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Hidden agenda denied in sale of school site

Blackie Gavin
Cllr Blackie Gavin.

Hidden agenda denied in sale of Newport VEC site

Anton McNulty


The councillor who proposed that Mayo VEC sell a six acre site earmarked for a second level school in Newport has denied there is a hidden agenda behind the sale.
The decision to put the site along the Glenhest Road up for sale was backed by the majority of members of Mayo VEC at last week’s monthly meeting despite the recommendation of the CEO to hold onto the land.
The matter was put on the agenda after the Newport Area and District Development Company wrote to the VEC seeking to buy the whole site ‘via a public auction’ for a community centre. They had previously rejected an offer by the VEC to lease part of the site for the centre and in June 2011 the VEC committee backed a proposal by the Buildings Sub Committee not to sell the site.
Ballina based Independent councillor Mary Kelly, who is also the chair of the Buildings Sub Committee, voted against the proposal and raised concerns that there was a ‘hidden agenda’ behind the committee’s change of mind.
However, Cllr Blackie Gavin who forwarded the proposal told The Mayo News that there was no hidden agenda on his part and he wanted what was best for the Newport community.
“There is no hidden agenda on my behalf. The community have been anxious to do something with the site and I think they will do great work with it. There will never be a school built on it that’s for sure and I hope they get it. Any group that is looking for something for the betterment of their community will get my backing 100 per cent,” he said.
The site was purchased by Mayo VEC in 2004 for €1.2 million after it was earmarked to build a second level school in Newport but that idea was scrapped in 2005 when the Frank Murray report on School Accommodation said they could not justify the establishment of a new school in Newport.
Cllr Kelly said the VEC should have held onto the land and because there was no guarantee they will be able to buy the site if it goes to public auction.
“If the site was sold to the community group I would back it 100 per cent but there is no guarantee that a developer will come in and buy it instead. Also the money will not go to Mayo VEC but into a central fund and we could be at a loss. I feel there is a hidden agenda behind this because why would the committee support this [proposal not to sell] 100 per cent last June and now they are back and have changed their mind. What has happened to do that?” she asked.
Cllr Gavin admitted there was no guarantee the site will be bought by the community group but ‘could not see any developer buying it’ and believed the money would be in place for the community to purchase it.

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