By Dan Walsh
There was an endless amount of drama at today’s monthly meeting of Wexford County Council held with Microsoft Teams under Covid-19 guidelines and protocols and total confusion reigned as the members discussed the immense public interest in saving Courtown Woods as a public amenity and keeping it out of private ownership.
Cllr Andrew Bolger said it was positive that someone is taking over the Leisure Centre but there was an issue in relation to Courtown Woods. “I would have reservations around the sale of the woods to a private party because I don’t think no amount of paperwork or legal agreements in the private sector can protect the woods as well as we would be able to protect it as a Council. I am pleading with the Council to protect Courtown Woods and take it into public ownership,” declared Cllr Bolger.
In reply, Tom Enright, CEO, alleged that there was “a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of hysteria stirred up in relation to this,” and he went on to recall that a liquidator was appointed by the High Court to both the Leisure Centre and the Woods.
Mr Enright was aware that this issue is striking up a lot of public interest and the Council is being asked to take this on board? “We cannot interfere with the process that is underway with the Liquidator. We don’t have the resources to either purchase or upgrade the centre. We (the Council) are confident that the Liquidator is doing a good job and that there will be a very good outcome.”
Mr Enright said that it was heard on local radio earlier in the morning that the woods would not be interfered with in any process where it would be transferred to a private company.
Leas-Cathaoirleach, Cllr Garry Laffan proposed that the matter be referred to Gorey-Kilmuckridge Municipal District (agreed) for further discussion when Cllr Diarmuid Devereux claimed he was not hearing any misinformation “I’m hearing a lack of information. I think there is a difference.”
Cllr Fionntán Ó Súilleabhán wasn’t sure what the misinformation was but he felt that if there was misinformation out there it was probably because there has been a general lack of community engagement, a lack of consultation with the local representatives and the local community so there would be some ambiguity around the whole liquidation process.
And that appeared to be the end of the discussion on Courtown Woods until the Gorey-Kilmuckridge Municipal District meeting in a few weeks time, but later in the meeting there was a dramatic development!
Cllr Diarmuid Devereux sought urgent clarification on a transcript on the news sheet (website) on South East Radio that implied that Courtown Woods are not going to be sold as part of the Leisure Centre and he began to read the transcript before he was asked to halt by the Leas-Cathaoirleach who called a 15-minute recess.
Then there was another sensational twist when the meeting resumed after the tea break. Mr Enright said in relation to Courtown Woods Neil Hughes of Baker Tilly (Liquidator) gave an interview on South East Radio in the morning and quoted Mr Hughes as saying; “South East Radio is completely wrong in stating that the Woods are not part of the sale. This is not true. He did not say that. What is up on South East Radio is incorrect and he contacted the station to remove the content from their Facebook account and their website!
“It’s pretty upsetting stuff, Chairman,” quipped Cllr Devereux. “Maybe it would have been no harm before he went on the radio to meet the local elected representatives – the councillors that represent the electorate in North Wexford. They have a right to know what has been going on.”