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)

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)

Vision of the future for Johnstown Castle – Wexford People, July 30 2016

The doors of Johnstown Castle were thrust open last week as members of the public were welcomed inside to get a rare glimpse of the interior and learn more about future plans.

An estimated 1,200 people paid a visit to the castle during the two open days staged by Teagasc, who will soon begin a project to restore and open the building to the public. The event gave people the opportunity to learn about the history of the landmark and hear more about plans for its future.

This project will be staged by Teagasc in partnership with the Irish Heritage Trust and the Irish Agricultural Museum with the help of €7.5 million in Government funding. Though the groups have yet to seek planning permission for the ambitious plan, they aspire to have it complete by 2018.

‘A lot of work has taken place over the last number of years. We required a change in the Johnstown Castle Act which left the castle to the state for agricultural use,’ explained Head of PR with Teagasc Eric Donald. ‘We have now managed to secure funding from Failte Ireland and the Government to go ahead with the project.’

In the last number of months, Eric says they have been looking at potential plans and making decisions on how to make the first step. During the recent open days, the unveiled their plans to the public.

The project will see conservation works carried out on the three floors of the castle to make it safe and accessible before it becomes open to the public. An interpretive centre with information on the castle’s history and local stories will be positioned behind the agricultural museum next to a new carpark.

‘We want to have the carpark nestled into the landscape without imposing on the castle and the beautiful grounds,’ explained Eric.

The plan also includes new entrance arrangements. At present, there is one entrance used for the state agencies based on the castle grounds, while another is used by visitors to the castle.

‘We plan to alter the entrance to facilitate those coming to visit the castle. The visitor entrance is through the lovely old arches but unfortunately, buses can’t make it through them. There is also a safety issue when you have a large volume of traffic coming in through the old arches,’ explained Eric. ‘We plan to retain the old entrance with the arches while installing a new entrance for visitors beside it.’

According to Eric, the plans were met with a largely positive reaction from the many people who came to the open days.

‘I think there was a lot of goodwill towards it. A lot of people I met had relatives who worked in the castle in the past so some great stories came out of it,’ he said. The reaction was really positive. It was a really important exercise to open the doors and let people come in and see what’s going on.’

The next stage in the process is applying for planning permission and if granted, work will commence as soon as possible with an estimated completion date of 2018.

Commenting on the initiative Kevin Baird, CEO of the Irish Heritage Trust said:

‘We are delighted with the interest and passion local people have in this special place and we hope as the project develops everyone will find ways to get involved at the property to help us care for Johnstown Castle and share it with everyone.’

In 2015, Teagasc issued a public tender looking for a visionary partner to come on board with them to re-imagine the future of Johnstown Castle. The Irish Heritage Trust was announced as the successful applicant.

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/vision-of-the-future-for-johnstown-castle-34911296.html)

Work to start on houses that have been vacant for 20 years – Wexford People, June 8 2016

Work is soon to begin on two houses in Bride Street that have been left vacant for almost 20 years.

The issue of the derelict houses has been brought up at council meetings on many occasions by Cllr Davy Hynes, who said that they were an eyesore and a magnet for anti-social behaviour. In recent years, councillors were told that Wexford Borough Council was unable to take action due to legal difficulties.

Speaking on Monday, Cllr Hynes said that he understands that one of the houses is now in the possession of the council and that the other one will soon be in their hands.

‘Hopefully something will be done with them by the end of the year,’ he said. ‘I have been going on about them since I was elected and that is 19 years ago.’

Despite movement on the houses in Bride Street, the issue of derelict houses still remains elsewhere in the town. According to Cllr Hynes, four houses in Peter Street have been left vacant for ‘quite some time’.

‘This is a time when we need to be taking over vacant houses. I know there’s a lot of money involved but we have to do something. Some of them won’t have to be demolished, they just need some work done to them,’ he said. ‘With housing being a priority, we need to look at our options. Anything is better than what we have.’

Commenting on the houses in Peter Street, Cllr Hynes said they are bringing down the overall appearance of the area.

‘They take the look off the town. They have been left there and nothing is happening. The council need to be more vigilant about going after people who leave houses in this way.’

Cllr Hynes said he hopes to raise the issue of these houses at an upcoming council meeting.

(First published in the Wexford People newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/work-to-start-on-houses-that-have-been-vacant-for-20-years-34782811.html)

New park to honour Min Ryan – Wexford People, April 28 2016

A new 18-acre park at Killeens is to be named in honour of local woman Min Ryan who played a key role in the 1916 Rising.

At a meeting of Wexford Borough District yesterday (Monday), the members welcomes and unanimously approved the proposal to name the neighbourhood park after Mary Josephine (Min) Ryan of Tomcoole.

They were joined by Min Ryan’s son Professor Risteárd Mulcahy and her grandson, businessman Richard Mulcahy and granddaughter Lisa, who offered a generous donation of €200,00 towards the new park. Wexford Credit Union will also support the new development.

Planning approval was recently granted for the €1.2m park by Wexford County Council. It’s expected that construction will commence later this year and be completed by Autumn 2017.

A qualified teacher, Min and her family were deeply involved with the Rising. She established the London brand of Cumann na mBan. During the Rising, Min and her sister Phyllis acted as couriers to the GPO garrison. Min became romantically involved with one of the signatories of the proclamation, Seán McDermott, and visited him in his cell shortly before his execution.

In 1919 Min married Richard Mulcahy, who was second-in-command to Thomas Ashe in the defeat of the armed Royal Irish Constabulary at Ashbourne during the Easter Rising. Following a period at the Frongoch internment camp, Mulcahy took command in the pro-Treaty forces in the Civil War. He was leader of Fine Gael from 1944-48.

Richard Mulcahy and his sister Lisa, and their father Risteárd attended the Borough Council meeting where they presented an account of Min’s life.

‘Our family is delighted to have the opportunity to support Wexford’s newest neighbourhood park and in doing so, pay tribute to a dynamic and progressive-thinking woman who played such a prominent role in Irish politics,’ said Richard.

Risteárd added: ‘My mother Min always maintained a keen sense of pride in her county of birth throughout through her life and I cannot think of a more fitting tribute to her than to have her name associated with this wonderful public amenity located only a short distance from where she was born and grew up.’

Mayor of Wexford Councillor Ger Carthy spoke of the Ryan family’s legacy and on behalf of Wexford County Council, thanked the Mulcahy family.

‘The Min Ryan Park will be a lasting testimony to Min, her husband Richard, her siblings and wider family and will be a fantastic public amenity to be enjoyed by all for decades to come,’ he said.

Wexford County Council CEO Tom Enright described the naming of the park as a ‘timely acknowledgement’ of Min Ryan and her siblings as one of Wexford’s most illustrious families.

(First published in the Wexford People: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.wexfordpeople.ie/news/new-park-to-honour-min-ryan-34661836.html)

Three month delay in Flood Relief Scheme – Enniscorthy Guardian, October 10 2015

Consultants for the Enniscorthy Flood Relief Scheme have yet to be appointed, causing major delays in the progress of the project.

Initial estimations indicated that this key step would have been made in July but this date was then pushed back until the end of September at the recent Enniscorthy Municipal District Council Meeting. Despite this, approval is yet to be obtained from the Office of Public Works to proceed with the appointment. According to Project Resident Engineer Larry McHale, the delay is due to the complexity of the process.

‘The evaluation of tenders for the appointment of consultants is a lengthy and rigorous process,’ he said. ‘We expect to have approval from the Office of Public Works to proceed with the appointment in the coming weeks.’

The appointments will mean that work on the project can move forward and a detailed design for the Main Flood Defence Works and the New Bridge can commence.

Despite the appointment delay, advances have been made in recent months. An Environmental Impact Statement and Outline Design were completed by the OPW at the preliminary design stage. Dr Martin O’Grady Fisheries Expert was then appointed in July to provide advice on the detailed design of the proposed dredging works and river rehabilitation works during construction. However, even with the consultant appointment, main construction works will not be able to take place before preliminary works are carried out on Promenade Road.

‘We cannot start on anything until the pre-works are done,’ said Cllr Keith Doyle. ‘We will be consulting with the hotel and Chamber of Commerce to make sure that we have the least impact possible.’

Although he is satisfied with the scheme’s progress, Cllr Doyle continues to hold reservations over the proposed plans for the new bridge.

‘I am always concerned about the bridge. On the plans, the bridge is going across the river and onto Mill Park Road between Arnolds Cross and the school. I don’t think that is going to work,’ he said. ‘I’ve asked our officials to move it to where the roundabout is. We are waiting until consultants have been appointed before we discuss the final details.’

Another aspect of the ongoing works in Enniscorthy that Cllr Doyle believes needs to be highlighted concerns the extension to St John’s Treatment Plant. He believes that the decision made to expand the existing Enniscorthy Wastewater Treatment Plant is ‘equally as important to Enniscorthy as the flood relief scheme.’

‘I’ve been shouting about this for a few years,’ he said. ‘Irish Water was talking about going to tender in relation to phase 3 of the main drainage scheme but they couldn’t do that until they made their mind up about extending the capacity of the plant. Until now, it was at full capacity. People couldn’t build a new house. If someone wanted to build a factory, we couldn’t give them planning permission. All that we could give them permission to do is build an extension.’

The announcement of the extension lifts the barrier that had been preventing building in the area. ‘It still has to go to tender but at least we got over that hurdle,’ he said. ‘It is as significant to Enniscorthy as anything else at the moment.’

(First published in the Enniscorthy Guardian newspaper: print edition. Also available online at: http://www.independent.ie/regionals/enniscorthyguardian/news/threemonth-delay-in-flood-relief-scheme-31584723.html)