The future of Thiepval Barracks as the Northern Ireland headquarters of the army has been secured after the revelation that the second battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles will be moving to Lisburn from their current base at Billykinler.
The influx of troops and their families will be a huge boost to the Lisburn economy as the soldiers make the most of their new surroundings.
“The decision to move 2 Rifles from Ballykinler to Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn has been approved by MOD after an extensive look at how best to make use of current military infrastructure as well as the most cost effective long term financial planning,” explained a spokesperson for the MOD.
“Naturally, this has included wide scoping on maintenance costings and best use of current buildings. It’s planned that soldiers and their families will be in Lisburn towards the end of next year when the Battalion is expected to recover from another overseas tour of duty. Families have already visited Lisburn and are looking forward to the move but also with some sadness having laid down roots and establishing a wide network of friends.. We are in constant close touch with education authorities about school transfers and other logistical elements so that the transfer should be as seamless as possible.
“Ballykinler remains a busy training site with the recruit training centre offering a variety of terrain for mixed training at a number of levels. It will remain a busy site and the move will let us consider best future use of Abercorn Barracks which sits alongside the ranges,” he added.
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who has been holding negotiations with the MOD to secure the transfer of troops to Lisburn, has welcomed the move.
“There are very valid reasons for the transfer,” said Mr Donaldson.
“Many soldiers have been unable to bring their families to Ballykinler because of the lack of local facilities such as schools and leisure.
“Lisburn offers the ideal solution,” he continued. “Not only have we an abundance of schools, but also the best leisure facilities in Northern Ireland.
“Soldiers and their families will be much less constrained in interacting with the local community.
“I am delighted the MOD have agreed to this move because not only is this a major boost for Lisburn and our economy but it helps to safeguard the future of Thiepval as the headquarters of the army in Northern Ireland.
“Without the transfer of 2 Rifles I was fearful in the medium to long term we could have been faced with the closure of the base and that would have had a devastating impact on the local economy,” continued Mr Donaldson.
“This is great news for Lisburn on the cusp of another new year and it is part of what is necessary to turn the local economy around and help Lisburn to become a thriving city once again,” he concluded.