At no stage during various discussions with a representative from the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) in 2017 was it noted that the Cuisle Holiday Center was in danger of closing due to funding difficulties, according to independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.
The Roscommon-Galway TD wished to clarify a statement made by the IWA yesterday (Monday, November 11th).
He said: “In June 2017, the Cuisle Holiday Center celebrated its 20-year anniversary. From memory, it was at this celebration that a representative of the IWA introduced themselves to me and we spoke about the association as a whole, as well as funding opportunities – both locally and nationally.
“I explained that I would make contact with Minister Finian McGrath about the potential availability of funding for the IWA. I was informed that the HSE had increased its funding to the IWA as a ‘Section 39 organisation’ by approximately €1.4 million in 2017 compared to the previous year.
“After the 20-year celebration event, I spoke with the IWA representative a few times over the phone in relation to potential grants for upgrade works to the facility – which would cover a variety of tasks.
“LEADER funding was one of the avenues discussed and I was told that a meeting had been arranged with the minister, which I was not a part of.
“At no stage during any of these discussions was it noted that the center was in danger of closing due to funding issues.
“During the celebration in June two years ago, the Cuisle Holiday Center was heralded as the jewel in the crown of the IWA – not as a facilty that was in imminent danger of closing.
“To my knowledge, significant LEADER funding was secured to carry out upgrade works to the facility.
“I also encouraged the IWA to have a future plan compiled if they were every approaching successful business owners, ex pats or indeed the Government for funding.
“No one is going to throw money at you frivolously. Even if you are just looking for a small amount, you have to show some justification.
“I don’t recall any point where the possibility of the center closing was ever mentioned if funding wasn’t secured,” Fitzmaurice reiterated.
The independent TD noted that he first became aware of the pending closure of the center at Donamon Castle on the first day of November, once a staff member had sent him a text after they were initially briefed about the situation.
Continuing, he said: “After I heard the news I rang a representative from the IWA, as I have stated at a recent public meeting. I expressed my shock at the move.
“I said that I didn’t believe that the refurbishment works being listed would cost close to the €1.15 million price tag being bandied about. I noted that there were plenty of local people willing to help privately.
“While I am open to correction on the cost of these works, I have to say that I was surprised when I heard the amount – given my previous experience in this area.
“During that initial weekend, I also met with the Divine Word Missionaries as it was rumoured that there was an issue with the lease.
“This was found to be untrue and the Divine Word Missionaries actually wished to make a generous donation towards any refurbishment works that had to be carried out.
“When I spoke with the IWA representative again regarding the closure of the center and informed him of these points, it was indicated that the IWA wished to implement a new model.
“While I am in no way opposed to the IWA using hotels as part of its new model, I believe the Cuisle Center should continue to remain open alongside the use of hotels for people who feel more comfortable at the center in Donamon.
“I did not appreciate the center being referred to as an institution by the IWA representative. The Cuisle Holiday Center is a big part of the community; my own nieces worked there in the past. Any events organised by the staff in the past have always been very well supported.
“I reiterated the fact to the IWA representative that the entire community would support any fundraising which would be required to carry out any necessary refurbishment works.
“A lot of people would be willing to lend a hand. Government funding streams could also be further examined; but they can be difficult to secure. Hopefully a satisfactory solution can be reached between all the stakeholders which would allow the center to remain open beyond the end of this month,” he concluded.
Michael Fitzmaurice – 0861914565