Se­na­tor ar­gues for pool in Bal­brig­gan at Seanad

Fingal Independent - - NEWS - By JOHN MAN­NING

THE long and com­plex his­tory of ef­forts to try to bring a swim­ming pool to Bal­brig­gan have been re­hearsed on the floor of the Seanad as a Fingal Se­na­tor chal­lenged the Gov­ern­ment on why it is that a town of the size of Bal­brig­gan is still without a swim­ming pool fa­cil­ity.

Se­na­tor Lorraine Clif­ford Lee chal­lenged Min­is­ter of State, Deputy He­len McEn­tee on the is­sue, say­ing: ‘For a pop­u­la­tion of this size not to have ac­cess to a swim­ming pool in the town is not good enough. Swim­ming lessons are seen as a core part of the pri­mary and sec­ond school cur­ricu­lum.

‘Chil­dren liv­ing in Bal­brig­gan can­not eas­ily ac­cess swim­ming lessons, which is a real shame. Many schools have to travel long dis­tances to ac­cess a swim­ming pool and swim­ming lessons, which has a knock-on ef­fect on par­ents in terms of the cost of pro­vid­ing buses and so on. It is also tak­ing time out of the school day which teach­ers could be us­ing to teach other core parts of the cur­ricu­lum.’

Se­na­tor Clif­ford Lee added: ‘ I have spo­ken with many lo­cal par­ents who have chil­dren with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, ADHD and autism, who would ben­e­fit greatly from aqua-ther­a­pies, but the ben­e­fit they would re­ceive would be out­weighed by the travel in­volved in get­ting to swim­ming pools lo­cated a far dis­tance from Bal­brig­gan and so there is no point do­ing it.

‘In my opin­ion, it is an ab­so­lute dis­grace that the chil­dren of Bal­brig­gan with special needs can­not ac­cess th­ese very ben­e­fi­cial ther­a­pies. Older peo­ple can also ben­e­fit from aqua ther­apy and aqua aer­o­bics but th­ese ther­a­pies need to be pro­vided within their com­mu­nity.’

Min­is­ter of State McEn­tee laid out the long his­tory of ef­forts to bring a pool to the town, go­ing back to 2009 when the fo­cus shifted from Sk­er­ries to Bal­brig­gan as the pos­si­ble site for a ma­jor new pool project for north Fingal.

The pool was to be built at Bal­brig­gan Rugby Club and had fund­ing com­mit­ted to by the coun­cil of €750,000 as well as a €2.5 millin grant from the Gov­ern­ment un­der the Lo­cal Author­ity Swim­ming Pool Pro­gramme (LASPP) and there was in­volve­ment and in­vest­ment from a pri­vate com­pany at­tached to the project

The project had some strict con­di­tions at­tached which ul­ti­mately could not be met, ac­cord­ing to the Min­is­ter of State and last year, the coun­cil was asked to re­move the project from the LASPP.

A spokesper­son for Bal­brig­gan Rugby Club told the Fingal In­de­pen­dent last year: ‘Over the past 10 years Bal­brig­gan RFC made stren­u­ous ef­forts to bring a swim­ming pool to the North Fingal area. How­ever, de­spite our best ef­forts and the ef­forts of the Coun­cil, this has proved im­pos­si­ble. In­sur­mount­able dif­fi­cul­ties were en­coun­tered in re­la­tion to the pub­lic pri­vate part­ner­ship model that was be­ing pur­sued and the con­straints in EU Pro­cure­ment rules also made the project next to im­pos­si­ble to pur­sue.’

In­stead, the club pur­sued a cap­i­tal sports grant to de­velop new club­house fa­cil­i­ties and the swim­ming pool project had to be shelved.

The Min­is­ter of State held out a glim­mer of hope for the fu­ture, say­ing the De­part­ment of Trans­port, Tourism and Sport is ‘un­der­tak­ing a re­view of na­tional sports pol­icy which in­cludes a spe­cific fo­cus on how the Gov­ern­ment should fund sports fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing swim­ming pools’.

She added: ‘ Fur­ther­more, as part of the De­part­ment’s sub­mis­sion as part of the mid-term cap­i­tal plan re­view, ad­di­tional fund­ing has been sought for large-scale sports in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing swim­ming pools. If this fund­ing is re­ceived, it will al­low con­sid­er­a­tion to be given to new projects. It will be open to all lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, in­clud­ing Fingal County Coun­cil, to sub­mit an ap­pli­ca­tion un­der the terms that will ap­ply.’

Se­na­tor Lorraine Clif­ford Lee.

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