SERIOUS questions are now being asked about how €1.8 million was paid for a three acre site by the State in Thomastown just two years ago. The land now valued, optimistically, at €40,000 was to be the site of the national headquarters of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). The decision to locate the State employees to Thomastown has been binned and with it go the hopes of an entire community.
The fact that the land deal only went through two years ago is troubling Cllr Michael O’Brien, the local Labour councillor who wants to know who sanctioned the payment at that stage and who knew about it.
Cllr O’Brien said that a political stroke had been pulled by the then finance minister, Charlie McCreevy, over eight years ago and that it was the people of Thomastown who were now paying the price for his ill judged and ill-thought out plan that has resulted in the waste of €1.8 million of taxpayer’s money.
“This is a huge sum of money that could have been and should have been put to better use, if there had been sufficient political will in Kilkenny at that time” he said angrily. He said that there was a lot of cheap political gain over a number of elections at the expense of the Thomastown community. “If the same political urgency to do this had been put into pushing the powers that be into making a genuine effort to complete the Thomastown move, then the situation today would be much different, he said.
“I passed on details of vacant office space then available or easily convertible in Thomastown, having first been assured by the owners that they were willing to do business with the HSA”, he said.
He was surprised that the HSA cancellation was not included in the Government’s statement on decentralisation late last week and that a number of HSA jobs which are based in Kilkenny city are “officially” in Thomastown despite the fact that the staff are working out of rented accommodation in MacDonagh Junction. Five years ago, he was even more surprised by the resistance by everybody in authority to even consider putting the HSA unit and staff into suitable temporary offices in Thomastown.
They along with staff from REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) were supposed to move from the city to Thomastown once the new building was completed. There are now serious doubts about whether the existing jobs will remain in Kilkenny or will return to Dublin.
Cllr O’Brien had been pushing for the implementation of the decentralisation plan for the last eight years but knew something was wrong when he couldn’t get answers to any questions from the Department of Finance on a time scale for the move. However, the department still went ahead with the purchase of a site for €1.8 million that is now worth approximately €40,000 and with an estimated 60 permanently empty houses already in Thomastown and a number of others vacant with little chance in the short term of filling them, the 3.1 acres located close to Grennan College will revert back to agricultural land.
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