OVER forty residents living close to The Closh attended a public meeting at the Town Hall last week to air their views on a controversial skatepark that the council are planning to construct in their area.
Tom Reid from St Fiacre’s Place told the meeting that his views are well known locally and that the only solution is a St Rioch’s Peace Park for the community. “Nine years of hard work and voluntary contributions have made the cemetery what it is today. We don’t want it to go back to what it was ten years ago when it ws littered by cans, syringes and was being used as an open toilet. There are people alive, including myself who have people interred there. I have nothing against the people who want to play sport. My late father and other residents protested to where they put the handball alley and they put it there anyway,” he said.
His neighbour John Daly said that when the alley became obsolete it caused anti-social problems in the area. “When it became obsolete every drunk, drug addict and vandal wen there. Are you the people in power going to make the same mistake that they did in the forties,” he said adding that The Closh was not a suitable location for the proposed skatepark. Another local resident pointed out that there is a great sporting tradition in the area. “No one has anything against these young people, just the location. The main people who are making the decisions have refused to come and I think that is an absolute disgrace. I think that it is a disgrace that so many members didn’t turn out. They are the people whoo are making the decisions and they should be hearing both sides. I don’t want to deny young people a place to enjoy their sport but I think it would be a highly dangerous location so close to the road and that Scanlon Park or the Castle would be better locations,” he said.
Ellen Power proudly showed a photograph of Martin White (who is now aged 102) playing hurling at The Closh. “Kilkenny hurlers have played here and I think it would be a dying shame if they changed the place,”she said.
Eoin Doyle who is involved in a number of local sports club suggested that the way forward would be to rent out an industrial unit as part of a pilot scheme. “Give them an indoor facility and try it for a couple of years. You could design it and rent it and allow them to train there. We went into an industrial unit with nothing and now we have two dance studios and a kickboxing club and we didn’t get a red cent from anybody. We hold our own tournaments and generate our own money. If you build something outdoor it is only good for four months of the year with snow and ice where an indoor facility can do all year round,” he said.
Cllr Joe Malone (FF) told the meeting that he did not support the location in The Closh and asked that other sites be investigated adding that his own preference would be for the Castle Park.
Cllr Kathleen Funchion (SF) said: “Everyone seems to agree that the Closh is the wrong place. We should set a deadline or organise a follow up meeting,” she told the Mayor. Cllr Joe Reidy (FF) said that it was the duty of the councillors’ to listen to the people. “Everyone bar one or two say that the Closh is not where they want it. It is our duty to go back and change it,” he said. Cllr Sean O hAargain said that he had been at every meeting on the skate park, apart from one in the past ten years and argued his support for the proposed location.
Karen Wall from Father Albert Place who was born and reared on the Gaol Road said: “Both the residents and the skaters are on the same page but you (the councillors) seem to be pushing for the Closh. The councillors seem to want to settle for less. It is clear that everyone in this room is in agreement except the councillors. You should remember and satisfy the views of the people you represent,” she added.