*An artwork design of the proposed health facility. 

An ex-principal of St Flannan’s College in Ennis has emerged as one of a number of objectors to new plans for a €25m elderly care unit on diocesan owned lands at the college.

Last month, the HSE lodged plans for the 100 bed community Nursing Unit (CNU) on a seven acre green field site at Clonroadmore at the post primary St Flannan’s College. The hospital is to replace the existing bed capacity at St Joseph’s Hospital in Ennis.

The new unit is to contain 75 long stay and 25 short stay beds and according to planning documents lodged most residents will have high dependency needs “and a number may also suffer from Alzheimer’s/Dementia”.

A total of 11 objections have been lodged against the proposal and in a detailed, hard-hitting objection against the application, Colm McDonagh has told Clare County Council that the proposed CNU “is inappropriate at this location and is not in the best interests of proper planning and development of the area”.

A native of Ennis, Mr McDonagh was on the teaching staff at St Flannan’s College for 33 years and became the first lay principal of St Flannan’s College in 2000 remaining in the post until his retirement from the role in 2012.

The property arm of the Diocese of Killaloe, the St Flannan’s Killaloe Diocesan Trust which owns the land which provided a letter giving its consent for the plans to be lodged to Clare County Council.

In his objection, Mr McDonagh questions if the Killaloe Diocesan Trust has the authority to consent the lodging of the planning application.

He said, “A similar scenario occurred last than 20 years when Killaloe Diocesan Trust were undertaking a similar course of action that would have resulted in the sale of these sales to facilitate the relocation of Ennis National School”.

He said, “Back then, like now, there appeared to be widespread public support for this move as it was deemed to be a very worthy consideration

Mr McDonagh reveals that “the then trustees of St Flannan’s College were very concerned that the sale of these lands was not in accordance with the wishes of the person who bequeathed these lands”.

Mr McDonagh stated that the College Trustees “commissioned eminent legal advice which underpinned the concern that a sale of the lands would be inappropriate with regards to the terms of the relevant will”.

He added, “The College Trustees ultimately prevented the sale of this land at that time firmly believing that they were acting in the best interests of St Flannan’s College”.

Mr McDonagh contends that the Council “need to be extremely mindful that the diocesan trust may not ultimately be empowered to give consent to this application”.

He said, “The terms of the will have obviously not changed. The legal advice sought and given must equally apply at the current time”.

Mr McDonagh said that the precedent of the aborted sale concerning Ennis National School raises very serious issues concerning the authority of the Killaloe Diocesan Trust to dispose of these lands.

Asked to comment on the proposed development, the Bishop of Killaloe, Fintan Monahan said that “this wonderful proposed development” by the HSE “will be of great benefit to our community and which we are delighted to facilitate”.

Bishop Monahan stated, “The diocese is glad to be able to respond positively to the approach and request of the HSE with an urgent need for a new facility for the area”.

On behalf of the Killaloe Diocesan Trust, Bishop Monahan said that the trust can “confirm that the Diocese is entirely free to sell this land for community benefit and has received the necessary Charities Regulator authorisation”.

He said that “the Diocese is very pleased to be able to facilitate the HSE in providing a state of the art facility for the benefit of the communities of Ennis and County Clare in general in a location which is ideal for such a facility”. He said, “The design of the replacement for St Joseph’s is of an extraordinary standard and clearly will greatly benefit our families and communities in County Clare”.

In his objection, Mr McDonagh claims that if the CNU goes ahead it will result in the destruction of a running track and pitch on St Flannan’s grounds. He says “it is now incomprehensible that consideration is been given to the destruction of this infrastructure”.

Mr McDonagh asks, “Would a development be permitted that involved similar destruction of track and field facilities at the Leess Rd complex or at Ennis’s Fairgreen?”

Objecting in a private capacity, Mr McDonagh has also raised traffic congestion and flooding concerns relating to the scheme.

Martha Walzer of Green Park, Clare Rd, Ennis has told the Council that she is 86 years of age and is not objecting to the need for a new nursing home but is objecting to the nursing home being built on the St Flannan’s site when there are more suitable sites at Cahercalla and Lifford.

Ms Walzer says that she “will be a prisoner in my own home” during the construction phase of the scheme.

As part of a 16 page objection, Ms Walzer states that “this is a residential area and this site is the only sport/leisure/biodiversity/recreation space on the east side of Ennis”.

She states, “This entire green field should remain so. We must think of the future generations now. There are very viable alternatives for this development. It is for these reasons I object to the granting of permission and ask that you refuse permission”.

A decision is due on the application in the next number of days.

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