*Tony Kelly. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
FORMER HURLER of the Year, Tony Kelly and two other All-Ireland senior hurling winners with Clare are opposing plans for a €25m HSE community hospital for a green field site at St Flannan’s College in Ennis.
All three, four-time All-Star, Tony Kelly, double All-Ireland winner with Clare from the 1990s and well known hurling pundit, Jamesie O’Connor and key member of the 2013 Clare All-Ireland winning team, Brendan Bugler are teachers at St Flannan’s College and have appended their names to a group staff objection to the planned 100 bed hospital for the Church-owned green field site on the college grounds.
The celebrated hurlers are three of 75 staff members who are supporting the staff objection now lodged with Clare County Council.
In their objection, the staff have told the Council that the hospital proposal “will have a seriously negative impact on the student population of St Flannan’s College”.
The staff state that St Flannan’s College for the past two academic years has had its two largest ever enrolments with 240 1st Years each year.
They state, “St Flannan’s College is the only school in the town with the potential to expand if needed. We believe that it would be incredibly short sighted were the lands to be taken away from any future development”.
They further state that “the green field site at St Flannan’s College is the last remaining of its kind in Ennis. Urban sprawl is taking up much more of our green spaces each year. Once built, this land will be gone forever”.
They state that they understand the need for a new community hospital in Ennis “however, we believe that there are several more appropriate sites available for development”.
The staff at St Flannan’s College state that the playing fields at the college are used daily for sports for a variety of sports. They state that “we believe that no other sporting facility in Ennis would be built upon as it is proposed for our developed playing pitches”.
The formal objection by staff, including the names of the high profile GAA stars, intensifies the planning row where the local Catholic Church is selling the church owned college lands to allow the HSE advance its plans.
The diocese of Killaloe is selling the lands despite the college’s Board of Management also telling the Council that it is not in favour of the hospital going ahead on the school playing fields.
On behalf of the Board of Management, School Principal Fr Ignatius McCormack has told the Council that “the board is of course well aware of the need for a suitable site for the proposed hospital, but respectfully suggests that other suitable sites, which do not cut across existing intensive use by a large proportion of the youth of the area must be available”.
Fr McCormack went on to state that “it surely cannot be the case that the provision of proper healthcare and the provision of sporting facilities for the youth of the area must be placed in conflict”.
Fr McCormack said that the board of management “endorse the apprehension expressed by the planning authority that the scope of future expansion (of St Flannan’s College) will be curtailed by the proposed development”.
The intervention by the College Board of Management places it at loggerheads with the Bishop of Killaloe, Fintan Monahan who has confirmed that it remains the diocese’s intention to press ahead with the sale to allow the hospital to proceed.
In February, Fr Albert McDonnell on behalf of the diocese’s property arm, the St Flannan’s (Killaloe) Diocesan Trust provided a letter lodged with the Council which stated that the Trust do not intend to use the planned hospital site for the future development of the school.
Placing the diocese at odds with the St Flannan’s staff and board of Management, Fr McDonnell stated that “this area is on the periphery of the campus and in the event that the school requires expansion in the future, the Trust believes that there is ample space in the remaining lands for this to occur”.
A decision is due on the application at the end of this month.