Vandals shut down playground

Laois County Council have finally called time on the Smiths Field playground.

Laois County Council have finally called time on the Smiths Field playground.

Laois County Council have finally called time on the Smiths Field playground.

Three years since it opened, and just a week since a large swing was burnt down there, Ríocht na Spraoí is to be closed immediately.

Last Friday Mountmellick town manager Ian McCormack announced to the Town Council that they had decided to shut the playground, and move some equipment to the town’s amenity park in Irishtown.

Riocht na Spraoí was opened on July 3 2009, the first playground for Mountmellick, at a cost of €250,000. It was sited in Smiths Field, a piece of parish land behind the church, accessible only by a narrow stone footbridge. Even before it opened, locals advised that the location was wrong, and within a year, reports of arson, vandalism, bullying and underage drinking were a regular occurance.

At the official opening, the then Minister of State John Moloney acknowledged the safety and security concerns, but said work was underway to tackle those.

Mr McCormack now says they gave the playground every chance.

“We gave it as long as we could but it is the right thing to do. There was a lot of anti-social behaviour behaviour, a lot of the equipment is actually vandalised,” he said.

They will now examine what equipment can be moved to the amenity park in Irishtown, placing anything extra in storage.

“Along with the sports officer Ann Marie Maher, we will be looking at what can be moved, depending on what space is available,” Mr McCormack said.

“I hope it will be looked after there. That playground will serve Mountmellick more than enough, things seem to be going great there. Last weekend with the good weather people were saying it was packed. It is well lit up and visible,” said Mr McCormack

He acknowledged that locating the playground in Smiths Field was not a good idea.

“Maybe in hindsight,” he agreed.

Funding for a zebra crossing for the Irishtown site, across from Mountmellick Development Association, has been applied for. Mr McCormack said they will also consider CCTV at the amenity park, which already has lighting.

Chairman of Mountmellick Town Council, Cllr Pat Bowe regretted the necessary move.

“It is a fright to see a small minority getting away with this, and the council being forced to take this action. That playground should have been for the benefit of the whole community. I’m sure the people that abused it had younger brothers and sisters, it’s their loss,” he said.

Cllr Bobby Delaney had campaigned to get the equipment moved out of Smiths Field.

“The arson attack last week was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.