Dún Laoghaire councillors ‘powerless’ to ringfence €10m fund

Plans to rebuild Stillorgan swimming pool delaying other projects, members told

Glenalbyn Swimming Pool in Stillorgan was forced to close in 2014 after structural issues with the roof were identified. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Glenalbyn Swimming Pool in Stillorgan was forced to close in 2014 after structural issues with the roof were identified. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

Members of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council have been told they do not have the power to direct the chief executive to continue to ringfence a €10 million fund for a swimming pool.

The fund for the rebuilding of Glenalbyn Swimming Pool in Stillorgan was set up in 2014, after the facility was forced to close after structural issues with the roof were identified.

The money was said to be ringfenced in council accounts up to last August but this year chief executive Philomena Poole said it would be “unwise” to keep the money tied up when there is no chance of the work getting beyond the planning and design stage in 2019.

“Accordingly, it would be unwise to delay the progress of other projects such as Stillorgan Library, Fernhill and the East Pier repairs by tying up the funds assigned for Glenalbyn,” she said.

The pool project was reclassified from “not contract” – meaning a contract for the work remained to be signed – to “funding not available”.

Legal opinion

Speaking at a council meeting on Monday night, the authority’s director of finance and economic development Helena Cunningham said money would be available for planning and design of the refurbished pool this year. However, this meant there would be potential delays with the other projects.

Fianna Fáil councillor Donal Smith said the council had received a legal opinion that members did not have the power to overrule Ms Poole on her decision.

Mr Smith said the ringfenced nature of the funding was “the foundation and measure” of the council’s commitment to the pool. “Sadly, it will be difficult for the public to take the council’s position on the pool seriously after tonight,” he said.

The Green Party’s Daniel Dunne told the meeting the councillors had been told last year there was no need to apply for grants and other sources of funding for Glenalbyn, as the money was ringfenced. But now, he said, the ringfencing was being removed.

Labour councillor Alex White asked what were the stumbling blocks with the negotiations with Kilmacud Crokes GAA club, which appeared to be delaying the project.

Citing the council’s legal advice, Cathaoirleach Ossian Smyth ruled out of order a motion directing the chief executive to restore the ringfenced nature of the pool funding. In response, council members then voted across party lines to call on the chief executive to reinstate it.