Leisure centres remain closed despite staff Covid training

By Maurice Garvey

STAFF and members of leisure centres in Tallaght, Clondalkin and Lucan have spoken to The Echo – frustrated that the facilities remain closed to the public.

This is despite staff receiving Covid-19 training three weeks ago, according to an employee at the Tallaght centre.

Tallaght Leisure Centre compressor 1

Tallaght Leisure Centre

“Staff are so frustrated. We have received four or five different dates to return, are all Covid-trained three weeks ago, and there is loads of space in Tallaght for social distancing,” said the employee who did not wish to be named.

“We can’t explain anything to members. Six or seven members called the council last week and they all got different answers.

"There is about 1,000 members in Tallaght alone. About 90 per cent of Autism Ireland kids use the pool.

"Half the kids from the Dublin mountains also use the pool in Tallaght.”

Last week, The Echo reported that the three centres, which employ over 100 staff, remained closed since March 13 due to Covid-19.

The council own the centres, but say they are independently managed by South County Dublin Leisure Services (SCDLS).

Company details for South County Dublin Leisure Services list James Morrissey from Tallaght, and Máire O’Sullivan as Directors.

The Echo asked the council for confirmation that Mr Morrisey is also a council employee.

At the time of going to print on Wednesday lunchtime, the council did not respond to queries.

Another staff member at a leisure centre said it “doesn’t look good”.

In a letter sent to local councillors on Friday, July 31, the council said “it is disappointing that the company has not yet re-opened the facilities.”

The letter cites supports in the council’s Revenue Budget for 2020 for the operation of centres, and additional measures to assist the company re-opening along with “robust business plans”.

Residents who contacted The Echo this week include Clondalkin Leisure Centre member Natasha Russell, who paid €450 for a yearly couple membership and €130 for her two children for swimming lessons.

“It is very frustrating for the public, especially when you have paid for the year and there is no date of reopening,” said Natasha. “I imagine they will do something down the line to reimburse us. I do feel bad for staff.”

A Lucan mother is tired of the “cloak and dagger” communication with the council and lack of contact number for the management company.

“June 30 was the day when the Taoiseach said leisure centres around the country could reopen. Lucan Leisure Centre put up a sign saying July 13 was their proposed date,” she said.

“Every morning since, my daughter (14) has clicked on their Facebook page to see if they are open. She would normally be there seven hours a week with her gymnastics club. Her summer of sport is gone.”

A letter notifying staff they were being let off with effect from March 13 was shared on Rise TD Paul Murphy’s Facebook page the next day.

The notification offered one week’s paid holiday leave for staff from their 2020 entitlement, and informed them the letter should be taken to social welfare as proof they are being laid off.

Cllr William Carey (SF) urged SCDLS to announce a reopening date and said he is aware staff have been working to maintain the equipment and towards safety procedures and training.

“Although it is expected that they will be operating at a reduced capacity when they do open, getting the centres up and running has to be a priority for all concerned, in line with advice from the health and safety authority,” said Cllr Carey.

The three leisure centres announced on Monday on their Facebook pages that they are reopening Aug 24.

“We are delighted to announce we are reopening on Monday, August 24. Our opening times and class schedules will be made available on our social media platforms soon.

Our return to operations will be on a phased basis and opening times will be reviewed regularly.”

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