Willie O'Dea: closed facilities

THE closure of four barracks in an attempt to save the government money is likely to cost the taxpayer up to €3m, it has emerged.

Defence minister Willie O'Dea shut down facilities at Monaghan, Longford, Rockhill and Lifford, Co Donegal in January 2009 as part of a rationalisation plan.

However, it has emerged that the costs involved in closing the four barracks and a military hospital at St Bricin's in Dublin have already been significant.

The Department of Defence confirmed it had already spent €470,000 on "providing additional building work and renovations at the receiving barracks".

It also said further expenditure of €1.8m was "anticipated" in the upgrading of accommodation and locker facilities at the soldiers' new bases. Significant costs are also being accrued at the closed-down barracks where security, utilities and maintenance and repair have to be paid for.

At Monaghan Barracks since the beginning of the year, the department has spent more than €21,000, mainly on provision of utilities.

At Longford Barracks, maintenance and repairs cost €7,075, utilities cost €8,056 and a private security contract saw a bill of €1,530. At Rockhill in Co Donegal, almost €20,000 has been spent since the start of the year, half of which went on maintenance and repairs. At the nearby facility in Lifford, a bill of nearly €13,000 has mounted up since January, the Department of Defence said.

Troops forced to move are also eligible for payments that can range from €1,000 up to €10,000, if they are forced to move house or commute long distances. The total cost of moving the 650 troops and 40 civilian personnel could cost the taxpayer more than €600,000, it is understood.

It had been hoped that when the barracks were closed that some land could be sold on. However, economic conditions have put paid to that plan. Instead, the department has been in touch with a number of other government agencies about land-swaps and other arrangements.

It has already had discussions with Longford and Monaghan VECs, the Department of Education and the garda authorities about the locations, it said. The department said long-term savings would be made by the decision to close the facilities and that was in line with government policy for the Defence Forces.

It said: "Apart from the non-financial benefits of the closures, the costs mentioned will be more than off-set by recurring annual savings estimated at €2.6m, mainly on security duties, utilities and maintenance costs. This does not take into account the proceeds from the sale of the four barracks."