Save Our Swimming Pools

Dublin City Council officials are attempting to close down three public swimming pools that serve large working class areas, Sean Mac Dermott Street, Coolock and Crumlin. Officials are claiming that these pools are un-economical to operate, and they are also using their age, and “poor state of repair” as further justification. These pools were deliberately run down by the City Council. For over a decade no work has been done to upgrade or improve the pools, or even maintain them satisfactorily. No attempt has been made to promote their use or encourage new residents to use the facilities. In each of these areas the community were promised full leisure centres that would incorporate pools within a broad range of amenities. These leisure centres were to be delivered as part of the Public Private Partnership policy that was adopted by the City Council.

This policy has been a proven disaster – either falling apart when the developers decided that the profits were no longer attractive enough or the private developers getting what they wanted while the community gain aspect has been abandoned. Having failed to deliver the promised leisure centres in these communities, the City Council is now intent on taking away one of the few facilities these areas actually have. Working Class people are once again being made to pay for the mistakes of others.

The City Councils actions are unacceptable, and a strong community response has delayed the planned closures by eight months so far. Intensification of this campaign, united across the three affected areas can save these pools, which are essential local amenities.

Dublin City Council officials made the decision to close the pools in November last year, and tried to carry out the closures in a completely underhand way. Despite the fact that such closures are a “reserved” function (i.e. must be voted on and approved by the elected city councillors) unelected officials acted as if their proposal was already accepted. User groups of the three pools were led to believe that the closure was a certainty- they were refused further bookings, were told that the facilities would not re-open after the Christmas break and “alternatives” were suggested. For many of the user groups, including schools and youth clubs, the “alternatives” were not viable, for safety, financial or accessibility reasons. Loss of the local facilities would mean that the children in these groups would be deprived of their opportunity to swim.

A very angry and determined reaction from the user groups, individual swimmers and the broader community led to the formation of the “Save Our Swimming Pool” campaign. As a result of this campaign, the proposed closure in December had to be abandoned. Pressure on City councillors by their constituents meant that many had to give a commitment to their constituents not to pass the city council estimates (the budget for 2010) if funding was not made available for the pools. To avoid a crisis and to ensure the budget was approved, finances were allocated that would keep the 3 pools open for a six month period only. While the majority party on the City Council, Labour, were eager to claim this was a victory they delivered, this “stay of execution” was not good enough for the campaign. The deal between the Labour party and the City manager allowed the politicians to claim victory, while the manager got the budget passed, and the closure of the pools still on the agenda ( with only a slight delay). The City Manager can now claim that these Councillors, in approving funding for a limited period only, have accepted that the closure will take place once this runs out. The Labour and Fine Gael Councillors who accepted this dodgy deal, rather than seizing the available opportunity to insist the pools were properly funded, have actually created a greater obstacle for the community led campaign.

This funding was due to run out in June. However, once campaigners highlighted the fact that closure would take place just as the school holidays began, and when summer projects would need the pools, the closure was put back to August. Despite the spin the City Council may put on this, the fact is that money was found to avoid a PR disaster. As we have insisted all along, finances can be made available to continue operating the pools, but there is a determination to close them regardless of the consequences.

At the April city council meeting, a motion proposed by Independent community councillor Cieran Perry was passed unanimously. Read motion here. This motion commits City Council to a policy of keeping these pools open until such a time as they are replaced by better facilities. The manager is also directed to seek all available funding to achieve this.
Despite the unanimous support for this change of policy, City Council management are still determined push ahead with these closures. At a meeting with community and user groups of Sean Mac Dermott street pool, it was very clear from the official present that no effort had been made to acknowledge the new policy and it was not being acted upon.

 

The City Council are happy to wait until August and allow these essential local facilities to close. The campaign by the three affected communitys must be intensified to stop this. All the City Councillors, particularly those who voted for the shortfall deal, must be kept under pressure and held accountable. It must be made clear that they cannot avoid their responsibilities. A strong message needs to go to the Manager that he must act as directed by the April motion and alternative funding must be sought.
The government parties must also be targeted - local authorities have been starved of funding. Sources of funding that could contribute to the continued operation of the pools does exist – however , much of this is no longer transparent and is hoarded by Ministers to buy votes in their constituencies.

The protest at City Hall in April ensured that the issue got massive media attention. The coverage made it very clear that nation wide public opinion is on our side. We must build on this, local support must be turned into action, and the pressure must be increased until the political parties and City Council management stop trying to make us pay for the mistakes they have made.

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Related Council Questions:

Successful Motion to April's City Council Meeting

Motion to Central Area Committee, December 2009

Questions 65 + 66 to Central Area Committee, March 2010

Question 131 to Dublin City Council, February 2010