Report finds ‘no irregularities’ into Anne St site acquisition – Wexford People, October 22 2016

Director of Services Tony Larkin presented a report on the Anne Street files to the members, concluding that no irregularities on the part of Wexford Corporation had been found.

Mr Larkin began by outlining the context for the review. In recent times, a number of queries were raised by persons alleging irregularities concerning the acquisition of land in Anne Street for the offices of the Department of Social Protection and the Revenue Commissioners in the 1990s.

The issue was raised in the Dail by Deputy Joe Higgins. When the matter was brought to Wexford, Cllr Deirdre Wadding called for transparency in the matter and an investigation in the interests of the council. It was agreed that members of the council could inspect the files and bring any concerns to Mr Larkin.

Mr Larkin told the chamber last week that he met with a concerned group on two separate occasions to discuss their worries. The review outlined their complaint:

‘The Group of effected parties say that Wexford Borough Council by the manner in which they went about the assembling of the site for the new government offices in Anne Street, Wexford caused them to be misinformed, caused them to make incorrect commercial business decisions to their financial detriment and made them party to an irregular record of events that impacts on their good name and reputation.’

In following up these complaints, Mr Larkin relied on file records of the Council, held by MJ O’Connor and Co Solicitors and planning and land registry records. All of this information was compiled into the report presented at last week’s meeting.

In the report conclusion, Mr Larkin said that he found the written record on file regarding the land acquisition was ‘quite comprehensive’ and it was possible to develop a full understanding of these complex transactions.’

‘I looked to see if the Corporation had acted outside of its powers. I found no evidence to say it did,’ explained Mr Larkin at the meeting. ‘I was also asked whether anyone was paid compensation as part of the process. Only three parties were and these were the Book Centre in Waterford, George and Marjorie Murphy and the Hylands, who were sold a site on Trinity Street.’

In his report, Mr Larkin said that the only other party involved was Mr Ray Corish, who he found to be nothing but supportive and constructive in the process and who was not compensated in any way.

‘I was also asked if anyone was unfairly denied compensation and whether anyone’s interests were adversely affected. I haven’t managed to find any third party to say that this is true,’ he told the meeting.

Mr Larkin said that he had tried to answer all of the questions raised in the report.

Several of the councillors, including Cllr Malcolm Byrne, Cllr Willie Fitzharris and Cllr Oisin O’Connell, asked for some time to review the report, saying that they had only received it thirty minutes before the meeting.

However, Cllr Deirdre Wadding threw a spanner in the works when she called for the report not to be released, saying that new information had just been brought to her attention that could be useful.

‘In the interest of having a comprehensive report, I suggest we have one more meeting on this,’ she said, adding that she felt they should hand back the reports.

‘How is it that the very day you have new information, it is going to do away with what we have here?’ said Cllr Kavanagh. ‘I suggest you go away and read the report and if anyone has any concerns, they can request a meeting with Tony.’

Mr Larkin said that report was ‘difficult’ to put together, adding that he had been the victim of several personal attacks while compiling it.

‘I am not amending it,’ he said. ‘But I am happy to look at the report that Cllr Wadding has.’

‘There doesn’t appear to be reason for further investigation. The Council has been asked to examine records and it has done so.’

Mr Larkin said that he was happy for the report to be guarded as the final report at this point in time but suggested that, between now and October 28, councillors come to him with any concerns or queries.

‘The additional queries can be included in a revised report,’ he said.

Cllr Deirdre Wadding was quickly shut down by Cllr Paddy Kavanagh when she called for the report not to be released into the public domain.

‘That is it. It is over!’ he said.

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/goreyguardian/news/report-finds-no-irregularities-into-anne-st-site-acquisition-35137762.html)

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Plans in motion to bring new retailers to town – Wexford People, August 13 2016

Plans to bring up to six new retailers to Wexford are in the pipeline, according to President of Wexford Chamber Karl Fitzpatrick.

Mr Fitzpatrick said that the Chamber are currently in talks with five or six retailers who have shown an interest in expanding into Wexford. Saying that he is unable to go into detail about who these retailers are at present, he clarified that they are ‘not the large box retailers’ such as Next, River Island and H and M.

‘Each of the retailers we are in discussions with has their own road map in terms of expanding. One of the retailers is planning on opening ten new stores in Ireland in the next two years. We could be year three,’ he continued. ‘I can’t say who it is, but I can say that the retailer sells a bit of everything that is currently on sale on the Main Street.

‘They are looking for a store of 40,000 square feet and we don’t have that at the moment. The ideal property either needs to become available, somebody needs to build it or we need to work with Wexford County Council with a view to getting planning guidelines reviewed.’

Mr Fitzpatrick said that the Chamber are aware that Wexford ‘can’t compete’ with cities when it comes to population or socioeconomic status. However, he said that they want to make Wexford the next best place for retailers to set up.

‘We want to make sure Wexford is number one for these retailers when they have finished developing in cities. Once they are looking at the next stage, we want to make sure that Wexford is at the top of their list.’

In order to do this, he said that the Chamber are working with local estate agents, who are ‘the direct line of communication’ with retailers looking to invest. They have also exhibited and met retailers at events such as the Retail Retreat in Kilkenny which is run by Retail Excellence Ireland. In addition, Mr Fitzpatrick said they send out their retail investor prospectus and an invitation to visit the town to any new or expanding businesses in Ireland.

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/plans-in-motion-to-bring-new-retailers-to-town-34949345.html)

Wexford group raise an incredible €191,118 for Nepal victims – New Ross Standard, July 16 2016

Eight Wexford trekkers escaped with their lives when they were caught up in the devastating Nepal earthquake last year and in an effort to give something back, they raised €191,118.72 for its victims.

Following several large fundraisers including a concert in the National Opera House and a Midsummer’s Night Ball in Whites, the group donated the money to Trócaire, who pumped it back in to rebuilding Kathmandu. They soon got people from across the county on board and according to one of the eight trekkers Joan Etchingham, it was their generosity and goodwill that made the fundraising initiative as successful as it was.

‘We were completely blown away by the generosity of individuals, groups and businesses in Wexford,’ she said. ‘Everyone was overwhelmed with the amount of support from everyone in Wexford. They did everything, from giving us a fiver to putting on an event to donating their money from birthday parties. We couldn’t have done a fraction of it without their support.’

Concerts, sponsored walks, cake sales, garden parties and church collections were just some of the events that took place over the course of almost three months.

‘It took on a life of its own,’ said Joan. ‘Everyone just went hell for leather when they were hearing about the earthquake on the news. It took us a while to realise how much we had raised and it was only when it all came together that we realised how much of a success it was.’

The eight Wexford trekkers caught up in the quake, which killed more than 8,500 people and made hundreds of thousands homeless, were: Catherine Jordan, Mary Moran, John Nolan, Jimmy Morrissey, Fr. Tom Dalton, Jim McGillicuddy, Ger Colfer and Joan Etchingham.

On witnessing the devastation that occurred all around them, from which they escaped unharmed, they decided they needed to help.

‘We experienced extreme kindness and help from local people in Nepal,’ said Joan. ‘We wanted to repay the kindness that they had shown us.’

The money that the group raised has gone towards building wells for clean water, supplying tents for shelter and providing food, among other things.

The eight trekkers are considering returning to Nepal next year to see first hand where all of the money from Wexford has gone.

‘We would obviously be paying for it ourselves. All of the money has gone to the charity,’ stressed Joan. ‘We would like to go back and see how things are going.’

(First published in the New Ross Standard newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/newrossstandard/news/wexford-group-raise-an-incredible-191118-for-nepal-victims-34875338.html)

Colm Neville on Brexit – Wexford People, July 9 2016

Chairperson of Visit Wexford Colm Neville believes that the recent Brexit decision is a source of huge concern for Wexford and the South East.

Exchange rates, economic uncertainty and the knock on effects of Brexit on the EU are three of the main concerns for Neville, who owns The Crown Bar, Riverside Park Hotel and the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel.

‘Possible recession in the British Economy would obviously affect the foreign travel choices of the British citizen and in turn potentially affect the number of British tourists coming to Ireland,’ he said.

‘There is nothing more disruptive and destabilising to markets and economics in general than uncertainty and the recent vote will have generated uncertainty in abundance. It’s impossible to know where this may lead and what the eventual ramifications it may have on the overall general Eurozone economy which is where our second biggest market comes from.’

According to Mr Neville, nobody can be certain what the outcome of Britain’s exit will be. He believes the most important thing to do is ‘stay calm’.

‘I believe that central Government should use the next couple of months as a cooling down period during which it should set up a dedicated taskforce of tourism industry and economic leaders with the express task of analysing the future and deciding how best to protect our tourism industry against the potential negative impact of Brexit,’ he said.

‘Losing our value for money is clearly one of our biggest threats and so we as an industry need to try and keep our costs of doing business under control and in turn remain price competitive.’

(First published in the Wexford People: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/business/chairperson-of-visit-wexford-colm-neville-34870373.html)

Oylegate bypass may not go ahead despite earlier indications – Wexford People, July 9 2016

Plans to extend the M11 south of Oylegate after the completion of the Enniscorthy bypass appear to be ‘dead in the water’ according to Fianna Fail TD James Browne.

But the County Council remain hopeful that the project can proceed, despite the Fianna Fail deputy’s concerns.

Work on the proposed four km extension to the southern end of the M11 Enniscorthy Bypass was expected to begin at the end of 2018. However, in a letter from Transport Infrastructure Ireland, Deputy Browne was informed that the proposed Oylegate to Enniscorthy bypass road improvement scheme is not included in the Government’s capital investment plan from 2016 to 2021. It went on to say that ‘the further advancement of the proposed scheme cannot be accommodated in the national roads programme at present.’

‘The letter doesn’t just seem to be saying it won’t be advanced. It seems to be saying it’s not going in ahead. To me, it looks like it’s dead in the water,’ explained Deputy Browne, who received the letter after he put a parliamentary question to Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross.

‘I was under the impression that it was to go ahead following announcements during the General Election and articles I have read. However, the government have decided that it’s not part of their plans.’

Director of Services with Wexford County Council’s Road Department Eamonn Hore said that the extension was never part of the government plan but said that they are ‘quietly confident’ that it is still going ahead.

‘It never was part of the government plan. The contract is for the bypass of Enniscorthy but we have made the case that it doesn’t make sense to stop there. At the very least, it should stop after Oylegate,’ he said.

‘The TII agreed to fund the exploration if it,’ he continued. ‘On foot of the recommendations made by Wexford County Council, they have decided to look at it.

‘It’s definitely going to happen at some stage but we can’t put the money in place until we have examined the different routes.’

Mr Hore said that they are taking the process in steps and still hope to have the design and funding secured so that work will commence at the end of 2018.

Mr Hore said that it was not in their view that the extension had been scrapped, adding that he thinks wires have been crossed.

‘From every point of view it makes sense not to bring the dual carriageway to a halt north of Oylegate and we are being listened to. It was never in the programme.’

In February, County Manager Tom Enright announced that approval had been received from Transport Infrastructure Ireland that the M11 project could proceed beyond Oylegate. Speaking to this newspaper in June, he said he hoped that the proposed extension would get underway at the end of 2018. He went on to say that the county council was currently arranging the procurement of consultants to carry out the detailed design work for the extension, which will cost around €30 mn.

However, Deputy Browne was not hopeful following the TII response.

‘The bypass is necessary. If it doesn’t go ahead, Oylegate will be the only village or residential area between Belfast and the Rosslare Europort. This will mean a lot of cars and heavy goods vehicles will continue to travel through Oylegate.’

‘The village will effectively come to a standstill,’ added Deputy Browne, who said that he expects traffic jams similar to those in Enniscorthy to hit the village.

According to him, the village is already dealing with heavy traffic at certain times.

However, Oylegate-based councillor Willie Kavanagh doesn’t view the current traffic situation as an issue and said that he has not witnessed any traffic jams during his 40 years in the village. He said that, if the bypass doesn’t go ahead, he doesn’t expect traffic to increase.

As owner of The Slaney Inn, Cllr Kavanagh said the bypass will not affect his business whether or not it goes ahead, saying that most of his customers are local. However, he said it could have a huge hit on the local supermarket, restaurants and filling station in the village, which rely on visitors and passing motorists for trade.

However, according to Deputy Browne, scrapping the extension will have an impact on Oylegate and the wider community.

‘It is bound to have a knock-on effect for Wexford town. if there are serious transport problems for those travelling from Wexford to the airport and other places, it is going to have an impact on business.’

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/oylegate-bypass-may-not-go-ahead-despite-earlier-indications-34870325.html)

Ferrybank car park is ‘detrimental’ to business – Wexford People, May 7 2016

The introduction of 24 hour paid parking system at Ferrybank is having a ‘detrimental’ effect on businesses in the area since it was introduced at the beginning of 2016.

In January, Wexford County Council brought in a 24-hour parking system to the public car park, meaning that users are now required to pay €2 an hour after 6.30 p.m., on Sundays and on bank holidays. According to Manager of the Riverbank House Hotel Colm Campbell, the change has had a ‘detrimental effect’ on their business.

‘It is having a negative effect on all aspects of our business,’ he said. ‘It’s hard to measure but I’m using the daily bar food sales as a guide and that’s where I am seeing a reduction. I fully appreciate that a system needs to be there but it’s just not a level playing field.’

According to Colm, the new system is creating other problems in the area.

‘It’s causing congestion and promoting illegal and bad parking,’ he said.

The area is also home to Wexford Bridge Centre, whose members are also being affected by the system.

‘We did have parking available on the same basis as everywhere in the town in the past. Inevitably, people were a bit hot under the collar when the changes were introduced,’ said Chairman of the Bridge Centre committee Maurice Brosnan. ‘We have only about 20 odd spaces so now our members are coming up to an hour beforehand to ensure that they get a parking space.’

Although he said it is creating difficulties, Maurice said that the new system hasn’t affected their participation numbers.

Mr Campbell said that he approached Cllr George Lawlor with his concerns. At the Wexford Borough District meeting last week, Cllr Lawlor raised the issue with his fellow councillors.

‘I was taken aback when I was told we were going to be charging after hours and on Sunday,’ he said. ‘I don’t think we would have voted further parking tariffs if we knew that. We were given the commitment that it wouldn’t be that way.’

Mayor of Wexford Cllr Ger Carthy said that the situation was ‘unfair’ to one business. Cllr Davy Hynes also said it was a problem, saying that the parking situation at Ferrybank should be the same as anywhere else. District Manager Tony Larkin said that it is not ideal but said it is too inefficient for them to put in the manpower to get the barrier raised at certain times.

Cllr Lawlor queried whether a computerised system could not be used to raise the barrier at certain times but this idea was not deemed a solution.

Mr Campbell from The Riverbank House Hotel said that he was aware that no changes were made at the meeting.

‘I hope sense will eventually prevail,’ he said. ‘I’m not looking for special treatment. I want a level playing field so my business is equal to any other.

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/ferrybank-car-park-is-detrimental-to-business-34694000.html)

Business boost in pipeline as gas arrives to Wexford – Wexford People, July 14 2015

Gas Networks Ireland will commence their €16.5m infrastructure project to bring gas to Wexford on July 20, a move that is expected to provide a major boost to the local economy.

Cllr George Lawlor.
Cllr George Lawlor

Advance works for the pipeline will commence at the end of the month, consisting of the construction of 8.5km of pipeline from the New Ross roundabout towards the centre of Wexford town. The remainder of the project will be carried out in two phases, with an estimated completion date of late 2016.

The announcement of the start date was welcomed by Cllr George Lawlor as a positive step forward for Wexford.

‘It is a tremendous move from an industry and business point of view,’ he said. ‘It will serve as a tool to attract business investment to Wexford. Until now, we have had to try to compete with other towns.’

Once complete, businesses will be able to avail of natural gas, which according to Gas Networks Ireland will allow for energy savings of up to 60 per cent. Cllr Lawlor believes that this will have a huge impact on existing companies in the county.

‘The pipeline will allow them to avail of a much cheaper and more efficient energy source,’ he said. ‘I believe it will boost job creation and secure the future of existing companies.’

Celtic Linen, who recently announced 62 redundancies as part of a proposed business restructuring plan, is one company set to be affected by the gas pipeline. According to PR for Celtic Linen Emmet Barrett, they have been waiting for this project to begin for a long time.

‘It is going to have huge benefits for us,’ he explained. ‘Energy is one of the main overheads in our business so there’s no doubt that this is going to have a positive impact on our company, especially considering the situation we are in at the moment.’

The advance works are expected to take 10-12 weeks to complete. Following this, a pipeline will be built from the New Ross roundabout on the N25 to Campile, where it will tie in with the Great Island pipeline constructed in 2013. This first phase will take seven months to complete. Phase Two will see the installation of 25km of gas pipes around Wexford town.

According to Gas Networks Ireland, crews will work on small sections at a time, ensuring that the project will cause limited disruption to businesses and residents.

‘We will keep businesses and residents along the route informed when we are working in their area,’ explained Andrew Doyle, Construction Project Manager for Gas Networks Ireland.

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/business-boost-in-pipeline-as-gas-arrives-to-wexford-31375925.html)