FIFTY anti-skate park protesters took over City Hall armed with placards and a petition of 170 signatures in objection to the development of a skate park at the Closh, opposite the cinema, on Monday night.
Bill Bergin, leader of the community group from the Walkin Street and Gaol Road area, said that the area was unsuitable because of the number of elderly people living up there. “The area we are talking about is a residential area occupied by elderly people,” he said. “We are afraid that putting a skate park in here will bring a lot of anti-social behaviour. The skate park should be built in a more appropriate area, up in the Castle Park or Scanlon Park, where they have the facilities.”
Mr Bergin said the residents weren’t impressed by the response of the councillors and that was why they were taking to the streets. “The neighbouring residents are adamant that they don’t want a skate park in the Closh. We’ve had to come out in the streets with placards and we’ll continue if we don’t get the respect that we residents deserve.”
The Fianna Fáil councillors were unanimously in favour of moving the skate park, but supported the general idea. Cllr Andrew McGuinness said that, when he first joined the council, one of the issues he had raised was the need for a skate park. “When I started in the council eight years ago I highlighted the need for a skate park, but what you have here is a group of residents who don’t want it in this area,” he said at Monday night’s meeting of Kilkenny Borough Council. “We proposed before that we put it in the Castle Park.”
However, Labour Cllr Seán Ó hArgáin accused the Fianna Fáil group of a “cop out”. “I think, to be perfectly frank, choosing a site that would never allow a skate park like the OPW (the Castle Park) is a cop out,” he said. “I think this is the perfect place to put a skate park, beside the biggest youth facility in Kilkenny – the cinema.”
Cllr Joe Reidy (FF) cautioned against going ahead against the wishes of the people. “We are elected by the people. A hundred and seventy people have asked that it not be put there. I don’t think we should ignore that.” He also questioned the decision to put aside e250,000 at a time when the council can’t afford to maintain its basic housing stock.
Cllr Ó hArgáin noted that the council had already gone through the public consultation and planning process for the skate park. Green party Cllr Malcolm Noonan added that there was a mechanism in place at the funding stage to stop the project but that if councillors were worried about a e250,000 he felt the e3m budgeted for the Central Access Scheme was a better target.