Community action prevents swimming pool closure

At the July City Council meeting funding to keep Sean Mac Dermott Street pool open was approved. The Finances necessary to keep the three threatened pools open until the end of the year was “found” within the existing budget-no other services lost out, as management and some councillors had threatened. The saving of the three pools, at Sean MacDermott Street, Crumlin and Coolock is a result of the community campaign, and is a tribute to the strength and commitment of local activists. Having originally planned to shut the 3 facilities last December, City Council officials had been insisting that August 27th would be D-day. The pools will now remain open until the City councils next budget is agreed in December. Having seen the level of anger at the proposed closures and the strength of the community fightback, it is unlikely that management will try again. Importantly, all the political parties know they will be held responsible if this threat arises again. The SOS campaign has insisted that each party gives a commitment not to vote in favour of a budget that does not include full funding for the pools.

 

As an Independent City Councillor, I fully supported and worked with the community campaign. I proposed a motion to the April City Council meeting, which was passed unanimously (See Motion Here) . This motion changed City Council policy to recognise the importance of keeping the pools open, and instructed the officials to seek the necessary finances to achieve this. The adopting of this motion made it very difficult for the manager to proceed with the planned closures, and the relentless pressure from the community campaign ensured that elected representatives were also forced to act.

No doubt every political party and a variety of councillors will try and claim that they single headedly saved the pools. It is worth pointing out that when these closures were first proposed, a stronger response from the political parties could have prevented the attempt at taking away these essential community amenities. Some political representatives had no positive role to play, while others responded only when forced by the strength of local anger. It must be stated clearly that it was the “Save Our Swimming Pool” campaign, (made up of community and user groups, schools, youth clubs and other residents) that made the difference.

Each of the pools serves large working class areas. Sean MacDermott street pool is the only swimming pool in the entire North Inner City constituency, with a catchment population of over 60,000 residents. The attempt to remove this essential amenity was wrong, and obviously the community was seen as a “soft touch”. The strength of the fightback, and its success, is a valuable lesson. When working class communities stand together, and fight for what is rightfully ours, we can win. This is worth remembering, as we will no doubt face further attacks on our communities, with cutbacks affecting more of our services and facilities.

Now that the threat of closure has been defeated, I will continue to support efforts by the community to secure funding for important renovations that will help ensure the future success of the pools.