At the meeting, from left, were Joe Kelliher, Mike Dwane (seated), Diarmuid Geary and Ed Murnane
COUNCILLORS are divided about the Desmond Complex as the preferred location for an indoor swimming pool in Newcastle West, according to local Fianna Fail councillor Michael Collins.
“I have been a supporter of the Desmond Complex proposal but unfortunately there is divided opinion among my colleagues,” he said at a meeting in the town on the issue this Tuesday. And this, he claimed, had “let the door open” for other proposals to be aired. “A lot of misinformation has been given at local level,” he added. “It really has become an issue for the councillors locally.”
“We need to get our act in order locally,” he argued.
But Cllr John Sheahan, the Fine Gael chairman of the Newcastle West Municipal District, cautioned against making the issue a political football. He was firmly in favour of a public pool in Newcastle West, he said, and be believed the town needed a public pool.
But he wanted to wait for the results of the impact study commissioned by Limerick City and County Council. That study is looking at the possible impact a new pool in Newcastle West would have on other private and public pools in the area and is due to be completed by April.
“I believe it would be a travesty if this new plan didn’t get the firm backing of Limerick City and County Council,”declared solicitor John Cussen to loud applause. As a former trustee of the now derelict Dean O’Brien Pool he argued that there had been an “understanding” with the council when the pool was eventually handed over to them. “If it wasn’t a commitment, there was certainly an understanding the council would back any new proposal for a new pool,” he said.
Earlier, Diarmuid Geary, on behalf of the Desmond Complex Pool Committee, had argued that the central location of the Desmond Complex site would help boost economic activity in the town. It was also within walking distance of over 1800 pupils in the town, he pointed out and would be a useful amenity in combating childhood obesity. And he reminded the audience that the original vision for the Desmond Complex, with its emphasis on providing amenities for the abled bodied and those with disability, included a pool.
The Desmond Complex site also had the advantage, fellow committee member Mike Dwane said, that it was fully serviced. “The council needs to be behind this,” he said. “Any application for funding needs to be backed by the city and county council.
Earlier, Ed Murnane of ProCar Engineering in Limerick, outlining the new and revised plans for the Desmond Complex site, said the enlarged site “gives additional significant flexibility.” (The Gearys, a local business family is prepared to donate over 1.5 hectares at the rear of the site, doubling its size and giving access from Station Road).
The plan includes an eight-lane 25-metre indoor pool with a gym and studio upstairs as well as a coffee-dock. It also includes four tennis courts and a clubhouse as well as a 250-seat theatre and a biomass district heating system. This system could produce up to 1megawatt of energy, Mr Murnane explained, and could provide a renewable source of heat to the adjacent St Ita’s Hospital, health centre, creche, Desmond Complex as well as nearby schools and help reduce or contain the costs of heating the pool.
“It is a very ambitious plan,” Cllr Seamus Browne SF said. “It is good to see the community having that kind of ambition. This site was recommended by the feasibility study. Nothing I have seen in the meantime has changed my mind on that. Tonight reinforces it.”
Cllr Francis Foley FF said the plan had a “lot of merit.”
“It is about time we had a facility like that in walking distance,” said Sheila O’Mahony Kennedy, the principal at Scoil Mhuire agus Ide, adding that the prohibitive cost of transporting students to a pool meant that it was only available to Transition Year students.
Michael Finucane, chairman of Newcastle West Community Council said Limerick City and County Council’s attitude was coloured by their experience in Askeaton. “Councillors have a major selling job to do,” he said.