Sports minister Carál Ní Chuilín ‘extremely disappointed’ over decision on multi-million pound Dungiven sports project

Sports minister Caral Ni Chuilin

Sports minister Caral Ni Chuilin

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Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has joined local Sinn Fein and SDLP councillors in their disappointment after a proposal to develop a multi-million pound sports project in Dungiven was voted down at a Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council meeting.

The proposal was voted on ‘in committee’ at Tuesday night’s monthly meeting.

SDLP Colr. Gerry Mullan.

SDLP Colr. Gerry Mullan.

The Minister said: “I am extremely disappointed that this much-needed project has been voted down by some members of the council. It is a very regrettable outcome which means that the development, which was due to get underway next month, cannot now proceed at this time.

“I had committed to funding of £2.5million towards the provision of a modern community sports facility to meet the needs of the people in the Dungiven area.”

Sinn Fein councillor Sean McGlinchey said: “I am bitterly disappointed. What kind of message does this send out from the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council to the people of Dungiven and surrounding areas?”

SDLP Colr. Gerry Mullan said: “The SDLP are deeply disappointed that the Dungiven project seems to be in serious jeopardy, which would be a serious loss to the Dungiven and surrounding areas.”

This multi-sports facility was planned to address a real need in Dungiven and the surrounding areas. It was something the entire community could enjoy and would have benefited everyone.

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín

In the pipeline for a number of years, the project began with the former Limavady Borough Council.

The initial estimated cost was in the region of £7 million, including a pledge of £2.5 million funding from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL).However, the project was scaled back under the new Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, with plans to locate facilities on a ‘single-site’ development at the Council’s Curragh Road, with provision including a main hall, smaller halls, gym plus 3G facility, costing in excess of £2.5 million.

The remaining funding needed to deliver the project totalled £339,000 and a grant for that amount had been approved by the regulator of the Landfill Community Fund but required Borough Council agreement.

The Minister added: “This multi-sports facility was planned to address a real need in Dungiven and the surrounding areas. It was something the entire community could enjoy and would have benefited everyone.

Sinn Fein Colr. Sean McGlinchey.

Sinn Fein Colr. Sean McGlinchey.

“It was also investment for an area which has suffered from a lack of government funding over the years. The centre was the second phase of a package for the north-west which was part of the legacy to the City of Culture, the first phase was the DCAL investment of £1.5million for the North Coast Sports Village project in Coleraine which opened last year.

“It is only through partnerships between government, councils and communities that projects such as this can come to fruition. A lot of effort has gone into getting the project this far and I am disappointed that some members of the council have voted it down at this late stage.

“I share the frustrations of all those who have worked hard to develop the Dungiven Sports Centre, and acknowledge those who had contacted me calling for it to be built. In particular, I recently received a letter from the mother of a disabled boy. She described how her son has to travel some distance to train for his sports. The new facilities in Dungiven would have given this young man the facilities he deserves so that he can train and take part in the sport that he loves in his own area. In his mother’s words ‘all the boy wants to do is normal stuff’.

“Given that The Open Golf Championship is coming to this council area in 2019 we need to act in the best interests of all the residents. I believe this decision sends out the message that for some within the new Causeway Coast and Glens Council the area is not open to doing business. In my view Councillors who voted against this much needed community facility do not represent the views of the majority of residents who want to move forward positively and enhance all of the council area.”

The ‘Journal’ is awaiting responses from Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.