McGreal, Waldron in stormy exchanges over Demesne

There was uproar at this week’s meeting of Roscommon County Council during a debate on the controversial proposed civic amenity centre for Castlerea when Cllrs. Michael McGreal (Fine Gael) and Anthony Waldron (Fianna Fail) engaged in an extremely heated argument about the siting of the proposed centre.   Councillors had voted in October to locate the site at The Demesne in the town on the advice of the consultants report and the County Manager – however on the request of five councillors the matter was back on the agenda at the December meeting, held on Monday last.    Opening the debate Mayor of Roscommon Cllr. John Kelly said that he wanted to clear his own name as he had been subject to personal abuse on the matter since the October vote.    ‘I am convinced that the people of Castlerea do not know what is proposed. There are a lot of people who think that it is a dump that is coming which couldn’t be further from the truth’ he said.   Cllr. Kelly said he had not changed his mind in the interim and he pointed out that the legal advice available to the council was that the decision taken in October could not now be changed regardless of how many extra votes were taken on the matter.   County Manager Mr. John Tiernan said that there was a degree of misunderstanding surrounding the whole issue. ‘What we are proposing here is a state-of-the-art facility to process dry household waste’ he said.   Mr. Tiernan said that although a decision was made on the matter in October, he would look at an alternative site at the request of some of the elected members.    ‘It would want to have a compelling case for me to change my mind but I will certainly look at it’ he assured members.    Mr. Tiernan then read out a lengthy legal opinion from the council solicitors, Dermot McDermott, which indicated the council had complied with the correct procedure that governs such matters. The advice further contended that it was not legally necessary to have a vote at all in the first place, but that it was useful to guage the mood of the elected members who had voted for the site at The Demesne. It was further indicated that the issue could not be revisited. ‘I agree with that legal advice’ the Manager said.    Cllr. Tom Crosby (Independent) proposed that the council move on to the next item on the agenda but the Mayor ruled that there were other speakers who wanted to make a contribution.   Cllr. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan said that people should know the whole story of the proposed development. He disputed the consultants’ report, especially on the issue of the road access that was needed to the site.    On the question of traffic Cllr. Flanagan said that The Demesne site was the only one of three possible locations where all the traffic attending the site would have to travel through the town.    ‘There will be chaos – it’s as simple as that -there will be one extra vehicle per minute as a result of this’ he claimed.    Cllr. Flanagan said that it was mentioned in the consultants report that public visibility was important in respect of the the new site.    ‘How is public visibility important at The Demesne? This proposed site will be on a cul-de-sac where no-one will be passing’ he said.   Cllr. Flanagan said that it was obvious that the consultants know nothing about the area in question. ‘This process has achieved one thing. The people of Castlerea now know who their friends are. I hope Cllr. (Michael) McGreal notes that the Fine Gael branch in Castlerea voted against this site and against him – and that says it all’ he added, before  pointing to Cllr. McGreal and commenting: ‘you’re finished mate – and Buiochas le Dia.’    Cllr. Tony Waldron then stood up to say that he regretted very much the way the whole issue had turned out.    ‘Daniel O’Connell once said that something might be legally right but morally wrong – and that is how I feel about this’ he said. He said that he welcomed the decision of the County Manager to look at another site.    At this point Cllr. Michael McGreal began to interrupt, asking about a recent article in the Roscommon People which claimed that Cllr. Waldron was in discussions about the development of a business park at the Demesne.    ‘If the Demesne is good enough for a business park then why not a civic amenity centre?’ he shouted.    There was chaos as the two councillors tried to shout each other down and several other councillors interjected to try and calm the situation.   Cllr. Eugene Murphy (FF) then asked Cllr. McGreal to calm down. ‘Cllr. Waldron is one of the finest members in this chamber and he does not deserve to have his good name taken.’    ‘Withdraw your remarks now’ he said to Cllr. McGreal, in a reference to comments that had been ‘flying’ across the Chamber.    Cllr. Michael Mulligan (Sinn Fein) claimed that the whole debate was a waste of time. ‘I was at a meeting in Castlerea and I have to say that the people there did know exactly what was being proposed for the town. It was explained clearly to them’ he said.    ‘It wasn’t the people of the town who didn’t know what they were getting, it was some of the councillors in here who hadn’t a clue what they were voting on’ he claimed.   Cllr. Rachel Doherty said that the issue had become a political one and that the councillors in the chamber were doing a disservice to the people of Castlerea by their bickering. She complained about the criticism of Cllr. Waldron.    ‘Cllr. Waldron had a vision for the future of Castlerea and we should be praising him for that and not running him down’ she said.    Cllr. Orla Leyden said that the proposed location for the amenity centre was a poor one and she hoped that the alternative site might become a reality.    County Manager John Tiernan concluded the debate by saying he would look at the alternative site ‘fairly and honestly’ and that he would report back to the January meeting.