In a stroke of good news for the Balbriggan area, as well as the whole of the North County, Balbriggan Rugby Club looks set to be the recipient of E3.4m in funding for their proposed sports campus. The funds were originally intended for the development of a swimming pool in Skerries, a project that has been in the pipeline for the guts of 10 years. Funding was granted for the Skerries project from the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism and was being allocated through the County Council.
However when plans for the Skerries development were failing to come together there were fears that the funding would disappear back into the government system and be lost forever. So the club board and local representatives stepped in in an effort to secure the substantial grant for another project in the North County. Speaking to the County Leader President of the Rugby Club Robert Cashell highlighted “Funding was granted for the development of a pool at the Ballast Pit in Skerries in 2000. But when the second round of Swimming Pool grants were withdrawn by the government due to cutbacks and no firm proposal for the Skerries pool had been made we sought to acquire the grant.”
Balbriggan Town Councillor Larry Dunne who has been an advocate of such a project in the area said, “I welcome the news that the funding is planned to be transferred to the Rugby Club’s project. This move will ensure that the funding stays within the North County, and despite it moving from one town to another, locals from all over the area will still reap the benefits.”Local TD Dr. James Reilly has also played a pivotal role in ensuring the funds stay here and last week questioned the Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism, Martin Cullen, about the transfer of the funds from Skerries to Balbriggan. Asking the Minister to confirm whether this would be the case the Minister said “The answer to the Deputy is “Yes”, as I wanted to facilitate that. It was quite clear, within the area, that one project could not proceed. I did not want the area to be entirely without a pool. Quite clearly the [Balbriggan] project was ready to run, and I thought that was the sensible approach. I must compliment all the local councillors and others involved because a unanimous approach was needed and that is what emerged from the local community. I am very pleased about that.” Deputy Reilly welcomed the grant for Balbriggan rugby club but appealed to the Minister to grant aid to the project in Skerries when the economy turns around and funds are available again. “This is very positive progress for the area of Balbriggan” highlighted Deputy Reilly. “It is way past time that a large town of such strategic importance was granted aid for sports projects like this.”
The rugby club have had plans for the sports centre on course for the last four years and have already invested quite a lot of their own capital into the project. “I am delighted for the club” says Cllr. Dunne, “they have worked so hard to date to ensure the success of this project. And hopefully if they get this funding the project can be brought to fruition sooner than planned.” The planned sports facility is set to include a pool, gym and various different sports amenities and will not only benefit the club but the whole community. Indeed one of the conditions attached to the provision of the funds is that the pool will be available to the wider community. The pool facility will be a Public Private Partnership developed in conjunction with the club and Kingfisher Club, who recently opened a similar facility in Waterford. However while the Minister appears to have confirmed that the funds will be allocated to Balbriggan Rugby Club, the club itself, as of last week, had not received any definite confirmation. Speaking to this newspaper President of the club, Robert Cashell said “once funding is granted for our development we could go to planning within a matter of days. And once planning has been granted we would hope to have the facility up and running within 12 months. But as of yet we are still waiting to hear anything and the longer we wait the greater risk there is of this project not going ahead at all. While the Minister may have said yes we have heard nothing and until we see it in black and white we cannot proceed with our plans.”