‘Threat emails’ to Galway Mayor in Leisureland pool price row

Five of swimming pool’s seven directors resigned in opposition to increased charges

Mayor of Galway Donal Lyons (Independent) says he is taking advice over "threatening emails" sent to him in response to increased charges for the city's main public swimming pool.

Five of the seven members on the board of the Leisureland swimming complex in Salthill have already resigned in protest over the charges, with only Mr Lyons and Fine Gael councillor Padraig Conneely remaining.

However, Swim Ireland Connacht regional support officer Vincent Finn, who was one of the five directors to resign, said the aquatic community in Galway would condemn any such threats.

“No one would condone that sort of action,” Mr Finn said.

Mr Lyons said he had no difficulty with representations received from clubs and any members of the public, but he had “severe difficulty” with the content of two emails sent to him over the weekend on the issue.

“One in particular was very upsetting to me and my family,” he told The Irish Times, adding it came with a name and contact number.

He said he has referred both emails to Galway City Council for advice on further action.

Severe flooding

Leisureland, which is owned by the local authority, has been closed for much of this year after severe flooding during last winter’s storm surges which caused extensive damage across the west coast.

It reopened on Saturday last, December 13th, after extensive refurbishment costing €4.5 million, with some €500,000 coming from the Department of the Environment’s emergency fund and the balance from insurance.

However, three swimming clubs and two water polo clubs involving more than 1,000 young swimmers have expressed opposition to a plan to increase charges at the facility from January 1st.

The price increases for the five clubs - the first in 12 years - were opposed by Leisureland’s board, including Mr Lyons, but this decision was overruled by the city council as part of a plan to cap the subvention to the facility.

The city council has been giving the facility a subsidy of €650,000 annually, but this is limited to €450,000 annually in the 2015 budget.

Labour councillor Niall MacNelis, who was one of three councillors among the five directors who resigned, said the clubs contributed €240,000 a year - or 25 per cent of overall income - to Leisureland.

‘Short-sighted’

He said it would be “short-sighted” to penalise them.

Mr Finn of Swim Ireland pointed out that the increases for clubs amounted to 45 per cent, compared to 8.1 per cent for the general public.

The issue resulted in a vote by councillors in support of the clubs’ stance at a special city council meeting last Friday night.

During the meeting, several members of the public in the visitors’ gallery were asked to leave.

“Elected members of the council were given a democratic mandate in the elections last May, and they have every right to ensure that standing orders of meetings are abided by,” a city council spokesman said.

A council source said protests by Occupy Galway, Right2Water and anti-austerity groups “paled in comparison” to the anger over the swimming pool charge issue.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times

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