Sinn Féin councillor supports FG counterparts
A PROPOSAL to build Connacht’s first Olympic-sized swimming pool in Castlebar was rejected by the town councillors by a margin of one vote and who instead voted in favour of a 25 metre swimming pool.
Castlebar Town Councillors argued for close to two hours last Thursday both in favour and against a proposal to incorporate a 50 metre swimming pool into the new €12.5 million Sports Academy planned for Lough Lannagh.
The proposal to build a 50m pool was formally proposed by Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne and supported by Cllr Frank Durcan, Cllr Blackie Gavin and Cllr Harry Barrett. They argued that the pool had the support of Swim Ireland and the local swimming clubs in Connacht and would allow the elite swimmers in the province the opportunity to train locally without having to travel to Limerick. They also argued that it would bring in business and jobs to Castlebar.
The four Fine Gael councillors opposed the idea and the decisive vote was cast by Sinn Féin councillor Therese Ruane who feared the pool would become a ‘white elephant’ and she too rejected the idea.
“I’d love a 50 metre swimming pool in Castlebar. If I voted with my heart I would say yes a 50m pool would be fantastic..…[but] we have to be idealistic and realistic,” Cllr Ruane said.
“I have worked in pools and for the last month I have been talking to people working in pools both north and south of the border and in England. Every person I have talked to regarding a 50m pool says you need to have the population base for it to work. It is not feasible and we could be looking at a white elephant.”
The idea of a 50m swimming pool was first mooted in the council chamber last summer by Cllr Frank Durcan but was rejected by the Town Manager, Seamus Granahan.
At last month’s meeting of the Town Council, councillors refused to ratify his report regarding the new development until they viewed each of the submissions sent to the council, suggesting alternative plans to those proposed by the council.
However, the manager again rejected the idea of a 50 metre swimming pool saying it would cost €2 million extra to build and the running costs would amount to an extra €300,000. He added that he would like to see a 50m pool in Castlebar but after researching the issue he argued that they did not have the core population base to sustain a 50m pool.
His recommendations were supported by Fine Gael councillor Eugene McCormack who said the extra costs to pay for a 50m pool would put the use of the pool beyond the reach of ordinary people. He also added that elite swimmers did not want leisure swimmers around them and asked would the pool be for elite swimmers or for the people of Castlebar.
Cllr Kilcoyne rejected the idea that it would cost too much and took a swipe at Fine Gael saying that Knock Airport was also considered a ‘white elephant’ when it was proposed.
“I recall another time when Fine Gael talked about the proposal to built an airport at Knock as a white elephant. They also remind us that no local authority has a 50m pool but no local authority purchased a hotel and a military barracks. We have to start somewhere,” he said.
Cllr Kilcoyne also challenged Cllr Ruane to use her vote in favour of a 50m pool.
'It rests with you'
“I’d expect Fine Gael to toe the line because you are in power but I say to the councillor in Sinn Féin, you and you alone can decide whether Castlebar has a 25m or a 50m pool. It rests with you. We have been promised many things by Sinn Féin, this is their first opportunity.”
Labour councillor Harry Barrett described the decision to only build a 25m pool as a ‘poverty of ambition’ on behalf of the council and said a 50m pool can be built for €720,000.
“There is a 50m pool in Munster, Ulster and Leinster but not in Connacht. We talk about the west being left behind but this is a golden opportunity to build something.…. it is potentially massive for the town.”
Cllr Blackie Gavin said he was 100 per cent behind a 50m pool and asked if one can be built by an Italian company for €720,000 where was the €2million coming from.
Independent councillor Frank Durcan said that in 40 years in local government he has never been lobbied so much on one subject as the 50m pool and described as ‘unprecedented’ the support of other towns for a 50m pool to be built in Castlebar.
“There is complete unity from every town in Connacht for Castlebar to get a 50m pool. Why is it the only province with no 50m pool? Because we still bear the stamp given by Cromwell years ago. To hell or to Connacht! Why is it we are the poor relation for the rest of Ireland?” he asked.
Mayor of Castlebar, Cllr Brendan Henaghan said he did a lot of research into the pool but felt a 50m pool was not sustainable going forward. He proposed that the Manager’s report be adopted and proceed with the project as soon as possible.
The proposal for a 50m pool was rejected and the Manager’s recommendations were passed.
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