Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy has called for the re-establishment of the 4th Western Brigade at Custume Barracks, Athlone during a motion on the Defence Forces in the Dáil.
Speaking in the Dáil Eugene Murphy said “In tabling the motion Fianna Fáil is acting on its belief that the Defence Forces are of critical importance to both the State and society. Sadly, it has not always been clear since 2011 that Governments have sufficiently valued the Defence Forces organisation. The decision in March 2011 to assign the defence portfolio as a subsidiary role to the Minister for Justice and Equality indicated an essential lack of respect for the position.
“I take great pride in the Army. Army personnel are wonderful people who, in the view of most in the country, do a very good job. Fianna Fáil has always given priority to the Defence Forces. As pointed out, there has been an alarming fall in the number of Defence Forces personnel which now stands at slightly over 9,000.
“It is a pity that this and the previous Government failed to give a senior Cabinet position to the Department. That has led, in part, to the demoralised state of the Defence Forces. In recent years, the House has not given adequate time to discussions of defence matters. In the 15 months prior to the February 2016 election, the then Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality discussed defence matters just once. That shows the lack of interest.
The Reserve Defence Force is dying a slow death, with recruitment kept at a low level of just 184 recruits in 2014, a good level of 341 recruits in 2015, but only 47 new recruits trained up to November 2016. Recruitment is crucial to the Reserve’s survival. If it does not increase, the Reserve will be wiped out.
I will conclude on an important point. -The 4th Western Brigade must be re-established at Custume Barracks, Athlone. It should never have been disbanded. I look forward to the day that it is restored. Its disestablishment and the removal of so many military positions from the midlands, west and North West have meant that no career-oriented military personnel could ever again put down family roots in those areas. This is another example of government moving out of rural Ireland. I appeal to all Ministers and Ministers of State from the midlands and west to support the motion. We want the re-establishment of the 4th Western Brigade in Athlone,” concluded Deputy Murphy.