009.

Whilst the closure of any barracks is a major event in the history of any town it has to be looked at in the context of the economic challenges which face the country and the ongoing Defence modernisation programme. As Minister for Defence I must consider the overall needs and organisation of the Defence Forces not just for today but in the years ahead ensuring that we continue to have a modern Defence Forces capable of meeting the needs of the Government and the public, while delivering value for money.

It is an established fact that the deploying of military personnel in a large number of locations has been a major difficulty in the provision of essential training and exercises. It also imposes additional costs and overheads on the Defence Forces due to increased requirements because of multiple locations in terms of barrack management, administration, maintenance and security. Difficult though it is barrack closures have been an essential element in developing a modern, state of the art defence capability.

Over the years we have seen the benefits of the barrack consolidation. To-date seven of the fourteen barracks closed have been disposed of, agreement has been reached between my Department and two local authorities for the disposal of three others and discussions are ongoing with other state agencies for the disposal of two of the remaining four barracks. The barracks disposed of to-date have been utilised for the benefit of the local communities. In addition the modernisation programme in the Defence Forces, which has been largely funded by the consolidation of Barracks, has been a great success.

I am very pleased that the remaining portion of Longford Barracks is being acquired by another state Agency. In this regard I would like to particularly thank the County Manager, the officials of both the Council and my Department for bringing this matter to a successful conclusion. I wish you well with the development of the site which I am confident will be of great benefit to the town and the community at large.

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