Ballykinler Army base to become GAA training centre
A major GAA training centre is to be built on the site of an Army barracks in Co Down, it has been confirmed.
Ballykinler has been owned by the Ministry of Defence since 1901. The last resident battalion pulled out of the camp in 2014, leading to speculation over future uses of the site.
Parts of the complex are still in regular use by the police and Army for training, but it will close completely next year.
It has now emerged that it will home to a GAA training centre.
Yesterday the Down county board of GAA announced on its Facebook page that its committee had approved advanced negotiations to base a new centre of excellence at Ballykinler.
The move will see the organisation lease part of the facility from the MoD.
In the statement it said early discussions with the MoD had focused on the "potential lease and development of part of the Abercorn Barracks site at Ballykinler into a multi-purpose GAA complex" and that "all parties are working towards bringing this exciting plan to fruition".
It added that the new centre of excellence will be a "significant resource for the local communities".
"Ballykinler has a vibrant GAA community and the local club facility had been a training base for Down senior teams for a number of years," it said.
"If approved and progressed, the Ballykinler project will form an important part of a new Vision 2020 strategy for the county. While a new complex will cater for the training and administrative needs of Down teams in all Gaelic games codes, it will also be a significant resource for the Ballykinler club and the local communities."
In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, the MoD said: "We can confirm that the MoD is in discussion with the Co Down GAA in relation to a proposed centre of excellence in the Ballykinler area."
Ballykinler has had a varied history, from hosting the training of the 36th Ulster Division during the First World War to being an internment camp during the Irish War of Independence in 1919, to housing troops from the United States during the Second World War.
In 1974 a 300lb IRA van bomb killed two soldiers and destroyed some buildings.
It was used as a training centre for the UDR during the 1970s and 1980s, and has been used by various Army regiments as a base since then.