ALL ABOVE BOARD? John Condon of Mayo County Council has claimed the RTÉ Investigates programme did not tell the whole story regarding the independent certification of the structural steel in the the roof of the Lough Lannagh Swimming Pool. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
The recent RTÉ Investigates programme which featured an item on Castlebar drew very divergent commentary at last Wednesday’s meeting of Castlebar Municipal District.
One councillor called it a ‘damp squib’, another watched golf while it was being aired while the show was also described as ‘tabloid, gutter journalism’. However, two councillors maintained that the programme raised questions which must be answered in order to get a picture of what was going on in Mayo County Council at the time.
The programme, which aired on March 23, highlighted what it maintained were irregularities around the certification of steel in the roof of the swimming pool complex. However, the council’s Director of Services, John Condon told Wednesday’s meeting that all necessary certification is in place, and he went through a timeline of steps taken in the building’s development.
It was, he said, one of the greatest projects ever delivered in the district and if the programme broadcast had told the whole story, it would be clear that there was no story to be told at all.
Cllr Donna Sheridan raised the issue initially and said she was utterly disappointed that elected members were not told by officials that a story about the pool was going to feature on the programme.
“We didn’t find out until the morning of the show and it was the media who told us, not the council. I want to know what was known at district council level, is there anything else we should know and how will this impact on town-centre funding which we have already been promised.”
Those comments were backed up by Cllr Michael Kilcoyne, who said the programme raised some very serious issues which must be addressed.
However, a number of councillors strongly disagreed. Cllr Cyril Burke was first on his feet to express his disgust with the show. “This was advertised for weeks, but it turned out to be a damp squib with not an awful lot to see. Whatever happened, there are contracts in place and we worked damn hard to get the project here in this town, so why are we determined to drag it through the mud now?”
World class facility
Cllr Blackie Gavin made an impassioned speech agreeing with Cllr Burke. “We have one of the finest facilities in the world - a world-class facility – why criticise a world-class facility? We have a great town and a huge number of people working down there and it’s time we moved on. There are other capital projects to be done in this town and I want to see them. The more we criticise the pool project the more damage we do to the town. It’s time we moved on – Ar aghaidh le Caisleán an Bharraigh.”
Cllr Ger Deere said the gardaí were investigating the matter and it should be left to them to deal with any issues arising. “We’ve been told there were mistakes and systems failures,” he said.
“What’s a systems failure? Can someone tell me that?” Cllr Kilcoyne retorted.
Then, Cllr Al McDonnell, a member of the council’s Audit Committee took the floor and left nobody in any doubt about his thoughts on the RTÉ programme.
“I deliberately didn’t watch it. I watched the golf on another channel instead. Prime Time is tabloid, gutter journalism. I recall one of their programmes from the past where they tried to demonise Eddie Hoban, one of the most respected men of this town. They always give the impression of criminality and wrongdoing.
“I watched the golf and enjoyed it and I would do the same again. I have no confidence in RTÉ to give a balanced view,” he stated.
Cathaoirleach Councillor Martin McLoughlin then interjected and said if there are issues and unanswered questions, the councillors would get the answers as matters progressed.
In response, Mr Condon said if RTÉ told the whole story, ‘which they did not’, it would be clear there was no story.
“There is a system of building controls and with regards the roof of the pool, there is no safety issue. No one who participated in the programme ever suggested there was.”
It was important, he said, that people get the information that was not included in the broadcast.
On what was addressed in the programme, the structural steel for the roof, he said structural engineering consultants acting for the council received certification in 2018. This certification was not accepted.
Subsequently, independent certification was produced by an expert in November 2018.
“This was important,” said Mr Condon. “If we did not receive that, we could not as a council accept a product that was not fit for purpose. The certificate proved it was and it was important we received that.”
Mr Condon further commented: “If the programme broadcast all the details I have told you now it would have been clear that there is no story. We have all the certification we are supposed to have.”