Labour councillor Harry Barrett has hit out strongly against the interventions of Mayo Fine Gael Minister of State Michael Ring in asking for a Departmental examination of the decision of Castlebar Town Council and Mayo County Council to buy the Imperial Hotel, in Castlebar.
Cllr Barrett said he was furious and accused the Minister of State of “misrepresenting the facts” and “adding to the stress of workers in the local authority”.
He also suggested that as Minister of State with responsibility for Tourism, Minister Ring was attempting to “scupper” plans by Castlebar Town Council and Mayo County Council to salvage one of the country's most historic buildings.
“It is unbelievable that the Minister would attempt to suggest that jobs could be maintained if the Imperial plan was dropped,” Cllr Barrett said. “With a shortfall of €9 million this year alone, this was never going to happen. This sort of ill advised comment is leading workers to believe that jobs could be saved. This is adding to the worry that people are having within the council about jobs.
“The Minister fails to explain that there will be no forced redundancies,” he added. “Nobody will be laid off. The Croke Park Agreement does not permit forced lay-offs. I am informed that the number of 152 jobs will be dealt with as people retire and as they transfer from one area to another. There will be no compulsory lay offs.”
According to the town councillor Mayo County Council could do more to explain the situation to the workers, but he said the facts are that “the Government that the Minister is a part of will impose cuts and the council must act to rationalise their costs”. With an 80 per cent drop in planning activity and a shortfall of €9 million for 2011, work arrangements had to change, Cllr Barrett explained. “The plan to save the Imperial will actually save money for the council in leasing costs for existing office space,” he added.
The Labour member said he could not understand how a Minister for Tourism would intervene to stop the development of one of the country's most historic buildings. “Michael Davitt and James Daly, founders of the Land League, are revered in Castlebar. Events within the Imperial Hotel, many years ago, began the process of returning the land of Ireland to the people of Ireland. The Imperial is about to see the roof fall in and Minister Ring wants to let it go. Fortunately, we have a town council with a bit of foresight and Castlebar councillors who understand the significance of maintaining Davitt and Daly's heritage.”
Cllr Barrett warned Minister of State Ring to “butt out”. “Castlebar councillors want to save the Imperial Hotel from dereliction. It is actually a disgrace that we have to justify ourselves on such an important issue. It's a Castlebar issue being dealt with by Castlebar Town Council and Mayo County Council. If the Imperial was located in Westport, this issue would not arise,” he suggested, and said the Minister's unwanted intervention now demands a statement from the Mayor of Castlebar.