Swimming Facilities are an important part of every Community
Mark Pearson, Áine O’Beirne, Garrett Mullan David Flynn, Niall Keady, Alistair Smith, John Oghenetano, Laly Calderon
There has been a long-standing call for a public swimming pool in the North Fingal area. Many promises have come and gone, along with many campaigns and still no swimming pool for the North Fingal area. Until recently the thoughts of a public swimming pool were very much a fantasy given that for a long number of years the country was in the grips of the banking crisis and unprecedented austerity policy. Thankfully we now have seen unprecedented growth, a positive increase in the numbers in employment and most importantly there are funds available for large scale sports developments in the Sports Capital Grant/Fund. We feel that we now have a golden opportunity to make a public swimming pool a reality rather than a promise,
In January 2018 a Balbriggan resident Anthony O’Flaherty decided after seeing so many calls on social media to create a Facebook group to campaign for a public swimming pool. Within a few days the membership of the group had swelled to over 2,000 members from all over North Fingal, The Naul, Stamullen, to mention but a few. A very informal steering group was set up and it was decided to build a campaign to lobby for a public swimming pool. In March 2018 a public meeting was held that was attended by residents and local political representatives and following on from that the first committee meeting was called on the 16th of March 2018, were the officer board and committee members were voted in. The subsequent three meetings were to formalise the campaign and structure by creating and agreeing the constitution, code of conduct and in what form the campaign was to take.
One of the first things the new committee did was to reach out to the public to highlight the campaign. Social media was instrumental to starting off the campaign, so we continued to utilise it to further the message. We also wanted to ensure that those not on social media was aware of the campaign so on a snowy St. Patrick’s Day last year a stall was set up outside of Supervalu in Balbriggan and members of the committee stood on various points on the parade route and handed out flyers outlining the campaign and at the stall a petition was set up for members of the public to sign. We can tell you it was an experience handing out flyers in the snow!
Immediately following our first official meeting we reached out to the political representatives for North Fingal, to introduce ourselves, gather support and enlist their help for the campaign. Thankfully this was well received. We wished to ensure that we could work well with all the political representatives regardless if they were part of a political party, affiliated with a party or was an independent. We can say that this was a success and we have a good working relationship with all the political representatives. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the political representatives that have engaged with us, and especially those who contributed significantly to the campaign by giving up their precious free time, lobbied on our behalf, ensured that the campaign remained on the radar with the relevant stakeholders and advised us whenever needed. We have met our political representatives on a number of occasions and one of our next steps is to meet with the new political representatives that were recently voted in.
As part of our campaign we wanted to learn from the experiences of previous campaigns, both successful and unsuccessful, so we could learn from what they found to work. So, we reached out to the Portmarnock and Skerries campaign and a member of the committee met up with representatives from both campaigns on several occasions.
We have tried on a number of occasions to meet with the Fingal County Council executive. Unfortunately, this has proved unsuccessful so far.
We are involved in the Fingal Public Participation Network (PPN), which is a network of voluntary groups from around Fingal. This gives us insight, knowledge and the ability to network. We have attended a few of the meetings they have organised and have also attended some of the training course that they have run so we can be more effective.
During the first Castlelands public submission in August 2018, we rallied the public to put in a submission stating that we wanted a swimming pool. Requests went out across social media and local press calling for the people to make a submission. This proved extremely successful and an unprecedented number of submissions was received by Fingal County Council calling for a public swimming pool to be built. We believe this was one of the contributing factors to making Fingal County Council committing to building a swimming pool. We have to extend a huge thank you to the public for stepping up when needed.
We attended the Our Balbriggan world café events and again the need for a swimming pool was highlighted. The subject was raised a number of time y each group and done so organically without any influence from us. We believe this was also one of the contributing factors in Fingal Council changing their minds regarding a swimming pool.
Whilst we welcomed the announcement by Fingal County Council, committing to building a public swimming pool within the Castlelands Masterplan, we will remain open and receptive to any site within North Fingal for a public swimming pool. We don’t want to ‘put all our eggs in one basket’ if the Castlelands Masterplan in its current form is scrapped or altered significantly and it is no longer a viable location for a public swimming pool.