KILKENNY Borough Council was once again a divided house on Monday evening, as the issue of building a skatepark in the city arose.
At the start of the meeting, Fianna Fail councillors Andrew McGuinness, Joe Reidy and Joe Malone withdrew a motion they had put forward calling for the council to scrap the idea of a skatepark at the Closh and pursue an alternative location. Cllr McGuinness said the decision was made on the foot of advice from Town Clerk Brian Tyrrell, who he said had raised an issue over the wording.
Mayor of Kilkenny Seán Ó hArgáin said he welcomed the withdrawal of the motion. Yesterday, he said he had sought senior counsel advice which showed that the motion was both in breach of planning law and of council protocol.
“The motion placed on the agenda by the three Fianna Fáil members was in breach of the council’s standing orders on two counts,” said Mayor O’ hArgain.
“It should have been signed by at least five members and should also have referred specifically to the motion it sought to overturn. More importantly, the advice I received was that the legal position in relation to the Closh is crystal clear.
“The council passed a motion after a legal planning process which involved extensive public consultation and a decision to proceed with the plan. To overturn this process by a motion to the council is illegal. The advice from the council’s solicitor echoes the advice I received independently.”
The three Fianna Fail councillors said that the mayor did not contact them prior to the withdrawn motion, and they were not aware of any legal advice or representations made.
“We withdrew our motion last night as we were advised prior to the meeting by City Hall official Brian Tyrrell that there was a technical difficulty with it,” Cllr McGuinness said.
“We will be re-presenting a similar motion at a later meeting with the aim of scrapping the idea of a skatepark at the Closh. We had no communication from Sean O’ hArgain regarding our motion so I’m baffled by his press release.
“The Fianna Fail group are in full support of the provision of a skatepark but the Closh is the wrong location.”
However, Mayor O’ hArgain has said that the council is in a position now where it is legally obliged to proceed with the development. He said he intended to ‘fight the privatisation of skateboarding’ in Kilkenny, and that he and other councillors would only support a free and public facility.
Monday night’s meeting was also attended by two members of Comhairle na n-Óg – Brid Lyons and Mairead Cody – who gave a short presentation to the members. Their report made findings that criticised the level of consultation from the council with both Closh residents and young people generally.
They also referred to an 850-signature petition calling for a skatepark to be put in place – although no location was specified.
Yesterday, local community activist Mick Greene told the Kilkenny People that he was disappointed that the skaters had not been asked to contribute to Monday’s meeting of the borough council.
“Last night, a youth organisation were asked to speak to the council regarding the project but yet again, the main users of the proposed skate-park were not invited,” he said.
“We were promised a meeting by the current Mayor Sean O’ hArgain when he spoke with the group on the parade in August. He also promised to provide the group with a copy of the report commissioned by the council in 2005 that concluded that the Closh was the preferred site.
“Unfortunately, neither have materialised to date. The reality is that what the skaters have to say is at odds with the opinion of the Mayor’s opinion in relation to the proposed skate-park.”