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Loan to purchase 40 acres in Westport House questioned


‘INVESTMENT’Peter Hynes (Chief Executive of Mayo County Council) defended the decision of the Council to purchase land at Westport House, stating it to be ‘an investment in the future’. He was pictured (on left) at the announcement of the sale of Westport House to the Hughes family with, from left: Con Casey (Casey McGrath), Mr Cathal Hughes (Chairman of The Hughes Group) and Minister of State, Michael Ring, TD. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Anton McNulty

Members of Mayo County Council formally approved a loan of €2.5million to buy 40 acres of land on the Westport House estate, but questions were raised by some about how the Council was able to source money for the acquisition.
As part of the recent sale of Westport House by the Browne family to the Hughes family at the end of January, Mayo County Council agreed to acquire the loans from NAMA [to be redeemed by the new purchasers] while also buying 40 acres of the estate.
The matter came before yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council where councillors were asked to approve the raising of the loan of €2.5 million for the purchase of land at Westport House and elsewhere.
Chief Executive Peter Hynes praised the deal regarding the purchase of Westport House by the Hughes family, saying they are willing to invest €50m in the coming five years and create up to 200 additional jobs. In relation to the purchase of the 40 acres he said: “Land is quite difficult to come by in Westport. Forty acres in that particular part of town is an investment in the future and gives us a say in development.”
The deal to buy Westport House was welcomed by the Westport councillors who said that it had secured the future of tourism in the region. Cllr Christy Hyland said that if the sale of the estate had ‘gone any other way’, the town would have been in serious trouble and thanked the Council for a ‘fantastic result’.Cllr Brendan Mulroy congratulated the Taoiseach and Minister Ring for getting the sale over the line and added that the purchase of 40 acres of land will created a ‘Westport model number two’.
While there was no objections to the raising of the loan, some councillors from north Mayo questioned how the Council was able to raise money for Westport while money was not available for other projects.
Knockmore-based councillor Seamus Weir was the first to question how the Council could find money for this purchase.
“The council’s loan is costing us €100,000 per year along with other expenditure we have. We were told in the budget we have a €5.5m debt.”
Cllr Michael Loftus from Crossmolina said he was delighted for the Hughes family and Westport but also questioned the loan saying it was taking more money from the municipal districts to spend.
Ballina councillor Gerry Ginty said there was ill-feeling in north Mayo and a feeling they were being neglected.
Cllr Hyland quipped back at the councillors saying he would invite his north Mayo colleagues to ‘come dance with us in Westport’.
Mr Hynes defended the acquisition of Westport House saying it was the cornerstone of tourism in the region and without the current deal, they could have been looking at a scenario of the house gates being locked.
The loan was agreed without any objections.

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