By Claire Corrigan
Solas has confirmed its intention to create a centre of excellence for Electric Vehicle Management at the Columb Barracks site in Mullingar. The historic site will become a training facility in this high-demand area.
Authorities in Solas (the State agency tasked with building a world class Further Education and Training sector to fuel Ireland’s future) hope to meet shortly with the CEO of Longford Westmeath Education & Training Board (ETB), Liz Lavery, to confirm these plans and work towards making them a reality.
Announcing the news on Monday, Simon Harris (Minister for Further & Higher Education, Research, Innovation & Science), stated: “I appreciate the vital importance this project will make to the people of Mullingar. It will also go a significant way to helping us ensure we meet our climate objectives.”
According to local minister and TD Robert Troy, “it is understood that the Land Development Agency (LDA) will still develop housing in some parts of Columb Barracks, and space for community activities will remain intact”.
Fellow minister and TD Peter Burke said that the Solas decision provided a long-term anchor tenant which will breathe new life into the building. “Details are still being worked out in relation to the works that must be completed, the numbers of employees and the timelines, but this is a hugely positive step towards the utilisation of the historic site
“This is very positive news for Mullingar and an issue I have been working on for some time. The barracks has a rich heritage and it’s important for our community it does not fall into long-term disuse.
“I organised a meeting through my department with the LDA, Minister Harris, all the educational stakeholders such as the ETB, Solas, Mullingar Chamber and various community groups to highlight the usefulness of the site and the opportunities it could provide.
“The LDA is to create new housing on the site, but it was never the intention to use the entire site for housing and there should be a good mix due to the scale of the site and its prime location.
“Mullingar has a skilled workforce and great transport links, so an educational facility would be well situated in the town and I am glad that now we have secured a commitment for this.
“I also stressed to Minister Harris, the LDA and to Solas that there must be a community dividend here and space provided for the voluntary groups, and there was agreement on this.
“Electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular, with the aim of having one million on the road by 2030, which would need to see huge increase in the coming years,” Minister Burke continued.
“There will need to be high levels of upskilling from both industry and in management, and it’s my hope that Mullingar will soon be the nationwide base synonymous with this.
“I look forward to working with Solas and to see these plans taking shape. Minister Harris has made significant inroads in apprenticeships since he took on his role in Higher Education; we have seen that the number of those registered for apprenticeships with Solas jumped from 5,326 in 2020 to 8,607 last year under his tenure, and he is targeting 10,000 annually and providing increased subsidies to employers and apprentices.
“The Barracks is full of history with many of our family members going back generations working from here in historic times.
“I look forward to the site seeing the return of people and activity and creating new opportunities for current and future generations.”