BY LEO McMAHON
THE condition of the ladies’ and gents’ toilets in Kinsale, one of Ireland’s premier tourist resorts, is disgraceful and local councillors are getting an ear-bashing from the public about it.
So stated members of the local authority at their September meeting, with Cllr Tomas O’Brien and Cllr Dermot Collins saying it was now a case of doing a proper job on upgrading and maintaining the town centre facility or closing it down for good.
Members reported that there were complaints from high-profile guests who attended this year’s Kinsale Arts Festival and from tourists throughout the summer. Many complainants said they were appalled at the condition of the toilets, which are close to the tourist office and where scheduled and touring buses stop in Pier Road. Cllr O’Brien added that it was ‘a no-brainer’ that the toilets needed more frequent cleaning.
Cllr Collins said he got a bellyful of criticism about the toilets from guests during the arts festival in July and also received phone calls.
‘I went to the gents’ toilets for myself, took photographs and was disgusted and ashamed by what I saw. The urinals were filthy and there was a smell of urine. I was also informed that the ladies’ toilets were extremely bad.’
Apart from negative publicity, which reflected poorly on the image of Kinsale, councillors were unfairly bearing the brunt over something that was outside their control and he was embarrassed and annoyed that the situation hadn’t improved since he sent an email to the town council office about it in early July.
Requesting that the matter be addressed as a matter of urgency, Cllr Collins said proper maintenance and cleaning were essential and it was all about doing simple things well. ‘Someone needs to take ownership of this issue or else we may as well abolish ourselves,’ he added. Mayor Billy Lynch concurred.
Acting town clerk Mr Stephen Murphy said the toilets were cleaned daily by a representative of the contractor every morning and a person also closed them at night. In reply to Cllr Collins, he said that due to lack of resources and council staff being off sick, it hadn’t been possible to carry out inspections but said the town foreman was returning to work.
He said he wasn’t offering any excuse but added it was the curse of the times they were in that Kinsale TC simply didn’t have the staff to carry out such checks.
‘But this is what we’re judged on’, remarked Cllr Collins, who repeated that elected members were being blamed for the council failing to properly maintain a vital public utility.
Cllr Fred Treacy said he also got an earful on the matter. The toilets were being cleaned but in a very short time could be vandalised. There was need for full-time supervision. Cllr Collins, however, said he wasn’t talking about vandalism.
Cllr Lynch suggested consideration be given to deferring the proposed upgrading of the Short Quay plaza streetscape project, the manager’s report for which was accepted at a recent special meeting, and instead using the money set aside to provide modern new public toilets. ‘I’m also getting it on the neck and we need to solve this problem’, he added.
Acting manager Mr Kevin O’Neill said there were similar problems in other towns. A toilet could be clean at 9am and by 10am be destroyed. He agreed that one cleaning a day wasn’t enough and said he would enquire if the frequency could be increased.
There is a plan drawn up by the town architect to renovate and upgrade the public conveniences and include a disabled toilet for around €80,000 while the cost of demolishing and building a new facility would cost around €20,000 more. Kinsale TC is exploring avenues of funding including a community initiative with West Cork Development Partnership similar to that done in Schull. The toilets are closed during the winter. Kinsale also has a single-unit unisex ‘superloo’ in the town park at Pier Road and there is a public toilet at the building of the former harbour commissioners at Pier Head.
On a happier note, Gemma Tipton, artistic director, wrote to the council expressing thanks for its support of the very successful 2012 Kinsale Arts Festival.<
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