Angry exchanges over siting of civic amenity at Demesne in Castlerea

A controversial County Council civic amenity and recycling centre will be located on the industrial estate on The Demesne  in Castlerea – despite some strong local protests on the matter. That was the decision of Roscommon county councillors who voted on the issue at their monthly meeting of the council held earlier this week. The vote followed heated exchanges.    Fianna Fail Cllr. Eugene Murphy proposed that a decision on the matter be postponed by a month to allow further consultation to take place but that proposal was defeated on the casting vote of the chairperson, Mayor Cllr. John Kelly.   In the subsequent vote on the actual siting of the centre four members on the Fianna Fail side of the chamber actually abstained, allowing the centre to go ahead (following an outcome of 14 votes to 8).   After a long, tense and sometimes acrimonious debate on where the centre should be located the initial vote of the council was 13 votes for, and 13 votes against the amendment (proposed by Cllr. Murphy) and the vote was then on the casting vote of the chairperson, Cllr. John Kelly.   The Fine Gael councillors along with Independent councillors Tom Crosby, Tony Ward and Mayor Kelly supported the location of the centre at the Demesne while the Fianna Fail councillors along with Independent Cllr.  Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, Sinn Fein Cllr. Michael Mulligan  and HAC Cllrs. Valerie Byrne and Paula McNamara voted against.   Several councillors made contributions on the matter and Cllr. John Connor was first to speak. He agreed that the centre was badly needed in the town. He said he was aware of business concerns in the area given that there is a food processing business and a major employer in the pharmaceutical industry close by. He said he also had concerns over increased traffic in the area but that if those concerns were answered by the County Manager he would be happy with the centre being located in The Demesne.   Other Fine Gael councillors also spoke in support of the Demesne location in preference to two other possible locations in the town. Cllr. Sean Beirne wanted assurances on vermin control while Castlerea area Cllr. Michael McGreal said that he would be voting for the centre at the Demesne ‘for the greater good’ of the area.   He dismissed any notion that there would be a problem with the local businesses in the area, particularly with Harmac, who he said had assured him that there was no threat to employment there.   Cllr. Tom Crosby wanted an assurance that there would be CCTV installed at the new facility to ensure that everything was being run properly.   Several councillors on the Fianna Fail side and Cllr. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan spoke out strongly against the council plans. Cllr. Flanagan said that the views of local people were being ignored. He said he was in a no-win position. He wanted the centre to go ahead but not at this location.   Fianna Fail Cllr. Tony Waldron said that he had serious concerns over the proposed location of the centre, stating that the development of Castlerea should be the most important issue.      Cllr. Rachel Doherty called on the council to allow more time for consultaton on the matter while Cllr. John Kelly (Mayor) said that he would be supporting the council because  there was a similar site in Ballaghaderreen and that it had worked very well for 11 years, with no problems ensuing.    Mr. Benny O’Connell addressed the meeting on behalf of the Enterprise Castlerea organisation and told Council members that they wanted the centre in the town but that it was being put in the wrong place. He said that he wanted proper industrial development in Castlerea but that this was not the way to go about it. He appealed to the councillors to oppose the centre being located at The Demesne.   County Manager Mr. John Tiernan told the meeting that of the three possible sites around the town, the other two were simply not viable.  He said that all the concerns of the councillors and local people  with regard to traffic, roads access, car parking,  CCTV and other issues would be addressed and dealt with by the council.    He also gave assurances on the vermin issue, saying that it was going to be a dry materials  facility which did not generally attract vermin and adding that if there was any problem in that regard it would be dealt with immediately. His view was that the site at The Demesne was entirely suitable.   Cllr. Eugene Murphy asked  that the council postpone their decision for a month to allow further consultation, however Mr. Tiernan (County Manager), Cllr. McGreal and others said that the matter had to be decided on the day because it had dragged on for four years already up to that point.   There was then a vote on the amendment proposed by Cllr. Murphy (in favour of a deferral) and the result was 13 for 13 against. The proposal was then defeated by the casting vote of the Mayor Cllr. Kelly.   When the substantive motion was put as to the location of the centre there was a more   clearcut outcome with 14 votes in favour of the  Demesne, 8 against and 4 abstentions. So, as matters stand, Castlerea is to have a new civic amenity and dry materials recycling centre located  at the industrial estate at The Demesne.