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Press Release From Columb Barracks Community Groups

Press Release

On behalf of some of the 13 groups who have been excluded from Columb Barracks in Mullingar. We would like to update the local people of the situation as of today 04/05/2024.

In April 2023 the Heritage and folklore group were locked out of their building, Block E. We were informed that a group of Ukrainians had changed the locks and actually put 5 padlocks on the main door. Our group who had maintained this building had allowed the Ukrainian community to use the top two floors. We tried to get some of our property from our room on the ground floor, this was to be given to an army Veteran who had just received a home after being homeless for a number of years, to be informed by 2 members of this community we would never be allowed into this building and they were keeping our property. This property was personal property belonging to various members of groups in the Barracks, some was in a locked room and some was for communal use.

Last April various group co-ordinators arrived in the barracks to set up for various classes and activities which were being run. We were stopped at the gates and informed we no longer had permission to access the complex. Groups who have been active in the Barracks for over 10 years were excluded. We could not access the building we had maintained or to check on our property. We were not informed of who made this decision. 

Thanks to freedom of information, we have received copies of emails sent by Cllr Andrew Duncan (FG) and Cllr Hazel Smyth (Green Party) stating we had been unfair to the Ukrainian group in question and asking that we be removed from the barracks. 

The department of defence then blocked us from entry to the Barracks. We had only two short interactions with Cllr Duncan who informed us it was now the Ukrainians building. We had no contact whatsoever from Cllr Smyth regarding this matter. 

We have not been allowed to do a stock take or to check on our property since then. We were guaranteed by the department of defence our goods would not be touched. There is tens of thousands worth of equipment and goods belonging to various groups still in the barracks. We have now discovered that at least one of our rooms has been accessed and furniture from that room was up on a free site to give away recently. We are unsure if our other rooms have been accessed. 

Over 150 people accessed the services weekly which were provided by these voluntary groups. Our files are still in the barracks which contain personal information on clients and we have not been able to check that these files have been accessed by anyone outside our administration. This matter has now been reported to the Data Protection Commissioner.

This matter was reported some weeks ago to the Gardai, Westmeath Community Development (Who fund the Ukrainian group) The Dept of Defence and Minister Peter Burke as of today no response has been received.

The people who have run these groups voluntarily for years deserve better treatment by the Cllrs who represent us. We had to wait for freedom of information to find out who was behind the eviction of these groups. 



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