FIANNA Fail deputy Willie O’Dea called on the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to allocate funding through the sports capital grant programme “to return the full use of facilities” at the University of Limerick Arena.
The Limerick Leader reported on the issues surrounding the 50m swimming pool last week. Specifically, some €400,000 is needed to repair structural damage on the movable boom in the pool, which allows the pool to be divided into two 25m sections for sporting events, as well as coaching.
Failure to secure this funding – which is not at present available within UL due to demands from other projects – could result in UL and the wider Mid-West region losing out on events to Dublin and Bangor in county Down.
Speaking in the Dail, the local deputy said the €400,000 needed to address “significant maintenance issues relating to the 50-metre pool are having a negative impact on the arena’s ability to host any major event at present”.
He asked why the Minister has not provided these funds to date; “why his Department has enabled the loss of business to the locality through its inaction and lack of attention to these health and safety issues, an inaction that has cost Limerick city and the province in general loss of revenue, and has caused detrimental damage to the development of local talent.”
However, in his response, Minister Paschal Donohoe said that works referred to are not funded under the Sports Capital Programme, and the Local Authority Swimming Pools Programme is not open for applications.
“Sport Ireland, which is funded by my department, is the statutory body with responsibility for the promotion, development and co-ordination of sport. Sport Ireland provides an annual subsidy to the University of Limerick for the operation of the 50-metre pool. I have referred the deputy’s question to Sport Ireland for direct response on this matter,” he told Deputy O’Dea. He said further correspondence on this issue may be received within 10 days.
Harry Harbison, chairperson of the Limerick Masters Swimming Club and an executive committee member of Munster Swimming, said the swimming community in Limerick and the Mid-West has expressed concerns about the pool for some time.UL po
“When it was built in 2002 it was a state-of-the-art pool, and the only pool of its kind at the time, but there are at least three other pools on the island of Ireland of that size and they are all competing for major events,” he said. “UL has to keep the venue in top class condition to continue to attract major events. While they have this constraint on them, it could tip the balance in favour of some of the other venues.”