Mullingar Swimming Pool.

Council has €2.2m for sports centre, but no progress made

Already €2.2m has been set aside by Westmeath County Council for the proposed multi-million euro regional sports and leisure complex at Robinstown, Mullingar, but no progress has been made.

Another €390,000 is earmarked to be set aside for it this year. Members of Mullingar Kinnegad Municipal District are frustrated at the lack of progress at a time when people are leaving Mullingar in large numbers to avail of facilities in neighbouring towns.

Cllr Michael Dollard and Cllr John Shaw raised the issue at the May meeting of the council when they and other members urged that pressure be put on the government to proceed with the project.

Cllr Dollard asked if central government knew how much the council had set aside from their own recourses, an indication of how serious they felt about providing this centre. He was assured that they knew.

The members and executive of this council have done all they can, it’s up to central government, he said, adding that if they spent less time on “biodiversity etc, we might get somewhere”.

Cllr Shaw proposed that they write to the department seeking an urgent update on the centre. He said the funds had been building up over the years, but nothing was happening on the ground while people were queuing at 6am to swimming in Mullingar pool and some were going to other counties to swim.

Cllr Ken Glynn said the county town is “leaking people” to towns like Tullamore and Athlone. We have made a significant financial commitment to this when the money could be used to solve other issues, he added.

Cllr Hazel Smyth said 900 people had signed a petition calling for the new centre and the upgrading of the “substandard” Mullingar Swimming Pool. People are leaving Mullingar to avail of facilities – which they shouldn’t have to do – and they shouldn’t have to queue at 6am for swimming lessons, she said.

Cllr Emily Wallace said the time for talking was over. The council put money aside to make it a real possibility, but she felt the will was not there to push it. She called for an updated report for the next meeting. Mullingar is growing and it needs and wants a proper swimming pool. Why is it not happening or what do we need to do to make it a reality? she asked.

Cllr Denis Leonard spoke of the thousands of tons of carbon that was being burned by those driving to other towns to swim. They want to put 30,000 [people] in Mullingar, but they aren’t putting in the facilities. Where do people swim, where do they recreate? During Covid we realised the importance of local facilities. This has to be pushed as a matter of priority, he declared.

Cllr Leonard warned that building costs were soaring and eating into what the council had saved. What will it cost to build in five years’ time, relative to today, he wondered.

Inflation is eroding all our good work, agreed Mullingar mayor, Cllr Aoife Davitt. She clarified that people were not being asked to queue at Mullingar Swimming Pool at 6am; they had asked that the pool open then as they were working and couldn’t get in during normal opening hours. Damien and the staff at the pool facilitated them, coming in early to do so, she said. She applauded the pool staff and said, we want to give them a better facility and make their work as easy as possible.

David Jones, director of services, said contact has been made at the highest level by the council with the department. It was not the councillors or the executive that were holding it back. He agreed that it might be time to meet with the department again to raise the profile of the development.

Mr Jones said that the council would be updating plans for the sports centre so that they are ready to run with it when funds are provided. He said the members would be kept informed.