The issue of the raising of a loan of €2.5 million by Mayo County Council as a contribution towards the development of a new swimming pool and the national outdoor education and training centre at Lough Lannagh in the town turned into a political back and forth in the council chamber on Monday.
This phase of the project (a two phase project with the second part seeing the construction of four playing pitches, including an all weather pitch and a tartan running track and all associated facilities including changing rooms and a clubhouse. This will be located across the road from the existing GMIT campus ) will cost €11,095,235 with €7,695,00 coming from two different allocations from the Department for Environment, Community and Local Government, one allocation of €3.895 million under its regional development fund and another €3.8 million from the swimming pool capital programme. GMIT is making a contribution of €500,000, €400,000 is coming from community funding, with the final €2.5 million coming from a contribution by Mayo County Council.
Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne said at the meeting: "I welcome the pool, it's probably the second best type of a pool we could have got, we should have got a 50m pool, but I notice that we will be making repayments over 30 years. What baffles me is that a Fine Gael brigade can appear on the paper, those who are councillors, those who were would-be councillors, those who are were rejected in this town, to say this is the new swimming pool for Castlebar and national centre and they come back to the council and ask us to pay for it, I don't think that was right, this was promised three years ago. Why should Mayo County Council have to pay for it, we already have a commitment of €6.5 million in loans next year before this, you'll be adding on this as well and more to come. Westport could get a pool, I don't remember you making any repayments for it, Claremorris and many other places. What I'm saying is this was announced, but the people of Castlebar and Mayo will have to pay for it, so I'm objecting to having to pay for it."
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser later in the week, Cllr Kilcoyne added: "When this was announced there was a contribution of €1.25 million from both Castlebar Town Council and Mayo County Council towards what was the whole project, which was expected to cost €12.5 million. We are now having the project done in two phases and the first phase is costing almost as much as the total project was expected to cost. Castlebar Town Council had all down the years been putting money aside for a new pool and where has that gone, that's where I'm coming from in relation to this."
Responding to Cllr Kilcoyne in the council chamber on Monday, Fine Gale councillor Henry Kenny said: "I fully welcome it, I think it's a bit much from Cllr Kilcoyne to say on the one hand he welcomes it and on the other why do we have to pay for it, in this day in and age you won't develop anything without a financial input. I also recall that Cllr Kilcoyne, now that he has welcomed it in the first place, was one of those against it and wanted to develop a 50m pool, which a city like Galway doesn't have. Furthermore he brought parents into a meeting where he could make these proposals in front of them to outline his own objections to it. A 50m pool would be unsustainable totally in a town like Castlebar, if Galway couldn't sustain it, how can Castlebar? I'm fully delighted that this project has been initiated and is going ahead and it ends the talk of negativity. "
Fianna Fáil councillor Blackie Gavin said: "I welcome the development of a new pool, but I have to agree in all fairness, Cllr Kilcoyne had a vision for a 50m pool and the other councillors when it came up to the part eight before the town council [the 50m option was rejected by a 5-4 vote in the town council], a 50m pool would have been a world class facility for the people of this town, the county, and the west of Ireland. Build it and they will come, I'm bitterly disappointed, where's the running track? This is being build in two phases, we'll never see the running track, we'll never see the pitches and well I know it."
His party colleague Cllr Lisa Chambers added: "I welcome the development, I think it's a very positive development for Castlebar, I think however that Cllr Kilcoyne is correct on something, it is disingenuous to say the Taoiseach and Minister Ring can take full credit for the project to which clearly the local authority is making a substantinal contribution which will saddle us with another debt for another 30 years. To go out and take full credit and not let the citizens of Mayo know they are making a contribution is disingenuous, that's the narrative that is being spun by Fine Gael that they are solely responsible for it and no credit is coming back to the local authority."