LIMERICK Regeneration boss Brendan Kenny wants the Department of Education to transfer ownership of St Enda’s Sports Complex to his agency or to the City Council in order to develop a new sporting facility for the southside.
Cllr Ger Fahy told the sports and cultural committee of Limerick City Council that Southill and the wider community were only now coming to terms with the loss represented by the closure of the facility.
This was on foot of a report from the Department of Education, which owns the complex, recommending the immediate closure of St Enda’s on safety grounds. Lumps of concrete had fallen into the pool and a wall was in danger of collapse at St Enda’s. Continuing to run it in such a state of disrepair was “a risk not worth taking”, Mr Kenny said.
Both Regeneration and Limerick City Council had invested significant funds in keeping St Enda’s open in recent years. In the latter case, the money went into offsetting its annual operating deficit, director of services Pat Dowling said. Mr Kenny told councillors it would have cost €1.5 million in capital investment to bring St Enda’s into line with safety standards, an additional annual capital injection of €56,000 plus annual operating costs in the region of €300,000.
Cllr Fahy lamented that the board of management had persistently highlighted the state of the building with the Department but its requests for funding had fallen on deaf ears.
“After 20 years of making representations we got no response until January when we were told for health and safety reasons, it was being closed overnight with immediate effect - as if the Department was never made aware by us of health and safety issues all along.”
Only now was the loss being realised in Southill and the various groups around the city which used the pool, Cllr Fahy said.
Cllr Joe Leddin said the Council must now clarify whether the Department “remains on board” for developing a new sports complex. He proposed a cross-party delegation to meet the new Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn on the issue.
Cllr Jim Long said the Department’s role in the affair was “disgraceful” and said former employees at St Enda’s were in dispute over redundancy and that they had not received back pay as recommended by the Labour Relations Commission. And Cllr Gerry McLoughlin said the city’s “priorities are all wrong” if €6 million was being spent on King John’s Castle and St Enda’s was being allowed to close down during Limerick’s year as European sports capital.
Mr Kenny told councillors that while the wider community used St Enda’s pool, usage of the sports complex by people from Southill was “actually very low”.
Councillors, he said, could apply pressure on the Department to sign the land over to Regeneration to build a new sports complex, including a gym, for the southside from scratch - and one which would attract more people from Southill itself. It was not the core business of the Department of Education to provide community facilities and “the land around St Enda’s should, in my view, be signed over to Regeneration,” Mr Kenny said.