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Councillor in hot water over pool motion



Burke calls on Fianna Fáil TD Chambers to deliver funding for Phase Two of Castlebar Swimming pool and outdoor pursuits project

Edwin McGreal

A Fine Gael councillor has been accused of insulting party colleague Minister Michael Ring by demanding that Fianna Fáil deliver Phase Two of the National Outdoor Pursuits Academy in Castlebar. Fine Gael’s Cllr Cyril Burke has tabled a motion before this morning’s (Tuesday) monthly meeting of Castlebar Municipal District that the district ‘call on Deputy Lisa Chambers, who is a chief negotiator in the confidence and supply agreement talks, to guarantee that Phase Two of the swimming pool and outdoor pursuits project be fully funded immediately as part of the negotiations and that if feasible the pool be extended to a 50 metre pool to service the whole region’.
Deputy Chambers has dismissed the motion as ‘a blatant stunt’.
“It is a blatant stunt seeking to grab headlines ahead of his own re-election attempts for next May and a motion which I think is an insult to his own colleague and cabinet Minister, Michael Ring who was the Minister for Sport when this running track project was promised. The running track which is Phase Two of the project in Castlebar was promised by Fine Gael and that promise was reiterated time and time again,” Deputy Chambers told The Mayo News.
She argues the motion shows a lack of confidence Cllr Burke has in his own party delivering the project.
“Clearly Cllr Burke remarkably has given up hope on his own party delivering on their own promise and has now resorted to lobbying a Fianna Fáil TD for delivery, this despite the fact there is senior Fine Gael cabinet Minister and also a former Fine Gael Taoiseach in the constituency.
“I would suggest he asks them why they haven’t delivered on the promise they made to the people of Castlebar. I can assure Cllr Burke I will do my job and continue to advocate for and fight for the delivery of the project he and his government promised. There is a long string of broken Fine Gael promises to the people of Castlebar and Mayo, maybe Cllr Burke is happy to add this to the list. I would have assumed that Cllr Burke understood what the current talks are about and that a confidence and supply agreement, like the one currently in place, deals with high level macro running of the country and the operation of government, it does not delve into constituency level detail of delivery of amenity projects but I am happy to be able to clarify that,” she added.

The Healy Raes
However, Cllr Burke remained steadfast in his views.
“The Government has committed to Phase One and it is in the throes of opening and should be open by January or February I reckon.
“This is a great opportunity for Lisa Chambers to deliver the second phase since she is one of their chief negotiators.
“In Irish politics there is a history of people propping up Governments like the Healy Raes, Tony Gregory and Jim Kemmy. They went in with a shopping list in exchange for supporting the Government. Lisa Chambers should be doing the same.
“To be fair to the Government they have committed to delivering Phase Two at some stage but extra pressure could change that to immediate delivery. It is a great opportunity for Lisa Chambers to deliver for Castlebar and Mayo. If she can’t deliver this, then the question will be what can she deliver?”
Cllr Burke voted against plans for a 50 metre pool in 2014. He argues he is only suggesting a 50 metre pool, if viable, to test councillors who pushed for it at the time and see if they would vote for it if they have the power to implement it.
“A number of councillors were looking for a 50 metre pool including members of Fianna Fáil. So now, when they are in a position of power, if they think the 50 metre pool is feasible, then they should go ahead with it. Our information at the time we voted was that it was not,” he said.
“I voted for the 25 metre pool that is now being built. A number of current councillors voted against the 25 metre pool, the current Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council (Cllr Blackie Gavin, Fianna Fáil) being one of them. He is one of Lisa Chambers’ biggest supporters. If they feel a 50 metre pool is feasible, they should be in a position to deliver.”

No difference between them
Independent Cllr Michael Kilcoyne argues the debate shows that little separates the two parties.
“It confirms one thing – there is no difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. Fine Gael people need to be asking the Fianna Fáil people in order to get things done and vice versa. You’d think with Fine Gael in Government, that’s who Cllr Burke would ask and he could announce it himself,” he told The Mayo News.
The two phase €17.5 million project was announced in Castlebar by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny in May 2012. The first phase, which includes a new swimming pool complex, was due to be finished by 2014. While that phase it in its closing stages, it remains unfinished.
Speaking to The Mayo News last December, a Mayo County Council spokesperson confirmed there was a €5 million funding shortfall for the second phase, putting the project in jeopardy. This phase includes plans for a six-lane tartan running track and four playing fields, along with ancillary facilities.
Speaking at the launch in 2012, Enda Kenny expressed his confidence the project would soon come to fruition. “This project will become a reality. It will add immeasurably to the town. I want to see this become a reality as soon as possible. What’s here in this development is something that will have my support and we’ll see to it that it becomes a reality,” he said.