Closure of barracks along Border may prove problem following Brexit

Government decision to close army barracks may prove costly mistake, says PDforra

Defence Force Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett was reluctant to be drawn on the impact of the six barracks along or close to the Border, in terms of what might emerge from Brexit, and whether Britain will seek to impose a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Defence Force Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett was reluctant to be drawn on the impact of the six barracks along or close to the Border, in terms of what might emerge from Brexit, and whether Britain will seek to impose a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The decision by successive governments to close six Army barracks along the Border may prove a costly mistake in the event of change in the security situation in Northern Ireland following Brexit, the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDforra) has warned.

General secretary of PDforra, Gerry Rooney, told the association’s annual conference in Cork that PDforra had opposed the closure of army barracks in Lifford, Rockhill in Letterkenny, Monaghan, Cavan, Castleblayney and Longford between 2008 and 2011, believing such closures were a mistake.

“If there is going to be a security situation because of the nature of the form that Brexit will take, the Army again will be playing a role in support of the gardaí. We said at the time it may be a bit too early to take them away in the first place,” Mr Rooney said.

“We didn’t particularly think Brexit was going to happen but you never know with the security situation in Northern Ireland what is going to happen, but Brexit is just another angle on the same issue - so yes, the closures were a huge mistake.”

However Defence Force Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett was reluctant to be drawn on the impact of the six barracks in terms of what might emerge from Brexit, and whether Britain will seek to impose a hard Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

“Brexit is a political issue and it would be unfair for me to comment on something that is outside my competence,”Vice Admiral Mellett said.

“The Defence Forces stand ready to support Government in any way it can but the issue of Brexit and issues like that are political issues - we subordinate the military to the political.”

Survey

However, Vice Admiral Mellett was more forthcoming when commenting on a climate survey which found members of the Defence Forces did not believe the organisation was fair. Vice Admiral Mellett said that this was not his experience from talking to younger members of the Defence Forces.

“I visited every Defence Forces unit last year and I visited all missions overseas and I’m hearing nothing but positivity. Of course we have challenges and I am committed to addressing those challenges, but to say that is an unfair and unjust force is from my view, simply not true.

“People have a view about the Defence Forces that it is hierarchal and command driven, it is anything but. I will meet youngsters in the Defence Forces who will be very frank to me about their concerns and I have to say, I am not hearing the level of concerns that you are suggesting to me.”

“What I am hearing in the Defence Forces is a very positive appreciation of people who love to serve their country and their society - and that’s not just at home. It’s also in the international missions, whether that’s in North Africa, the Middle East or the Med,” he said.