THURLES Town Council approved a J35,000 grant for the Thurles Community Enterprise Centre at this month’s meeting, but only after some members expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which the grant was sought.
Town Manager Matt Shortt said praise is due to Clancy Construction, and LIT/TI for advancing the project, which encourages new start up businesses in town. “It’s a proud project creating jobs for students from LIT,” added Cllr Kennedy. Cllr David Doran welcomed the project but pointed out that it was “quite presumptious” to go ahead and do the work, and only then seek money from the Council retrospectively. “People should go through the proper channels.” The Council failed to approve the grant at a previous meeting.
Cllr Evelyn Nevin said she shared that view. “The people of Thurles need to know where the money is going.” North Tipperary Cllr Seamus Hanafin was one of those spearheading the project. Cllr Nevin said she had received a phone call from Cllr Hanafin, who “assumed that the money would be given. No one has the right to do that.” Cllr Nevin said Cllr Hanafin told her on the phone: “Why didn’t you read the Star last week?” “I didn’t know what I was voting for,” added Cllr Nevin. “It was thrown at us that day. That’s not the way it works.”
Cllr Nevin said the Town Council deserved a seat on the board of management of the Centre. She was told there was not enough room for another Board Member. “My answer to that is that there is not enough room for our money,” responded Cllr Nevin.
Cllr Noel O’Dwyer said it was great to see jobs being created, but insisted that there be a member from the Council on the Centre’s Board of Management. Any money earmarked for the Centre should not come at the expense of new CCTV cameras proposed for Thurles.
Cllr Jim Ryan complimented all the parties involved in the Centre. “It’s a very impressive building, creating high tech jobs. And it’s in an ideal location.” Cllr Ryan said the Council was not anti-jobs. “Nothing could be further from the truth. We have done everything we can to create jobs.” However, it was “very disrespectful” for someone to go and tell the Centre that the Council would sign off on a large grant without clearly consulting the Council first. “It wasn’t even an item on the agenda,” said Cllr Ryan. “How can we be expected to vote on J35,000 without knowing where the money is going?” Cllr Ryan said all the guidelines should be adhered to when a group are applying for a grant.
Cllr Michael Grogan said the Council should approve the grant, but the way it was handled was “not nice.” “I’d say we should still give them the money. There was nothing underhanded. It is done and finished. Other towns would be envious of what we have.”
Cllr Kennedy said if it was any other town, they would be “singing from the rooftops.” “It could have been handled better. But it would be foolish of us not to back this.” Cllr Kennedy suggested the Council could have a seat on a new advisory group being set up by the Centre. Cllr John Kenehan said he had been taken by surprise at the last meeting. Due diligence needs to be expressed by the Council in handling the public’s money. He had found Cllr Hanafin “very cordial”, wanting to know why the decision was made not to approve the funding. Cllr Kenehan said he outlined why the decision was made and arranged for a meeting at the Enterprise Centre. Cllr Kenehan said he didn’t have a “hang up” about getting a Council member on to the Centre’s Board of management, but they should have a member on the advisory Board. “If we are putting in J35,000, we are shareholders. I hope it will develop into something very worthwhile.”
Cllr Ger Fogarty said some 17 positions had already been taken at “hot desks” in the Centre. He proposed approving the grant without pre-conditions. Cllr Grogan said the Town Council should not be seen as the main obstacle to completing the project. “To delay any further would endanger its existence,” added Cllr Kenehan. The Centre would have to change its articles of association to accommodate a member from the Council. Cllr Ryan added that the Council doesn’t want negative publicity, and has a great track record with the Centre, having helped the organisers acquire land initially “free of charge.” “For the sake of jobs, we should vote for it,” added Cllr Ryan. Members voted unanimously to approve the J35,000 in funding under the Community, Sport and Cultural Grant Scheme.