No support for recycling facility in Demesne at public meeting

It was standing room only in the O’Rourke GAA centre in Castlerea last Thursday night as a public meeting discussed the implications of siting a civic amenity centre in the Demesne in Castlerea on lands earmarked for a business park.   Not one person at the meeting was in favour of siting the recycling centre in the Demesne and there was anger that none of the Fine Gael councillors who had voted for the centre to be sited in the Demesne, were present at the meeting. The meeting was chaired by Benny O’Connell of Enterprise Castlerea, who said he appreciated the support of all present. He also welcomed the support of Frank Feighan and acknowledged that, as the only Fine Gael representative present, he was in a difficult position at the meeting. The Castlerea area is represented by three County Councillors, Cllr. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan (Ind), Cllr. Michael McGreal (FG) and Cllr. Tony Waldron (FF). Cllr. Flanagan and Waldron, both of whom had opposed the proposal to go ahead with the civic amenity site in the Demesne, were present at the meeting, while Cllr. McGreal, who voted in favour of siting the amenity centre in the Demesne, was not present. Cllr. McGreal had written a letter to the meeting and asked that it be read out at the meeting. However, meeting chairman Benny O’Connell noted that it made a number of jibes at Enterprise Castlerea and said that he wouldn’t be reading it out as Cllr. McGreal was not present himself. He also told guests at the meeting that Cllr. McGreal stated in the letter that he wasn’t in a position to attend the public meeting as he had important personal commitments for every Thursday night between now and Christmas. The meeting was told that a proposal to site a civic amenity centre in the Demesne was passed at a recent meeting of Roscommon County Council. The vote was tied at 13 each, and the casting vote in favour of siting the facility in the Demesne was made by Mayor John Kelly. Cllr. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan told guests at the meeting that the site in the demesne is the wrong site. He added that the matter cannot be brought to the November meeting of the County Council due to time constraints, but can be brought back to the December meeting, at the request of five councillors.  Cllr. Michael Mulligan warned that council machinery could go on to the site and start work. ‘If that happens, you will have to be there to block them going in. It’s a big ask, but ye will have to do it,’ said Cllr. Mulligan. The difficulty of the position was acknowledged by Frank Feighan TD. He outlined his political history and said that under the dual mandate legislation introduced in 2003, he had to resign his council seat. ‘When you explained about the site, I did visit the site and listen to everything that was said. I also agree that this is the wrong site in Castlerea.’ He continued: ‘I said I would discuss it with my colleague Denis Naughten. I discussed it with the County Manager and with members of the Fine Gael councillors and I felt that it would have been listened to,’ said Deputy Feighan. Local businessman, Michael Guthrie, owner of Finola Foods, also addressed the meeting. His business is beside where the new recycling facility will be placed. He said that the civic amenity centre in its present proposed location would have an adverse effect on his business. He noted that apart from other problems which the recycling centre would create, it would also bring four to five hundred cars into the area every day. He also noted that the issue had brought together people who were normally poles apart, such as Cllr. Tony Waldron and Cllr. Luke Flanagan. Mr. Guthrie described the decision to locate a recycling facility in the industrial heartland of Castlerea as ‘crazy’ and pointed out that the site in Roscommon is two miles from the town. Gerard Gannon of Castlerea Towns Trust pointed out that the land in question was given by the Towns Trust to the IDA for industrial or other development and the IDA later handed it over to the county council. ‘That area has an amenity value second to none,’ said Mr. Gannon, who added that a recycling facility would put prospective employers off locating in the area. Cllr. Luke Flanagan noted that while Denis Naughten TD is against the proposed siting of the recycling facility in Castlerea, his brother John voted for it. ‘Whatever about having an influence with councillors, surely he has some sway with his brother,’ said Cllr. Flanagan. Other speakers to address the meeting included Madeline O’Connell, who spoke in favour of recycling, and Cllr. Eugene Murphy, who pledged his support for the changing of the site. Pascal Fitzmaurice of Enterprise Castlerea pointed to a number of consistencies in the consultants’ report into the matter. At the conclusion of the meeting, Cllr. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan suggested that he would not support the FG/Independent alliance at the next AGM of Roscommon County Council, at which Cllr. McGreal is due to be elected mayor. The meeting closed with a minute’s silence in memory of the late Dr. Hugh Gibbons.