Ballykelly army base donation would be a ‘mark of gratitude’

To donate part of the former army base in Ballykelly to the people of the village would be “only fitting and proper”, a local councillor has said.

It was announced earlier this year the massive Shackleton site would be going on the market immediately and that the sales proceeds would be passed to the Executive.

Councillors agreed to write to the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister about the matter, requesting part of the former army site be gifted back to the community rather than being sold to the highest bidder.

However, last week they heard back from the OFMDFM in a letter which explained Shackleton will remain the property of the Ministry of Defence until it is sold and Ministers are not, therefore, in a position to transfer any portion of the site to a third party.

Councillors heard while Ministers are sympathetic to the aspirations of the Council on behalf of the community, under the clear terms of the Hillsbourough Agreement the former Shackleton base is being disposed of to raise funds to help address financial pressures.

Reacting to the letter, SDLP Colr. Gerry Mullan said, people in the borough would feel “deep disappointment” at “no willingness or offer to donate anything back to the community”.

“It flies in the face of other areas,” he said. “Ballykelly was beleagured during the Troubles because of the army base there and it is only fitting and proper to have something back as a mark of gratitude.”

Sinn Fein Colr. Anne Brolly added that Council should pursue the matter in the interests of people in Ballykelly.

Ballykelly Community and Youth Association are also lobbying authorities to get a space on the site to use for a new community centre. Currently, the group operates from a hut on Kings Lane.

“We also wrote to the OFMDFM and received a reply saying it was up to the MoD,” said chairperson Tina McCloskey. “We are very disappointed at the response. The army was here for years and we feel it is only right something is given back to the village.”