After three decades of campaigning and a “litany of false promises” local community groups and activists have welcomed the long-awaited signing of the €3.4 million contract for the Ballinfoile Community Neighbourhood Centre which took place at City Hall yesterday.
The contract was signed by Galway City Mayor Pádraig Conneely, city manager Brendan McGrath, and Purcell Construction. Construction is expected to commence in June with completion in early 2015.
According to Brendan Smith of the local Baillinfoile RAPID urban regeneration and renewal committee, “residents of the greater Ballinfoile, Tirellan, and Bóthar an Chóiste locality look forward with enthusiasm and a great sense of relief to seeing within the next few weeks the first sod being turned for a multi-purpose sports and neighbourhood centre that has been promised and fought for by local campaigners since the late 1980s.”
Mr Smith explained that the first houses were built in the area during the late 1970s and that despite local householders paying compulsory levies there had been little investment in developing neighbourhood amenity facilities. “We experienced a litany of false promises and false dawns. We witnessed generations of youth being born into, grow up, and then leave the district without having had the opportunity to enjoy indoor recreational facilities that was their due. There is something fundamentally flawed with a local government system that has allowed huge concentrations of housing estates to be built that were deprived of basic recreational facilities for all age groups.
“However, this week we will hopefully be celebrating that our political representatives have finally delivered. We particularly thank the current chairperson of the RAPID group Councillor Frank Fahy, as well as the previous chairperson Terry O’Flaherty, councillor Tom Costello who has been a member of the local RAPID since its inception as well as all councillors for voting for the centre. We also thank Eamon Ó’Cuiv TD for his personal input while government minister with responsibility for urban regeneration and staff members Rosie Webb, Liam Hanrahan, and manager Brendan McGrath at Galway City Council. But most of all we pay tribute to the committee members of RAPID and to the local community who have stood together through the many dark days and years,” said Mr Smith.
Speaking at yesterday’s signing at City Hall, Mayor Conneely described it as a “major step forward to provide community services for Castlelawn Heights, Tirellan Heights, Crestwood, Ballinfoile, Sceilg Ard, and Ballindooley”. He said the state-of-art building would include a sports hall, community hall, meeting rooms, children’s play area, and a community facilities/services area.
Galway City Council has already invited expressions of interest for the future management of the community centre. However, Independent Galway city central election candidate Mike Cubbard has warned against excluding the local community from having a say in how the centre is run.
Mr Cubbard said: “I would be very concerned if resident associations and local clubs were not directly involved in this. If a private management company is chosen to manage the facility it will lose its purpose and become a money-making exercise for the council, thus limiting the usage available to the local community.
“Expressions of interest are being sought up to and including April 22. I would urge the manager to make contact with the relevant associations and clubs prior to this date. A situation where current council staff and local residents together manage the facility is a lot more re-assuring for all involved.”
A public event will take place at the Menlo Park Hotel at 7pm on Wednesday April 23, where the plans for the centre will be on display and attendees can receive further information including the possible future management structures.