AN official ceremony for the University of Limerick’s new €16 million medical school at Garraun, Clonlara has landed the university in hot water after Clare public representatives weren’t invited for the event. Responding to the criticism, a spokeswoman for the University of Limerick explained it does not usually have large events for sod-turning stages of buildings and this brief, informal event was organised at very short notice to accommodate the Taoiseach’s diary.
”No other public representatives were invited to the event. UL will subsequently be organising more formal topping out and an official opening event to which all public representatives and community leaders in County Clare will be invited as appropriate. The university welcomes the support of the Clare County Council for the Graduate Medical School building, which is estimated to bring 150 construction jobs to the Shannon region, representing a welcome boost to the local construction industry in this challenging environment,” she said.
An Taoiseach, Brian Cowen took a break from canvassing for a Yes vote in the Lisbon Treaty in Limerick on Saturday to cross the Clare Limerick border into South-East Clare to turn the sod for the new state-of-the-art 4,091m² facility, which has a target completion date of September 2010.
Deputy Cowen was flanked by two Limerick deputies – Defence Minister Willie O’Dea and Minister of State for Overseas Development, Peter Power.
A number of Clare Oireachtas members and county councillors expressed surprise and disappointment over the failure of the university to invite them to the ceremony on Saturday morning.
However, all of them welcomed the allocation of Government funding for the medical school, which they predicted would provide a great boost to local hospitals in the Mid-West, including Ennis hospital.
Mayor of Clare, Councillor Tony Mulcahy confirmed he wasn’t asked by the council or didn’t receive a personal invitation as mayor to attend this event.
“Maybe it was an oversight on behalf of the university but there is protocol to invite public representatives for an event on Clare soil,” he said. Deputy Pat Breen and Joe Carey expressed their disappointment that they didn’t receive a formal
invitation for a very significant medical development for the Mid-West and the entire country. Councillor Michael Begley said he was surprised that he wasn’t asked to attend the event considering that the medical school is in the Clare campus, had been granted planning permission by Clare County Council and the only way the university could expand is in South-East Clare as it hadn’t any more land in Limerick.
Councillor Pascal Fitzgerald stated that members of the Killaloe Electoral Area should have been invited and claimed a requested meeting between local councillors and university representatives over vehicular access to the academy on the Clare side still hadn’t taken place. The Westbury councillor pointed out local councillors had to deal with planning issues involving the university on its Clare campus. Councillor Pat Burke said he thought that local councillors would have been kept informed about official events like these. Although Councillor Cathal Crowe admitted he was away in Waterford for the weekend, he said it was embarrassing to hear for the first time later that evening that his party leader had turned the sod for a major develoment on his own doorstep.
The only dissenting voice was Deputy Timmy Dooley, who stressed that although he wasn’t invited, he would have found it difficult to attend the event because he was canvassing for a ‘Yes’ vote in the Lisbon Treaty.
“I have no issue with who was or wasn’t invited for this event. The most important thing is that this development is going ahead and there will be no delay after the Government allocated the necessary funding.”
Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Deputy Tony Killeen was out of the country on Government business earlier this week and couldn’t be contacted.