Prices and gender balance at centre of Leisureland meeting

Proposed price hikes for users of Leisureland swimming pool have been called an “outrage” and look set to be the main focus of a special Galway City Council meeting tomorrow afternoon.

The meeting comes the day before Leisureland is due to re-open to the public after its closure in January following storm and flood damage. However the past week has seen the facility’s board of directors mired in controversy.

The proposed price hikes have unleashed a flood of angry emails from parents and users of Leisureland swimming pool; led three councillors - Independent Mike Cubbard, Fine Gael’s Pearce Flannery, and Labour’s Niall McNelis - to resign from the Leisureland Board; and has resulted in this special meeting after the matter failed to be discussed in council chambers on Monday.

Price increases will not be the only controversial matter to come before councillors tomorrow. Concerns have been expressed about gender imbalance on the Leisureland board following a proposal to add another male director to a board of seven male members.

Independent city councillor Catherine Connolly has condemned both the price hikes and the board’s lack of female membership.

“I am totally opposed to the increases,” she said. “Such a move is totally inappropriate given that one of the biggest challenges facing Leisureland is to increase the number of people actually using the facility, particularly given that it has been closed now for almost a year.”

The resignations of councillors Cubbard and Flannery were as a result of the price hikes and that decisions of the board can be over-ruled. The board had “voted unanimously not to increase prices”, according to Cllr Cubbard, but “in a decision taken since, the executive have confirmed that, despite our unanimous vote, these increases will be implemented”.

In a statement, Cllr Flannery said the “recent imposition” of price hikes goes “against the wishes of the entire board”. He said “the fact the board of directors can be overruled at will in my view renders its very existence pointless.”

Cllr Connolly called the resignations “unprecedented”, but criticised councillors Cubbard, Flannery, and McNelis, saying they should have “ensured the matter was placed on the agenda” of Monday’s council meeting “or tabled an emergency motion” rather than resigning.

“This would have allowed for an open and full debate on the situation,” she said, “but more importantly would have enabled the matter to be resolved in an efficient, accountable, manner.”

Cllr Connolly said one “upside of the resignations” is that the vacancies will “allow for gender representation” on the board if the pact of Fine Gael, Labour, and some independents “are seriously committed to gender equality”.

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