13. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will approve the development of a swimming pool in Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33238/11]
Deputy Michael Ring: Under the local authority swimming pool programme, which is administered by my Department, grant aid to a maximum of €3.8 million is provided to local authorities towards the capital costs of new swimming pools or the refurbishment of existing pools. This is subject in both cases to the total grant not exceeding 80% of the eligible cost of the project or, in the case of projects located in disadvantaged areas, 90% of the eligible cost. Proposals must comply with the standards set out in the Department’s “Procedures for the Planning, Approval and Financing of Swimming Pools and Technical Guidelines”. Under these guidelines, there are four principal stages in a swimming pool project following the submission of a feasibility study. In order of progress, these are preliminary report, contract documents, tender and construction. The Department and its technical advisers in the Office of Public Works evaluate each stage. Local authorities cannot proceed to the next stage of a project unless prior approval issues from my Department.
When the current round of the local authority swimming pool programme closed to new applicants in July 2000, an application was received from Roscommon County Council on behalf of Ballaghaderreen. This project is already included in the current round of the programme but it is obviously a matter for the local authority to progress the project. A preliminary report in respect of this swimming pool is currently awaited in the Department.
Deputy Denis Naughten: I thank the Minister of State for his reply. He will be aware that a considerable level of local fund-raising has taken place in Ballaghaderreen over a long period. If everything is in order when the preliminary report is submitted, will the Minister of State indicate whether there are funds available to meet the commitment in respect of the €3.8 million required? Does Ballaghaderreen fall into the disadvantaged area category? How is disadvantage defined in this regard? The community that would be serviced by the swimming pool is located in a very rural and disadvantaged area.
Deputy Michael Ring: The funding is in place. We have already approved three pools this year. The Department is awaiting the relevant information from the local authority. If everything is in order with that information, then the project will be approved. As the Deputy is aware, the last round was in 2000 and there has been no activity since then. Ballaghaderreen is one of 12 swimming pool projects currently being dealt with. It is a matter for the local authority to produce the preliminary report. I am aware that a great deal of local fund-raising has taken place in respect of Ballaghaderreen and I understand that a substantial sum of money is now in place. As already stated, the Department’s funding is in place. I am not sure whether Ballaghaderreen is located in a CLÁR area. If it is, the level of grant aid will be 90% rather than 80%.
Deputy Denis Naughten: Will the Minister of State provide a commitment to the effect that he will deal expeditiously with the local authority’s application when it is received in the Department and that he will ensure there will be no further delays in respect of this project? As he is aware, there has been an ongoing saga in respect of Ballaghaderreen swimming pool. No one wants to see a repeat of the tragic events involving pupils from St. Nathy’s College who lost their lives in Sligo a number of years ago. It is important to put facilities such as swimming pools in place for local communities.
Deputy Michael Ring: As Deputy Naughten is aware, many local authorities are finding it difficult to come up with matching funds. I will give the Deputy a commitment to the effect that as soon as Roscommon County Council submits its report, it will be dealt with. I will deal with Ballaghaderreen in the same way I dealt with Castlerea and Roscommon town. If the matter is put before me, it will be dealt with.
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan: The Minister of State is probably aware that there already is an enclosed swimming pool in the town of Ballaghaderreen. This pool is located in the local hotel, which has been shut down. Would the Department consider the option of allowing the council to lease that pool in order that it might save a great deal of money? There are those who would state that the pool to which I refer is not big enough. All I can say in reply is that if it were located in my town, the people there would be delighted.
If €3.8 million in funding is available, perhaps the Minister of State might consider releasing a small portion of that money – I will probably be informed that this is not possible – to develop further Castlerea swimming pool. I am involved with a not-for-profit organisation, Castlerea Swimming Pool Limited, which was established to try to ensure that Castlerea swimming pool will remain open all year round. We have everything apart from the sliding roof – in respect of which we have carried out a great deal of research – in place. We commissioned a study – I can supply the Minister of State with a copy – which indicates that it would be possible to have a 33-metre swimming pool in Castlerea that could open on a year-round basis and that could be an open-air facility in the summer and during periods of good weather. This would be a fantastic tourism attraction for the area and it would only cost €500,000 to fund. Will the Minister of State give consideration to this matter and will he meet representatives from Castlerea Swimming Pool Limited in order to discuss it?
Deputy Denis Naughten: I support Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s proposal in respect of Castlerea swimming pool. There is a commitment in place in respect of Ballaghaderreen and this must be protected. It is not impossible for miracles to occur in the House. If Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan can wear a suit into the Chamber, which is a miracle in itself, surely it must be possible to fund a sliding roof for a swimming pool.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: We are not dealing with that matter now.
Deputy Michael Ring: I knew Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan would show me some respect today. That is why he is wearing his suit. I thank him for that.
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan: I wore it especially for the Minister of State.
A Deputy: I will buy the Deputy a tie.
Deputy Timmy Dooley: It is a million dollar suit.
Deputy Michael Ring: The swimming pool to which Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan refers in Ballaghaderreen is in private ownership and the hotel in which it is located has been shut down. If the county council makes a proposal to the Department in respect of this matter, we will consider it. I am not indicating that we are going to agree to it, I am merely stating that a proposal should be made.
In the context of Castlerea, the Deputy will be aware that the programme is closed. However, the Department recently provided €125,000 for the purposes of upgrading the pool at Castlerea and making it wheelchair accessible. I have no difficulty with meeting the individuals to whom the Deputy referred but there is nothing I can say to them. There has not been a programme in place since 2000. We are going to deal with the 12 swimming pool projects which remain outstanding. Until these are disposed of, we will not even consider whether a new round should be commenced.
Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan: Did the council not make an application in respect of the private swimming pool to which I refer?
Deputy Michael Ring: That is a matter for the county council. It can bring forward a proposal and I will examine it.