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Thousands of jobs at risk over plans to close military sites

Published 07/11/2016

Ballykinler Army camp is to have no resident regiment for the first time since the Napoleonic wars
Ballykinler Army camp is to have no resident regiment for the first time since the Napoleonic wars
An aerial view of Fort George army barracks near Inverness (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland/PA Wire)

Plans to close more military sites throws thousands of jobs into doubt, unions warned.

Another 56 Ministry of Defence sites are to close, including the historic Fort George in Scotland.

The sites that are set to close in County Down are Abercorn Barracks, Ballykinler; Kinnegar Logistics Base, Holywood; and Volunteer Gliding School at Newtownards Airfield

The plans are part of the Government's Defence Review that aims to cut thousands of civilian posts under huge budget cuts.

The Public and Commercial Services union said the cuts will severely hit the support available to armed forces and will further damage morale.

The union will oppose closures and job losses, adding that the MoD should learn from previous mistakes if it sells off land for housing.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "We are opposed to these closure plans that throw the future into doubt for thousands of staff.

"The MoD has a poor track record on selling off land for homes and this again exposes how the Tories are simply paying lip service to the urgent need to address the housing crisis."

Unite national officer Mike McCartney said: "In many instances the bases earmarked for closure are at the heart of their local communities providing a source of decent and secure employment.

"Their closure will be a severe blow to the local economies where they are located and the people whose livelihoods depend on them.

"Over the coming weeks we will be analysing the detail of the proposed base closures and pressing the MoD to step back from its brutal base closure programme."

An aerial view of Fort George army barracks near Inverness (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland/PA Wire)
An aerial view of Fort George army barracks near Inverness (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland/PA Wire)

North Down DUP MLA Gordon Dunne said: "Kinnegar Base in Holywood was once a thriving hub of activity employing up to one thousand civilian staff, which provided much needed support to the Army during the darkest days of the troubles.

"As a former MoD employee I know first hand the valuable work which went on within Kinnegar and I would like to pay tribute to the Army and civilians who worked at the base for many years. Kinnegar base was not just a place of employment, it was a large part of local community life where people lived and worked together.

"The decision to close Kinnegar base marks the end of an era, but also presents a fresh opportunity for the potential development of a business park or industrial opportunity.

"I will be working with the Economy Minister and Invest NI to see if it might be possible to secure the future of the site, which is in such a prime location for much needed job creation opportunities for the people of North Down."

Ulster Unionist MP Danny Kinahan said the move was a retrograde step.

Mr Kinahan, who previously served as an Army officer, said: “I fear for the implications of this Review for the UK as a whole and the impact it will have on our military capability as a Nation. 

“Locally, I am very concerned at the news that Kinnegar Barracks near Holywood is to close along with Abercorn Barracks at Ballykinlar and also the facilities that house the Volunteer Gliding School at Newtownards Airfield.

“Kinnegar provides vital support to the nearby Palace Barracks, Ballykinlar has excellent training facilities and the Gliding School is hardly a massive drain on a UK wide MoD budget.

“As an ex-soldier myself I am well aware of the large numbers of Northern Ireland people who serve in the armed forces - including the Reserve forces - and who form part of the Veterans community.

“The end of Operation Banner has seen the decommissioning of a number of sites throughout Northern Ireland as part of the normalisation process and that is to be welcomed. However, it is essential that the military retain capacity in Northern Ireland as a contingency measure, and with that in mind, I fear that the loss of Kinnegar and Abercorn in particular are – to use a military term – a bridge too far.

“I will be contacting the Defence Secretary as soon as possible to find out if these proposals can be stopped.”

Press Association

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