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Clash over care centre

Standoff in Achill

Protesters picket despite High Court injunction

Anton McNulty

Protesters have been demonstrating outside the proposed St Colman’s Day Care Centre site on Achill Island for the past seven days. Their action is in support of local contractor Eugene Doran of Dooniver Plant Hire, who has not been paid for €250,000 worth of work he completed at the site in 2010. The supporters have vowed to continue with their picket, despite the HSE issuing a High Court injunction against some of them.
On Thursday, up to eight people who were involved in the protest were issued with the injunction, which prevents them from hindering the progress of work on the site. The HSE action was described as ‘bully-boy tactics’ by one of the protesters, who say they are in favour of the project but will not allow machinery onto the site until Doran is paid for the work he carried out.
“This [issuing of court injunction] will only intensify the demonstration,” one of the protesters told The Mayo News. “In a small community it is inevitable that you will be connected to an individual but just because you might be related or connected in some way, it does not mean you don’t have the right to a peaceful protest.”
The protest began last Tuesday morning, when up to 60 people blocked tractors bringing stone and gravel to the construction site in Bunnacurry. Three tractors were turned away on Tuesday after they could not enter the site, while another load of stone was also blocked from gaining access the next day.

‘Local people are not happy’
Speaking to The Mayo News on Wednesday morning, protester Adrian McDonnell said the local public were not happy with the way Eugene Doran has been treated by the HSE and St Colman’s.
“Despite numerous efforts on the contractors behalf, the HSE and members of St Colman’s have refused to engage in dialogue. Local people are not happy … Nobody objects to the job going ahead, but the locals feel that this needs to be settled before it goes ahead.”
In April 2012, the HSE issued a High Court injunction against Eugene Doran, Dooniver Plant Hire, and anyone acting on their behalf preventing them from entering the work site or hindering the progress of the work after Mr Doran removed some stone which he claimed was legally his on Good Friday.

High Court injunction
The HSE provided €3 million for the project. Responding to this latest protest, the organisation said it was ‘unable to accede to the threats made’.
“The purpose of the works currently under way is to remedy the damage caused to the site on the occasion of the unlawful incursion in April 2012. The blockade at the site is, in the HSE’s consideration, unlawful and also presents a threat to public safety given its proximity to the public road.
“Those blockading the site are now on notice of the High Court injunction; should they choose to continue with their actions despite this notification then the HSE will have no alternative but to bring this matter before the High Court without delay,” the statement read.
The protesters issued with the injunctions told The Mayo News that that they were not acting on Mr Doran’s behalf and feel they should not be issued with such injunctions. Furthermore, they claim that the entrance they are protesting on is public property and so they are entitled to be there.
They also said the person issuing the injunction told them that their names and addresses were given to him by St Colman’s Care Centre, and they were annoyed by this. However, a spokesperson for St Colman’s said they had ‘absolutely no involvement’ in the legal process.
The €5 million contract to build the new St Colman’s Care Centre on part of the site of the old Franciscan Monastery was awarded to Cordil Construction, with Dooniver Plant Hire subsequently contracted to complete the groundworks.
However, the HSE terminated Cordil’s contract in early 2010, shortly before they went into receivership and still owes Dooniver Plant Hire for work carried out on the site. Dooniver Plant Hire feel they still have legal ownership of the material used in groundworks while they go unpaid and last Easter workers entered the site to remove the material.
In recent weeks Wills Bros were awarded the contract to commence work on the project. It is that company’s staff that the protesters are now blocking when they try to enter the site.
The protesters say they also have a number of other concerns regarding the work. They are also annoyed that €1 million that was raised locally for the project was used to ‘put a local business man out of business’.
St Coleman’s sends plea
St Colman’s Care Centre Ltd has sent out a plea to the protestors, asking them to call off their action. In a statement released by the centre yesterday, it said the protest was putting the centre’s future at risk. 
“Community and voluntary services are only funded by the State where the local community are pro-active in supporting and developing the projects. The blockading of the site in Bunnacurry and the resultant disruption to the site works is seriously jeopardising the future of St. Colman’s,” the statement said.
It continued: “St Colman’s Care Centre Ltd Board of Directors is appealing to everyone involved to stop this activity immediately. It is important that everyone works together to ensure the continuation of this valuable and longstanding service.”
The centre also said that the old building was deemed unfit for purpose in 2001, and that the development of a new facility in Bunacurry will ensure ‘that older people and people with chronic illness and disability are enabled to remain living in their own homes and within their own community’ through access to the essential services at local level by St Colman’s.
The centre also said it provides valuable training and employment opportunities and important revenue to many businesses in Achill and its environs.

HAVE YOUR SAY email antonmcnulty@mayonews.ie with your comments