Dungiven sports row: legal action begins

Disabled athlete Ryan O'Connor, former European boxing champion Paul McCloskey, former All-star GAA star Kieran McKeever and Ryan O'Connor's Mum Donna.
Disabled athlete Ryan O'Connor, former European boxing champion Paul McCloskey, former All-star GAA star Kieran McKeever and Ryan O'Connor's Mum Donna.
0
Have your say

A solicitor acting on behalf of disabled athlete Ryan O’Connor’s family told the Sentinel that papers have already been served with the council, informing it of the intention to seek a judicial review of the Dungiven sports facilities decision.

The council held a special meeting in Coleraine last night where the proposal to build the sports facility in Dungiven was rejected.

The only debate surrounding the proposal was over whether it should be discussed in secret (in committee).

In the event, the vote was held in public and the proposal was voted down with 20 councillors, drawn from unionist parties, voting against the proposed new sports facilities.

The proposed new sports facilities were to be almost entirely funded from a £2.5 million grant from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) as part of the legacy fund established in the aftermath of the UK City of Culture celebrations in Londonderry.

The remaining sum, according to DCAL Minister Caral Ni Chuilin, was to come from a grant to council from the Landfill Communities Fund - meaning there would be no cost to ratepayers of building the new facility.

Ruiari Mulholland, of McDermott, McGurk and Partners solicitors firm, said: “The council has already been issued with a pre-action protocol letter to tell them that it is our intention to judicially review their decision.

“Under the disability discrimination act, reasonable measures have to be put in place to make all public amenities accessible - but it is not absolute.

“If the council say ‘we simply don’t have the money, we can’t fund this’ that would be reasonable.

“It has now come to the point where they have been offered a fully funded leisure centre to bring them up to the standard that Ryan can go and use them and they have said no.”

Ryan O’Connor, who is a keen sportsman and hopes one day to compete in the paralympics, couldn’t hide his disappointment at the decision.

Speaking after the meeting, the Dungiven native said: “They didn’t give us any good reasons why they were rejecting the proposal. All we heard was a yes or no. This is already funded.

“It is not just that it is not suitable for me. It is not really suitable for anyone anymore.

“I’m being excluded in that I can’t do certain things that most other people can do but even if I hadn’t lost my legs, I still would have thought the way I feel now - that the sports facilities in Dungiven are out of date.

“I think it is ridiculous - we are in the 21st century, we are in 2016. It is long overdue.”