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Council approves Westport Golf Course Road land deal


SPACE NEEDED With an ever expanding membership, Westport GAA are looking to develop new playing facilities on the Golf Course Road, away from their current pitches (pictured) which are located on the Newport Road in the town.

Councillor calls for greater transparency before leaving online meeting

Anton McNulty

The land deal involving Mayo County Council, Westport GAA and Inishoo Management Limited was passed at a meeting of Mayo County Council, but not without further accusations over the way the deal was made.
The deal involved Mayo County Council and Westport GAA agreeing a 99-year lease for a four-acre site on the Golf Course Road in Westport. The land will be developed into playing facilities. The club also agreed to lease four acres of adjacent land from Inishoo Management Ltd as part of the development.
In addition, Inishoo Management Ltd and Mayo County Council agreed to a land exchange, whereby Inishoo Management Ltd will receive 6.7 acres of council-owned land close to the Cheaspeake print company. In exchange, Inishoo Management will give the council €360,225 and 4.1 acres of land it owns, adjacent to council lands along the Golf Course Road.
This part of the deal was the subject of much discussion at last month’s meeting of the Westport-Belmullet Municipal District. The meeting heard that if the exchange deal did not take place it would put the Westport GAA plans in jeopardy.

O’Malley ‘hurt’ and ‘offended’
The matter came before the meeting of Mayo County Council for formal approval, but Carrowholly-based Independent councillor John O’Malley claimed he had been left in the dark over the deal.
“At the last MD [municipal district] meeting this item was on the agenda. We were told it was a three-way deal and if the three-way deal would not go together, then the GAA would lose their pitch. That was a load of rubbish,” he, claimed adding that this pressure was used to push through the exchange deal.
“The piece of hill given to the council in the swap is good for nothing as far as building is concerned; you might graze a couple of sheep but that’s about it. But this land is being swapped for land that was paid for by the taxpayers’ money, and the public are entitled to know the full facts.
“This should be transparent and out in the open for every one to see what is going on.
“I feel very ignored by the lack of information on this development. I have been offended and hurt by the way I have been treated. But anyone who thinks I came down in the last shower of rain is very much mistaken,” he said, before leaving the online meeting in protest.

‘Half-cocked stories’
Cllr Brendan Mulroy, who along with Cllr Christy Hyland proposed and seconded the approval of the lease, claimed Cllr O’Malley’s comments were ‘half-baked’ and may be libellous.
“I can’t vouch what he is aware of or not aware of. He has gone off on a rant, which is very disappointing because he has cast doubt on the whole development. It is unfortunate that Cllr O’Malley has not had the balls to wait for the reply rather than run out of the room and make all sorts of allegations and coming up with half-cocked stories,” he said.
Cllr Peter Flynn, who had previously questioned the deal, said he did not wish to debate it further, but did say that he felt Cllr O’Malley had raised some fair questions. Cllr Flynn said the communications surrounding the deal was ‘atrocious’, and he asked the interim-chef executive Peter Duggan if the deal was in line with departmental guidelines on the disposal of land, and whether he believed it was a good deal.
Mr Duggan said that the deal would not have been made were it not good for the council, and added that all was within departmental guidelines.
Director of Services Catherine McConnell defended the deal, saying that a workshop on the matter had been given to councillors, but neither Cllrs Flynn nor O’Malley were present. She denied that there was anything underhand about it.
“For confidentiality purposes, I understand why we were not all involved in it. This was handled at the highest level, but that does not mean there was anything underhand or misleading about how this was conducted,” she said.
The two land deals were approved without any objections by the other councillors.