Posted by Tom Gilmore, The Tuam Herald in News.

Children in Claregalway, which has one of the fastest growing youth populations, are being discriminated by not having a public playground. So say members of the Oranmore-Athenry Municipal District (MDC).

Cllr Jim Cuddy said the MDC was being treated as “the poor relation” when it comes to playgrounds, with Claregalway being one glaring example.

He was supported by the Cathaoirleach Cllr Frank Kearney who said that not alone was this MDC being discriminated against due to its lack of public playgrounds, but also in the many areas that had no public lighting or footpaths.

“We are treated as the poor relation even though the Oranmore-Athenry MD has the highest young population of all the MDs, especially Claregalway, yet we are neglected when it comes to funding for such facilities,” he said.

Cllr. James Charity was scathing of the lack of public playgrounds but said that in his home area of Corrandulla the locals were well advanced towards providing one.

“I make no apologies for saying the situation regarding the lack of public playgrounds in this MD is scandalous and we are being subjected to double standards,” he said.

Cllr Charity added that they are faced with Category A charges for planning yet they see the minimum amount of money coming back for public facilities such as playgrounds.

“We also need consistency n terms of roads funding in this MD, because we are consistently subsidising the rest of the county and getting nothing back, even though 30 per cent of the commercial rates for the county is generated in this area,” said Cllr Charity.

Cllr Martina Kinnane said that the last time the Oranmore-Athenry MD got funding for playgrounds was in 2014 when it only got €23,000 while Tuam MDC got €219,000, even though €60,000 of this had gone to Headford, previously in the Oranmore-Athenry MD.

Cllr Malachy Noone said that when the local authority tries to buy land in the Oranmore-Athenry MD the prices tened to be “at a premium”.

“While there is one possibility of getting a site in Claregalway at present, the situation often seems to be that when the Co Council shows interest in buying sites the cost goes up and the Euro signs click in.

“You could build a house for what it costs for a playground. One in Lackagh-Turloughmore cost approximately €150,000,” he added.

Athenry’s Cllr Peter Feeney said that their MD had five playgrounds while the Ballinasloe MD had 15.

“Claregalway is one of the fastest growing areas in the country yet it has no public playground.  Providing one must be a priority,” he added.

Co Council official Emer Dolan said that Corrandulla and Claregalway were identified as areas that needed playgrounds but in the latter area finding a site has been a problem.

“There area also long term hidden costs in the maintenance of all public playgrounds as well as public liability insurance, inspections, keeping them safe and providing disability access etc.

“We have over 60 public playground around the county and are the envy of other counties. The playground in Renville Park, Oranmore is also a great facility. Parents do travel with their children to many playgrounds and don’t always expect to have one at the end of their street,” she added.

She added that the Co Council can’t afford maintenance on more playgrounds unless there is more community fundraising.

“We have far exceeded the geographical spread of playgrounds all over the county but need commitments for co-funding as maintenance funds are limited.

“Proposals for future funding need to come forward regarding how we maintain playgrounds to the required standard, as otherwise, we will have to close them,” she added.