Nimbyism and the first party-political spat of next year’s local elections dominated the meeting to decide the siting of the long-awaited playground for Tyrrellspass earlier this week.
“Guys, it’s a playground, not a nuclear power station,” said Cllr Colm Arthur, in response to Cllr Paul Daly’s support for a number of the proposed site’s disgruntled neighbours.
With only three members attending this month’s meeting of the Kilbeggan Area committee, it was left to chairman Cllr Joe Flanagan to cast the deciding vote on the positioning of the €150,000 resource.
He finalised the nearly two-year old saga by siding with the recommendation of the executive, which will see the playground sited beside Belvedere Court estate on the Mullingar Road.
The topic has featured on most agendas over the last two years, and having examined six options the council executive opted for this location in March, but adjourned a final decision because of some objections from adjacent houses.
Cllr Flanagan’s Fine Gael colleague Cllr Arthur opened the discussion by voicing his approval for this site, but Cllr Paul Daly opposed this, saying that after a meeting with the residents of three neighbouring estates “I can’t support this option”.
“I agree with the concept, and want a playground, but this option is not suitable for them in any way. I appreciate deadlines and funding, but it would be remiss of me to ignore the mandate given to me,” he added.
However, Cllr Arthur questioned this mandate, saying that of the 46 houses involved in the three estates, only seven people attended the meeting, all of whom he believed were against a playground near their houses.
He also felt the most vocal opposition was from residents of the estate furthest from the proposed site.
Cllr Arthur accused Cllr Daly of scaremongering, and heightening the fears of anti-social behaviour by claiming there would be discarded needles left on the site.
Cllr Daly clarified this unsubstantiated assertion by explaining it was something he was told by some concerned mothers who claimed they had to tidy up these alleged items before allowing their children play on the Kilbeggan playground.
“I want to see the project go forward but I couldn’t lie straight in bed tonight if this went ahead. There will be problems at square minus one, and there will be resentment. I’m not blocking for blocking’s sake, I’m representing the people of Tyrellspass,” said Cllr Daly.
“It’s a terrible indictment of the people of Tyrellspass that they can’t put their heads together to get something other towns are crying out for. I’d nearly be of the opinion to let it go, forget about it,” said Cllr Flanagan.
He enquired from Kilbeggan Area’s director of services Hugh O’Reilly about his favoured site, and was told that the executive’s preferred option was not on publicly-owned land and that the LEADER funding for the project did not support the purchase of land, therefore leaving the site as suggested as the best option.
At this point Cllrs Daly and Arthur also contradicted each other on whether the LEADER funding might or might not be available after January 1, but they were stopped by Cllr Flanagan who said: “We’re going round in circles, and we’ve teased this out long enough,” before siding with the executive and Cllr Arthur.