MIA: A Lost Community) – – An Investigation into the demise of The Garrison Community of The Curragh Camp

[This concludes the series of guest posts by the dept’s 3rd yr Single Hons / Major students.]

My family, a military family, have lived on The Curragh Camp in Co Kildare since the 1940s. For years I have listened to stories of what a fantastic place it was, a thriving community with hundreds of families, great people, great spirit, and great sadness of what it has become – immense nostalgia. I myself grew up on The Curragh Camp. Not everyone gets to grow up with soldiers marching past their house on a daily basis, firing ranges at the bottom of their road and Christmas parties where Santa arrived in a tank! The only downside to living there is that one day you will have to leave, whether or not you would prefer to stay. The Curragh Camp is a ‘time-limited community’.

My thesis sets out to investigate the demise of this self contained community, and explore whether the nostalgia was driven by the displacement of a generation from their home place, reflecting back on times they can no longer create, or if in fact it really was a utopia. My YouTube channel containing some of my interviews can be seen here, and much of the content reflects both the positivity of the past and pessimism for the future. I am beginning to uncover a stark contrast between what was, and what is.

Minister Sean Barratt during the Rainbow Coalition of the mid-90s made a decision to phase out married quarters. There are presently just under 40 households who are classed as ‘Overholders’ on The Camp — encroaching, on departmental properties that they should have vacated within 15 days of retirement from the forces. (These Overholders have portions of their pension withheld with a penalty rent increase applied.)  Here is the latest departmental view on the situation regarding Overholders and here are some of the residents’ views.

In the past few days I have managed to interview an official from the Department of Defence, and I can honestly say, that despite my connection to The Camp, and therefore my conscientious attempt to maintain an objective stance, I am nothing short of appalled at the callous attitude and exercise of power over the remaining residents who for the majority, by the longevity of their residence within The Camp, could be classed as institutionalised. I was even advised that quarters were no longer being maintained and that hopefully dilapidation would drive these people out. Although it was obvious, it still came as a shock that the Department would so readily admit this, and plenty more too.

It is my opinion that the Department are displaying a blatant disregard and lack of understanding towards the intensity of people’s attachment to their homes. I am in agreement in principal, that yes, people were aware that they would have to leave and perhaps should have been better prepared to do so. However, circumstances — financial or otherwise — have prevented some people from being able to follow through. I believe the underlying issue is that these quarters were fundamentally mismanaged. People have been allowed to make long term homes here, grow roots over decades. They have established friends, neighbours and a deep connectedness to their home and place. Despite what they attempt to portray, the Department has failed to engage in mediation or an integrated approach involving other relevant bodies to assist people in moving forward. There has been no sympathetic approach. Eviction notices have been issued to terrify people, and have fostered an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ standpoint. An attempted blanket approach to rid quarters of its occupants was made by means of eviction notices in September 2002, giving people until October to leave, as in the words of Minister Michael Smith, “this boil had to be lanced”. These bullyboy tactics continue to this day and I have been assured the fight will escalate, as this Department which has housed people since 1922, rids itself of all responsibility. I have also noted that media spin has been coming out of the Department in attempts to portray these residents in a poor light and I will be investigating the matter further.

Given the sorry state of affairs at present, it really is no wonder that people are pining for the past.

Jayne Glavin

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