TD'S COME ON BOARD IN SEARCH FOR WEIR FUNDING
Fermoy town councillors met with local Dail deputies on Monday afternoon last in an attempt to secure representation to the Government on funding for repairs of Fermoy weir.
Funding for the refurbishment of the weir has topped the list of priorities for local authorities and groups in Fermoy during the past few months, more so than ever after the Fermoy delegation who recently met Minister Conor Lenihan in Dublin failed to secure the much needed funding for the project with the deadline for its completion approaching fast.
The meeting this week was attended by deputies David Stanton, Ned O’Keeffe and Sean Sherlock and also benefited from the participation of Cork county councillor, Kevin O’Keeffe.
Town Clerk, Ray Owens, gave a detailed account of the current situation and what led to it while councillors expressed their views on the funding crisis.
Cllr Tadhg O’Donovan manifested his delight in respect to the TDs’ attendance and commented, “It shows goodwill towards the council. We are here to pursue the conclusion to this exercise and we’re all aware of how the situation arose. But, where do we go from here?”
“I am disappointed with the minister’s response. The purpose of the exercise is to get our public representatives to collectively respond to the minister. The bottom line is that the minister doesn’t contest that the weir can be refurbished.
"What he is saying is that the financial provision has to be provided by the town council. The issue here is to secure the funding. It’s a question of finance and finance alone, as to where the money will come from.
"At the end of the day this is a protected structure. He can’t just walk in and do what he likes. This a very small sum of money, particularly when he (the minister) was going to spend double that amount.”
THE ROCK PASS
Cllr O’Donovan made the last comments in reference to the Government’s preference for the rock ramp pass and the financial provision of €250,000 that was in place to facilitate the rock pass as opposed to estimates for a much lower figure for repairing the weir.
Cllr John Murphy expressed his frustration, as well, stating, “I spent three years going around in circles. I appeal to the councillors and the TDs for positive action, to tell the minister the situation in Fermoy. If the TDs and the senator get together it can be done and now it is time to do it.”
SICK AND TIRED
Frustration was the common denominator for all those present in the meeting. Cllr Olive Corcoran said she was ‘sick and tired’ of talking about the weir and questioned the issue of EU funding.
Cllr Aileen Pyne said, “Fermoy is synonymous with the Blackwater and the Blackwater is synonymous with the rowing club. Cllr Corcoran talks about money from Brussels, but there was no need for us to apply for further funding when we had €250,000 made available to us at the time through the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.
"When we met with Minister Lenihan he said that we made the weir a protected structure and that is why it is our responsibility. What I can’t understand is that there was €250,000 for the rock pass, but not for the weir repair. We are here for the survival of the rowing club as well. They do a super job taking care of the young.”
Mayor Noel McCarthy concurred with what was said by the other councillors and was followed by statements from the three TDs present at the meeting. Fine Gael TD David Stanton called the minister’s approach regarding the handling of the weir funding issue ‘disingenuous’.
“It is unfair for the minister to say that the onus stays with the council. I will ask the minister to support the town council. I will ask him for funding. My understanding is that the weir is quite vulnerable at the moment. It makes sense that the flood relief works and the weir works are done together. Everybody’s got a lot more to be doing than stressing about this.”
Deputy Stanton, then, commended the Fermoy Rowing Club for the good work it does as his son is also involved in rowing and benefits greatly from the activity. Fianna Fail deputy, Ned O’Keeffe was brief and to the point says, “We’ll see what we can do. We’ll seek another meeting with the minister.”
NO FISH COUNTER
Labour TD Sean Sherlock, never shy to speak his mind, demanded ‘transparency’ from the Government and ‘going back to the basics’.
“We have to look at the original EU complaint. We are not in possession of all the facts. The deputation to Minister Lenihan showed the Government’s position for what it is. The Southern Region Fisheries Board are calling the shots on this one and the minister is providing the cover for them. The original reason for complaint was that not enough fish was passing at various points in the Blackwater. We don’t even have a fish counter in place.”
PUSH FOR FUNDING
“We have to find what the nature of the complaint was. We should only repair the weir on the basis that the fish doesn’t pass or that the state will fund it. We need to go back to basics.
"I am calling for the minister to have transparency, to publish the complaint, the correspondence with the EU, the town council and the Southern Region Fisheries Board. It’s all about money, power and fishing politics. I will defend the amenity of the Fermoy Rowing Club. It will be a bad day if the loss of that amenity happens.”
After an hour long meeting, where everyone had a chance to speak their mind, the TDs agreed to further push the matter of the funding with the minister and try to secure a positive outcome.
Thursday 1st April 6:28pm