Senator argues for pool in Balbriggan at Seanad
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.