Closure of NI military bases ‘retrograde step’

Danny Kinahan said the military needs capacity in NI as a contingency measure
Danny Kinahan said the military needs capacity in NI as a contingency measure

The closure of three military bases in Northern Ireland has been described as a “retrograde step” by a former Army officer.

Ulster Unionist MP Danny Kinahan said he fears for the impact the UK-wide review will have on the defensive capabilties of the nation.

His comments come after it was revealed Kinnegar Barracks near Holywood, Abercorn Barracks at Ballykinlar and the Volunteer Gliding School at Newtownards Airfield are to close.

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.

“It is a retrograde step.”

Of the three closures in Northern Ireland he said: “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.

“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.”

Mr Kinahan said he would be contacting the defence secretary as soon as possible to find out if these proposals can be stopped.