MP to raise Forkhill Barracks site with MoD Minister
Sinn Féin Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy has confirmed that he will be in contact with British Defence Minister Des Browne to request that the process to sell-off of the former Military Barracks in Forkhill is 'put on hold' until the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and the Department of Social Development (DSD) are in a position to buy the site.
Mr Murphy said:
"Both Departments have declared that they are willing to acquire the site which has been earmarked for an innovative community led development of the site. They will not be in a position to do that until next year. It is essential that the British Ministry of Defence ensure that the opportunity for the purchase of this land for this Community Development Project is not lost.
"This project, supported by DARD and DSD, would ensure the creation of sustainable rural communities through a programme of innovative job creation, business opportunities and social enhancement projects. It is essential that Des Browne recognizes the importance of this project to the local community. It is also essential that all Departments work together to help deliver this for Forkhill."
Slieve Gullion area Councillor Anthony Flynn, who described a meeting earlier this week with official from DARD and DSD, Council Officers and Community representatives to discuss the issue as positive, said that there had been a huge amount of work already undertaken by the local community organisations.
Cllr Flynn added:
"The local Community Group and the Forkhill and District Development Association have produced, through community consultation, a blueprint of suitable actions for the site, both social and economic."
The Sinn Féin elected representative said that he shared the disappointment of many that the Business Case to fund this proposal had been rejected by the Department of Finance and Personnel, but he reiterated his and his colleagues commitment to finding a way to ensure the development succeeded.
Concluding Cllr Flynn said:
"Forkhill has suffered because of the major military base strategically placed in the centre of the village which has impacted greatly on every aspect of local life during the last number of years.
"The proposal would send out a strong signal, not only to the local community, but to everyone including the private sector, that this Administration is prepared to commit itself financially to a unique rural development opportunity which will bring significant benefits to the local people and hopefully attract some private sector investment.
"If allowed to proceed, this project would increase pride in that area, create business opportunities and jobs, provide leisure facilities to young people, help create opportunities for young mothers and fathers, reduce anti-social behaviour, encourage children into healthy outdoor pursuits and sports and provide access to jobs. The Forkhill project will help create a new revitalised village centre for the people of Forkhill and surrounding area." ENDS