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Cuisle to close tomorrow as IWA ignores appeals for ‘stay of execution’

 

 

 

Barring an unexpected twist today (Thursday), the Cuisle Holiday Centre in Donamon will be officially closed by the Irish Wheelchair Association on Friday.

  Appeals for a ‘stay of execution’ for six or twelve months have so far fallen on ‘deaf ears’. Instead of time being ‘bought’ with a view to resolving the crisis, there are now only hours remaining in the 22-year existence of this facility.

  The closure will result in the loss of about 45 jobs, and will be a major blow to the local economy. Furthermore, and most pertinently, there is dismay and sadness amongst services users from all over the country.

  About 2,000 people attended a rally in Roscommon Town on Saturday, held in protest at the shock closure announcement.

  The rally heard calls for the IWA board to step down and for the closure to be deferred.

  The campaign against the closure appeared to be given significant impetus on Thursday when the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee decided to write to the IWA board requesting a deferral of the closure. IWA CEO Rosemary Keogh said that she would bring any such request to the attention of the board.

  Last-gasp efforts to avert the closure have revolved around calls for a ‘stay of execution’ so that the possibility of putting together a financial rescue package and/or exploring alternative options could be discussed with the IWA and other stakeholders.

  However, as we go to press on Wednesday night, the silence from the IWA is deafening. The IWA has declined to answer questions put to it by the Roscommon People on Wednesday morning. The die appears to be cast.

 

 

Dr Hyde Park works put on hold

 

 

 

Development works at Dr. Hyde Park, Roscommon are unlikely to take place prior to next year’s potential Connacht SFC Semi-Final at the venue after the County Board was unsuccessful in its application to obtain funds through the Rural Regeneration Development Fund (RRDF) in October.

  Roscommon GAA PRO Hugh Lynn is adamant however that the County Board is “100% committed” to getting the works done.

  “Roscommon GAA is fully committed to getting the works done but should Roscommon footballers win their Connacht SFC Quarter-Final against London, we do not want to put at risk a possible semi-final fixture at Dr. Hyde Park due to the timescale of works involved.

  “The County Board is 100% committed to the development of Dr. Hyde Park and has almost completed negotiations to purchase land from the HSE in order to widen the exit/entrance onto the Golf Links Road, which was highlighted as a potential ‘pinch-point’ in the Slattery Report,” he said.

  The news that Roscommon GAA had been unsuccessful in its RRDF application was delivered by infrastructure chairman Padraig Naughton during his report to the County Board at its monthly meeting on Tuesday night.

    It is believed the required works at Dr. Hyde Park will cost in the region of €2.2 million. The County Board has €600,000 put aside for the works with the rest of the funding expected to come from grants. The board feels that future match funding would be at risk if current County Board funds were used to commence projects currently.

  It was decided therefore at Tuesday’s meeting that due to insufficient funds and in order not to jeopardise a potential Connacht SFC Semi-Final at Dr. Hyde Park, that works would now not take place until after next year’s potential Connacht SFC Semi-Final at the ground.

 

Cuisle closure: A timeline of events

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1995: The Irish Wheelchair Association begins to explore the possibility of opening an accessible holiday centre at Donamon Castle, Co. Roscommon.

 

June, 1997: Cuisle Holiday Centre is opened in Donamon, Co. Roscommon by then President of Ireland Mary Robinson.

 

June 1st, 2001: The Irish Wheelchair Association agree a 25-year lease with the Divine Word Missionaries. All rent (£125,000) is paid in advance.

 

June, 2007: Cuisle celebrates ten years in operation with a gala ball which raises around €80,000 for the centre.

 

November, 2016: Cuisle receives a €63,982 grant from the National Lottery towards ceiling tracking hoists. It is among a number of grants and donations received by the centre from 2007 to 2019.

 

Early 2017: A periodic inspection of electrical installations reveals a complete electrical upgrading of the centre is needed. The IWA says the estimated cost is €1.15 million.

 

June, 2017: Cuisle celebrates its 20th anniversary with a party attended by guests including local public representatives and members of the IWA board.

 

June and July 2017: Members of the IWA board approach Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice at Cuisle’s 20th anniversary celebrations in June, and later, Deputy Denis Naughten in July and inform them that funding is needed for upgrades at the centre. The TDs say they informed Junior Minister Finian McGrath of the issue.

 

2017 to 2019: IWA says it wrote to Minister Regina Doherty and Health Minister Simon Harris in relation to funding as well as meeting with Deputies Michael Fitzmaurice, Denis Naugthen, and Brendan Durkin, Junior Minister Finian McGrath and various HSE officials in a bid to secure funding.

 

April 2nd, 2019: IWA meet with HSE officials to highlight the difficulties at Cuisle and the need for Capital funding/support for transitioning of service to alternative location in the absence of funding. The HSE invites the IWA to submit a proposal for an alternative model of service.

 

April 24th, 2019: IWA receives an email from HSE stating that it sought to ‘prioritise decongregation allocations in light of all other competing demands and competing budget’. The IWA claims it was also informed that no capital funding would be available.

 

May/June, 2019: IWA seeks update on funding and informs HSE that in the absence of funding a decision would have to be made on Cuisle.

 

August 21st, 2019: IWA meet with HSE to propose moving to hotel-based model of service in the absence of funding.

 

October 30th, 2019: Some staff members receive a text message summoning them to a meeting regarding the future of Cuisle.

 

October 31st, 2019: Remaining staff members receive text message regarding Cuisle meeting.

 

November 3rd, 2019: The Irish Wheelchair Association confirms that it will close Cuisle at the end of the month.

 

November 11th, 2019: Tony Cunningham (National Director of Services) appears at a special sitting of Roscommon County Council where it is revealed that local TDs except Fianna Fáil’s Eugene Murphy had been approached over funding concerns as far back as June 2017.

 

November 11/12th, 2019: Deputies Naughten and Fitzmaurice say there was no suggestion that Cuisle faced closure when they were approached in 2017. Deputy Eugene Murphy expresses shock that he had not been approached.

 

November 21st, 2019: IWA CEO Rosemary Keogh and IWA National Director of Services Tony Cunningham appear in front of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health.

  In what are, at times, heated exchanges with local public representatives, Rosemary Keogh says that Cuisle would not have closed if funding for fire and electrical upgrades had been made available.

 

November 22nd, 2019: Staff members discover a delivery of packing materials at Cuisle Holiday Centre in Donamon.

 

November 23rd, 2019: Between 2,000 and 3,000 people take part in a ‘Save Cuisle’ march and rally in Roscommon town.

 

November 27th, 2019: Minister of State for Disability Issues, Finian McGrath, tells the Seanad that the Irish Wheelchair Association had not asked for funding when they met earlier this month.

 

November 27th, 2019: Cuisle employees receive their final pay cheques from the Irish Wheelchair Association.

 

November 29th, 2019: The date of Cuisle’s proposed closure by the Irish Wheelchair Association.

 

 

Rossies take to streets in solidarity with Cuisle

 

  

About 2,000 people took to the streets last Saturday to protest against plans to close the Cuisle Respite Centre in Donamon.

  Deemed ‘no longer fit for purpose’ by the Irish Wheelchair Association, (IWA), the closure will result in the loss of in excess of 40 jobs.

  In a strong show of solidarity, local TDs, Senators, councillors and community leaders joined staff and service-users as they marched in unison in a rally led by the Castlerea Brass & Reed Band. Local man Danny Burke, (a former councillor), remarked how service-users had “tears in their eyes at this news. I can say here today that we are not going to let this happen. Cuisle is not just for the wheelchair users, it’s a community-based centre as well, and is used by many local groups for various functions. It’s a great amenity for County Roscommon and we cannot let it close”.

  Heartened by the turnout, Roscommon County Council Cathaoirleach Cllr. Paschal Fitzmaurice said the IWA, “don’t seem to be listening to the people in Roscommon”. 

  He continued: “They are not listening to the service-users and they are not listening to the taxpayers of this country who are giving them €40 million per year to run their affairs. The bottom line is that they want to close Cuisle. I am calling on them to have an extraordinary general meeting and seek the views of the people on the ground”.

  Appealing to the IWA to source funding, Cllr. Fitzmaurice assured supporters that “every councillor in Roscommon is behind this cause”.

  Service-user Ita Fitzmaurice appealed: “Please, please, please keep Cuisle open. We go down there once a year for a holiday and we love the place. We love the staff, and it’s the only break we get. It’s a home from home for us, and I’m pleading with whoever is in charge not to close it”.

  Michael Nolan of Roscommon IWA said: “Nothing is too much trouble for the staff in Cuisle, and today’s rally shows that it cannot be closed, nor should it ever be replaced”.

  Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice said: “Over the coming days the pressure has to be ramped up and the people need to be involved in that. I believe there’s a way forward here and it can be resolved. The people in Roscommon and East Galway will ensure that the wheelchair users will have a future in Donamon”.

  Deputy Eugene Murphy said: “The Irish Wheelchair Association are making up excuses as to why the centre should close. Instead of closing the facility down, let us campaign for even better facilities”. Addressing the board of the IWA, he asked them to “put this decision on hold for at least 12 months”.

  Calling Cuisle a home-away-from-home, Deputy Denis Naughten said: “We can go the way of the IWA and board up Cuisle; and no-one wants that. Or we can put an alternative in place. They have said no to that. For all of the people who’ve been connected with Cuisle over the years and the service-users in particular, they deserve a chance here. I’m asking the IWA to pause this decision for six months so we can put that alternative in place and keep the doors of Cuisle open”.

   Commenting on the proud historical links associated with the facility, Senator Terry Leyden said: “They developed a top class centre in Cuisle, and we are not going to let that go. Never, never, never”.

  Reassuring the campaigners, Senator Leyden declared: “We will continue with this fight, and we will be successful”.

  Local community advocate, Catherine Hoare was heartened to see the great turnout, saying: “There’s plenty of passion here today, and it’s great to see so many people supporting the cause. We’re here because it’s the right thing to do. Cuisle is unique because it’s the only holiday and respite centre in the country. But what makes Cuisle really unique is the staff and the community around it”.

   Reading out a statement on behalf of service-user Erica Boucher, Noel Brennan of Cuisle conveyed: “I have been coming to Cuisle for 15 years, and was only there for a week recently. I’m devastated that it’s closing down. In my 27 years of going to respite centres, I haven’t been looked after anywhere else better than by the staff at Cuisle. They are like my family. We feel that nobody understands how we feel and no-one is listening to us. All we want now is for the Government to reverse this decision”.

  Adding his voice, Senator Rónán Mullen said: “I am full-square behind this cause; and I will fight alongside the people to have this decision reversed”.

 

 

Three men charged over robbery of sex workers

 

 

 

 

Three men with Dublin addresses were remanded in custody at a sitting of Harristown District Court in Castlerea last Friday in relation to the robbery of two sex workers in Roscommon town last month.

  The men were arrested in the West Dublin area on November 19th following searches of three properties as part of ‘Operation Quest’, an investigation involving Gardaí, Interpol and Europol into recent robberies and assaults on sex workers.

  The three men arrested were Ioan Galben (37) with an address at 2, Warrenstown Park, Blanchardstown, Andre Tiganasu (33) of 24, Garryknock, Carpenterstown, Castleknock and Samuel Pop (25) of 10, Charnwood Court, Clonsilla. A Romanian interpreter was engaged in the cases concerning Mr. Galben and Mr. Tiganasu.

  Each of the accused is charged with theft under Section 14 of the Criminal Justice Theft and Fraud Offences Act 2001 and with the possession of an offensive weapon contrary to Section 11 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1990, at Stonecourt, Roscommon town on October 28th.

  At Friday’s sitting, both Mr. Galben and Mr. Tiganasu were remanded in custody to appear before Harristown District Court on Friday, December 6th while Mr. Pop was remanded in custody to appear before the next sitting of Roscommon District Court.

 

News…at a glance - November 29th

 

 

 

 

Dementia Friendly social tea dance

A Dementia Friendly Social Tea Dance continues every Wednesday from 2 pm to 4 pm at Hannon’s Hotel in Roscommon town. All welcome.

Christmas Experience in Castlerea

The annual Christmas Experience will return to the Trinity Arts Centre, Castlerea on Sunday, December 8th.

  Santa Claus will be in residence with his lovely wife Mrs. Claus. There are lots of Christmas activities to enjoy, including cupcake decorating, face-painting, a Christmas Wishing Tree, and story telling.

  This promises to be a memorable Christmas experience for all the family and visitors can even get their picture taken with Santa Claus.

  Please book early on 087-4027175 to reserve your visit. No queues and an enjoyable and relaxed family fun day guaranteed!

Cór Comáin Christmas Concert in Strokestown

Cór Comáin (Roscommon Choir) Ladies’ and Youth Choirs present their annual Christmas Concert at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Strokestown on Sunday, December 15th at 7 pm. Tickets for the concert are €10 with proceeds going towards the Strokestown Church Restoration Fund and HeartSafe Project in Kiltrustan.  The concert will be conducted by artistic director Derek Mahady and will feature soloist Maria Matthews, accompanist Celine Kelly, and percussionist Stephanie Pawula. All support would be greatly appreciated.

Race Night in aid of Cootehall Barracks

A Race Night in aid of Cootehall Barracks will take place this Saturday (30th) in Henry’s Bar, Cootehall. There will be nine races on the night and the first is off at 9.45 pm with betting open from 9.15 pm.

  A special auction race will conclude the evening and there will be complimentary food on the night. Those who haven’t bought a horse or a jockey can still support the Cootehall Barracks Fund by laying bets on the night. The aim of the committee is to transform Cootehall Barracks into a three-fold celebration of writer John McGahern’s works, rural policing in the 1940s/50s, and Cootehall’s heritage.

  The facility will have distinct areas that will engage visitors through a combination of visual displays, storyboards, period artefacts, and digital exhibits.  Most of the rooms in the facility will be dual purpose, thus maintaining the facility for community use. For further information, contact Peter Griffin on 086-1539699.

Free ‘military medals’ talk at Athlone Castle

The Athlone Castle Visitor Centre will host a free talk entitled ‘Military medals of the 1914-1923 period’ by Dr. Harman Murtagh this Thursday evening (28th) at 6.30 pm.

  The talk will explore the different medals won during the First World War and the Irish War of Independence.

  Dr. Harman Murtagh is a native of Athlone and currently a visiting fellow at Athlone Institute of Technology. He is the president of the Military History Society of Ireland and a former president of the Old Athlone Society.

As a historian he has written more than sixty books and journal articles. 

  The talk will compliment Athlone Castle’s temporary exhibition ‘Medals of Honour’ which will run until Sunday, December 8th.

  The talk is free, but places are limited, so pre-booking is advised by calling 090-6442130 or emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Solstice Choir’s Christmas Concert in Ballygar

Roscommon Solstice Choir with guests, Choir of Coláiste Mhuire, Ballygar, will perform at a Christmas Concert event in St. Mary’s Church, Ballygar on Friday, December 6th, beginning at 8 pm. (Doors open at 7.30 pm).

  This promises to be a beautiful evening’s entertainment for two very worthy causes: A Food Aid Programme for victims of famine in Zambia, where drought has destroyed the main food crop in the past two years, and the Coláiste Mhuire Transition Year Fund.

  Tickets cost €10 and are available at Ballygar Post Office, Coláiste Mhuire and Centra. There will also be a raffle on the night. Please support.

 

 

 

 

Investment in Roscommon Main Drainage Sewerage Scheme

 

 

Cllr. Orla Leyden has welcomed investment in the Roscommon Main Drainage Sewerage Scheme, stating that this is important infrastructure for the county town.

  Cllr. Leyden said that Irish Water will improve the sewer network in Roscommon town by upgrading the existing network and constructing new sewers, pumping stations and storm water holding tanks.

  Once completed, Cllr. Leyden stated that incidence of storm water overflows and pollution events will greatly decrease. It will reduce the risk of sewers flooding; improve water quality in the Jiggy and Hind rivers, ensure compliance with Irish and EU regulations and facilitate economic development.

  Roscommon County Council has recently granted planning permission for these works.

This project will include the construction of new higher capacity sewers, pumping stations and storm water holding tanks.

  It is anticipated that construction will commence at the end of 2020 and is expected to be completed within 18 months. Irish Water will be in contact with local businesses and residents who will benefit from these works ahead of construction.

 

Political People - November 29th

 

 

 

Fine Gael elects constituency officers

The Fine Gael Roscommon/Galway Constituency AGM took place on November 4th in Gleeson’s in  Roscommon town.

  Minister of State for European Affairs, Helen McEntee was the guest speaker and there was a good attendance with Senator Maura Hopkins, county councillors and Regional Organiser, Laura Comiskey, addressing the meeting. 

  Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee chaired the election of officers. The following officers were elected: Chairperson: Sean Finan; Vice-Chairperson: Sean Óg Hurley; Secretary: Linda Doorley; Treasurers: Pat Tully and Joe Crosbie; Youth Officer: Alan Harney; Policy Officers: Laura Mannion and Jack Fallon; Agricultural Officer: Gerry Coffey; Membership Officer: Ailbhe McNamara.

  The new chairperson, Sean Finan, thanked the outgoing chairperson Sean Óg Hurley for the hard work and dedication he gave to the position. There was a lively discussion on the topics of the day, including Brexit, job creation, tourism, health, farming and the next election!

Comments on Fire Station ‘bonkers’

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Roscommon Claire Kerrane has described comments made by the Chief Executive of Roscommon County Council, Eugene Cummins, in relation to Castlerea Fire Station at Monday’s monthly council meeting as “bonkers”.

  Responding to concerns raised by Cllrs. Nigel Dineen and Paschal Fitzmaurice regarding the future of the fire station, Mr. Cummins said he was forced to close the service three years ago and would not be rushed into making a decision to reopen it.

  Ms. Kerrane said: “At this week’s Council meeting, Mr. Cummins stated that ‘an excellent, efficient and effective fire service was being provided.

  “To me, that comment is bonkers. In Castlerea, no service will be as excellent, ask efficient and as effective than a fully operational fire station in the town, serving the town. That is the bottom line,” Ms. Kerrane concluded.

 

Will Naughten join new Independent alliance?

 

There is speculation this week that former Independent MEP Marian Harkin may be planning to form an alliance among Independent candidates in rural parts of the west of Ireland ahead of an expected General Election in the spring.

  Ms. Harkin, who turned down overtures from Fine Gael in recent weeks, is thought to be considering contesting the election in Sligo/Leitrim as an Independent candidate.

  It is believed that Ms. Harkin met with local TD Denis Naughten in Roscommon town on Monday night, while Junior Ministers Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran and Seán Canney, and Dáil Health Committee chair, Michael Harty TD, are also on her radar.

  When approached for comment, Deputy Naughten refused to be drawn on speculation around a possible alliance, saying: “I meet with Independent colleagues from across the region on a regular basis to discuss cooperation on issues of concern to the people of Roscommon-Galway and across the midlands and the west of Ireland”.

New back-up air ambulance service for Roscommon Town

 

 

 

 

Denis Naughten TD has confirmed that a new back-up air ambulance service is to be based beside Roscommon University Hospital (RUH) from this week.

  The service, which is to act as a back-up service to the Air Corps to facilitate training of its staff, will see ‘Irish Community Rapid Response’ base an air ambulance helicopter beside RUH for four days per month for an initial four-month period.

  “As we are all aware, there have been concerns expressed in the past by Defence Force personnel regarding the staffing of the Air Corps service at Custume Barracks in Athlone. As a result of those concerns I have been engaging with Government to secure an emergency air ambulance service for our region”.

  The Roscommon-Galway TD states that the core objective is not just to maintain the existing level of emergency air ambulance service but to see it expanded to cater for more patients and over a longer period of time, specifically at night.

 

 

Council’s Budget for 2020 approved  

 

 

 

Roscommon County Council’s Budget for 2020, which was approved on Monday and includes no increase in rates, was welcomed by all eighteen councillors and described as “balanced, fair and transparent” by CEO Eugene Cummins.

  A number of risks including the impact of rates valuation tribunal appeals, and the end of the service level agreement with Irish Water in 2022, were identified at Monday’s Budget meeting.

  Director of Services Martin Lydon said Roscommon County Council was expected to be ahead of its housing unit targets for Rebuilding Ireland.

  Director of Services for Transport, Shane Tiernan, provided an update on the N5 Ballaghaderreen to Scramogue road project which he said could cost up to €190 million over the three years.

 

 

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