The Department of Defence have stood firm in their insistence that they receive payment from Longford’s Town and County councils in return for Connolly Barracks. While the Department have refused to disclose the amount being sought for the barracks, local sources have indicated the price to be in the region of €1m.
When the barracks closed, Longford’s local authorities compiled a feasibility study which put forward a five-phase plan for its future use.
Director of Services Frank Sheridan told councillors that the Department of Defence’s position hasn’t changed in recent months. Admitting that the council would not be able to meet the Department’s financial demands, he said the negotiations have stalled.
Mr Sheridan described the Department’s asking price as “unrealistic”.
Cllr Peggy Nolan said the constraints on developing the barracks - where there are listed buildings - are off-putting for any private developer. She said the council met the criteria set by the Department and proposed that the council arrange a delegation to meet the minister to move the issue forward.
Cllr Mae Sexton said the council should demand the barracks free of charge. The precedent, she said, was set by former Minister for OPW Tom Parlon, who gave the former garda barracks on Dublin Street to the Town Council (the building was subsequently handed back and is now in private ownership).
Mr Sheridan said, “The Department of Defence have a value placed on it and they are staying very rigidly around that value. They have their objectives and we have ours, but they are not of the one.”
He said there was no impetus on Department officials to move on issue and felt that the only way to progress it further was through the minister.
In reply to Cllr Denis Glennon, Mr Sheridan said, “The Department of Defence don’t really have an interest in the (feasibility) study; they have an interest in the property. They would have an interest in the property coming in to community use, but they won’t have any oversight in any of the projects that we would undertake over time.”
Responding to Cllr Mitchell’s question about funding, if the council were to acquire the property for nothing, Mr Shreridan said, “I don’t doubt that we can get a number of projects into it. We have some ring-fenced funding for the historical society and they have some funding of their own.”
Following a request for information on the price being sought for the barracks, a Department spokesperson said, “The Department does not intend disclosing the valuation received for the former barracks in Longford. We are aware of the Council’s interest in acquiring the site and are available to discuss terms and conditions with them. In doing this we will be guided by our remit of disposing of surplus properties, subject to market conditions, to provide funding for reinvestment in the Defence Forces.”