Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Brian Hayes said he would speak to the Minister for Defence, Alan Shatter, in relation to progressing the feasibility study for Connolly Barracks.
Describing the plan as “a very progressive scheme”, Mr Hayes said that key to moving the plan along was to take a step by step approach and to have ‘joined-up thinking’ in relation to the military facility.
“This country is in a perilous financial position and we’ve got to start using the facilities that we have; the State has got to work together. Too often in the past one arm of the State hasn’t cooperated with another arm; inter-agency rivalry hasn’t helped. We have a chance to recreate this country and part of that is joined-up thinking on how we use spaces and locations,” said Mr Hayes, himself a former member of South Dublin County Council.
Co Mayor Cllr Paul Connell put forward a motion to progress the findings of the Connolly Barracks Study. He urged Mr Hayes to put the case to the Minister for Defence to give the facility to Longford County Council “at a very nominal fee”.
Director of Services, Frank Sheridan said the site was an important strategic site in Longford town and critical to the future development of the town.
Cllr Peggy Nolan said Connolly Barracks would be the jewel in Longford town’s urban renewal.
“This town could do with something that is a flagship development. We need to attract people in to Longford. We’re pinning all our hopes on tourism to make our economy buoyant again and that is something that Connolly Barrack would do for Longford,” she said.
Cllr Mae Sexton said there was a precedent in the past set by the OPW when it gave the council the old garda barracks on Dublin Street. “I feel that this government owes this county Connolly Barracks at a nominal figure and a precedent has been set by your department,” said Cllr Sexton.
Cllr James Keogh said as a businessman in the area, he noticed the drop in trade since the barracks has closed.
In response, Mr Hayes said he has read the feasibility plan and complimented those involved in putting it together.
“I think it’s very important that we have plans that have business cases attached to them because let’s be honest – some of the worst developments in this country over the last decade have been done by political strokery at one time or another, where developments are just plucked from thin air and without any business case or any planning and at the end of it local authorities like this have to carry the can.
“We need to get away from that kind of crass politics. I make that very blunt point about decisions taken in the past. I won’t entertain those decisions,” said Mr Hayes, who said that any future plans must have sustainable planning, with a business plan.