Councillors clash on Limerick soccer pitches

Council match-up - Cllr Sarah Kiely (left) and Cllr Catherine Slattery.

A CALL by a Fianna Fáil city councillor to give one of the two pitches at Kennedy Park to the local Carew Park soccer club resulted in a tussle for possession at this month’s Metropolitan District council meeting.

The issue was kicked off by Fianna Fáil councillor Catherine Slattery who said that the local community would benefit from leaving one of the soccer pitches to Carew Park FC.

And she went on the attack when she  called on Fine Gael councillor Sarah Kiely, who was present at the meeting, to declare a conflict of interest in her motion on the matter.

However, Cllr Kiely explained that there was no conflict of interest to declare. She told Cllr Slattery that she is a member of a number of local clubs including Newtown Rovers FC, who were originally awarded both pitches at Kennedy Park.

Cllr Slattery told council members that after an expression of interest went out some weeks ago, Carew Park FC were refused.

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“Instead a club with no connection to the area were successful in their application. Let me be clear, the only issue I have with Newtown Rovers is they are not a local club to the sports facilities I am referring to.

“It is an absolute disgrace that local facilities are awarded to a club that is not local and have no involvement in the local area – and a local club who expressed interest are refused,” Cllr Slattery said.

“The outcome of an appeal was that Carew Park were offered a field beside the Roxboro pitch, which is not suitable as there is no railings around it, no storage like the Roxboro pitch has, and is not safe for children’s use.

“Carew Park FC have children’s camps and will have a schoolboys and girls’ team. Their worry is if a child runs on to the road when a car is coming, someone may get hurt. They have no choice but to accept this offer as I was told if we keep on about this matter, all offers to both clubs will be retracted,” she claimed.

Cllr Slattery was strongly of the view that local facilities should stay local. She went onto hit out at the Council for depriving children of using a sports facility in their area.

“I think this is just so unfair that a club from outside the city have been awarded this facility and the people and clubs in the area are forgotten.”

In response, Head of Property and Community Facilities, Jayne Leahy explained that Limerick City and County Council advertised an expression of interest for clubs to submit an application for a 12-month licence for the two pitches. The issue of a licence, she said, is an executive function.

Fine Gael councillor Sarah Kiely said she had no issue with Carew Park FC, describing them as a “fantastic club”. She pointed out to council members that Newtown Rovers were happy to share the facilities in Kennedy Park with the local community including Carew Park FC.

She said that as part of their expression of interest, Newtown partnered with two local schools in the area, who will now directly benefit from the sports facilities on their doorstep. Cllr Kiely also took the view that football was not a territorial game.

“This will benefit a huge amount of people and it was a very strong application,” she commented.

Cllr Sarah Kiely proposed a counter-motion to Cllr Slattery’s to uphold the original decision of the three expert adjudicators to leave the two pitches in the care of Newtown Rovers. The counter-motion was seconded by Fine Gael councillor Michael Sheahan.

“We have to trust that the right decision was made. We must trust the process. To overrule the process is not right,” Cllr Sheahan declared.

Cllr Slattery’s motion was defeated by a majority of nine votes to two. There was also one abstention. Councillors were told after the vote that the item must now be referred back to the Executive for their ruling.