Tuesday, 8 December 2015
Department of Defence
290. To ask the Minister for Defence his views on a proposal (details supplied) to use Columb Barracks as a headquarters for Westmeath Civil Defence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43997/15]
Following the closure of Columb Barracks, my Department wrote to Government Departments and other Public Bodies inviting them to express any interest in the property, with a view to its disposal by the Department. No such interest was expressed at that time. My officials also met with local representatives and officials from Westmeath County Council to discuss the future of the Barracks.
As the Deputy is aware, a number of local organisations are currently using the Barracks. These include the Westmeath GAA County Board, the Irish United Nations Veterans Association (IUNVA), the Order of Malta and the Midland Youth Services. The former barracks is also currently used by An Garda Síochána and the Customs Service for training purposes and it is intended that these arrangements will remain in place. Leases with these and other local community groups are currently being progressed in my Department. In addition, numerous requests from other community groups wishing to avail of accommodation within the Barracks have also been received. Regarding accommodation for Westmeath Civil Defence HQ, initial contact was made with my Officials to discuss the possibility of them relocating to Columb Barracks. The position, however, is that the provision of accommodation for Civil Defence Units is, in the first instance, a matter for the relevant local authority. I would, of course, be happy to consider a proposal from the Council in this regard. Indeed, given the number of local organisations interested in using the facility, I believe that it may be useful to engage with the Council regarding the long-term development of the Barracks.
The Department of Justice and Equality, who is the lead Department for the Refugee Accommodation Programme, is also working with my Officials to establish whether any of the buildings falling within the remit of the Department of Defence, including Columb Barracks, are suitable for the purposes of temporary accommodation.
As the Deputy can appreciate, proposals involving the long-term retention of Mullingar Barracks by my Department, which includes administering multiple leases and fulfilling the many responsibilities of a landlord, will put a significant administrative and financial burden on my Department. I will be happy to discuss with any interested group, including the Local Authority, any proposals they may have for the possible purchase and future development of the site for the benefit of the local community.