A CROWD of more than 100 people protested outside Shannon Town Council’s March meeting on Monday night, demanding information on why the local leisure centre has been closed for over a year.
The leisure centre closed in January of last year and it had been scheduled to reopen in 21 weeks later. However, that still hasn’t happened, leaving employees out of work and the public that used the facility inconvenienced.
The subject of the closure came up at the meeting, with councillors complaining about the length of the closure, the lack of information being made available to the public and the treatment of the centre’s workers.
Tuesday night’s protest follows the establishment of a Facebook page, Save Shannon Pool, to which over 1,000 people have subscribed.
Keith McNamara was involved with starting the Facebook campaign and in organising Tuesday’s protest. He said that the long-term closure of the facility was unacceptable.
“It’s a disgrace that a community facility, built and paid for by the community, has been closed for 14 months, when it was supposed to close for 21 weeks.”
He also claimed that the community doesn’t have the ability to control the facility.
Seán O’Callaghan was also involved in organising the protest and he said the Shannon public are very angry. “We’ve been hearing a lot of talk about the non-availability of the leisure centre facility and we felt that something needed to be done about it. We decided we’d set up a Facebook page. The turnout is incredible but this is an issue that has been on people’s minds over the last couple of months.”
Town councillors agreed to suspend standing orders and to listen to a statement from the protestors.
In the statement, it was claimed that the public need information. “Save Shannon Pool was organised on foot of ongoing concerns expressed by members of the community in relation to the continued closure of Shannon Swimming and Leisure Centre and the belief that honest answers we needed as to the reasons for the protracted closure. We believe this facility is a vital community facility and should be available to the townspeople and broader community. The community is suffering due to its continued closure.”
It was stated that the campaign does not represent the employees. “Much of the discussion about the centre related to the plight of the workers there who have been off work for over a year. We do not claim to speak on behalf of the workers but we support their right to be treated in a fair and decent manner.”
A number of questions about the operation of the centre and its closure were posed to the councillors and the statement concluded with a request for support. “Twelve months is far too long a time for the town to be without its leisure centre and we urge all those here present to maximise the efforts to have this very necessary facility reopened quickly.”
Councillor Tony McMahon put forward a motion asking for information on why the centre was still closed and what money had been paid towards the facility by Clare County Council.
A response from town manager, Bernadette Kinsella stated that the county council had made a payment of €40,750 towards the leisure centre for the coming year.
Councillor McMahon said that the lack of information being given to the public was a problem. “The board of management of the leisure centre must be aware of the concerns about what’s happening, because for a long time people have been asking what’s going on.”
Councillor Gerry Flynn put forward a motion requesting information on the county council’s role in the running of the facility. In a report, town manager Bernadette Kinsella stated that the council doesn’t have a role in its day-to-day operation.
“As part of the transfer of responsibility of Shannon Town from Shannon Development to Clare County Council, the council assumed the superior interest in a 150-year lease (from 1992) between Shannon Development and Shannon Swimming and Leisure Centre Ltd. The lease does not assign any role in the management and operation of the facility to the council.”
Councillor Flynn claimed that the workers had been very shabbily treated. He said that in addition to being left out of work, management had failed to explain the reasons behind the delay. Councillor Flynn said that the workers’ stamps had run out leaving them in a very difficult position. “They’re in limbo land. They are technically still employed and they can’t move on.”
Councillor Patricia McCarthy is on the leisure centre’s board and she said she wished to be cautious about any comments she made. She said that in the fullness of time, the issues raised would be dealt with and that she welcomed the deputation.
A number of other councillors were critical of the length of the closure and the lack of information being made available. There were also requests that legal opinion be sought to see if Clare County Council does have any role.