However, the move will not delay the construction of a new school building on the greenfield amenity after a motion was amended during last night’s meeting of Cork City Council.
More than 200 parents, teachers, students and former students of Gaelscoil an Ghoirt Álainn mounted a demonstration outside City Hall ahead of last night’s meeting in support of the school project.
Construction on a new school building on land owned by the Department of Education at the Tank Field in Mayfield started yesterday.
Principal Deaglán Ó Deargáin said that it was a day many never expected to come.
“This is a celebration, not a protest,” he said. “The school has finally started. We can’t afford any more delays. We have 360 students on the roll and a lot of people are depending on it.
“The school opened in 1993. We have gone through the planning process, every step of the way, and we are delighted at that fact.”
The construction works mark the most significant development in quite some time in the debate surrounding the future of the green amenity, with some residents still resolutely opposed to the project which, they say, will see the removal of the last green space in the area.
Large crowds turned out at City Hall to witness last night’s debate.
The public viewing galleries were at capacity for the meeting, with supporters of both sides of the argument joined by northside politicians, including Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien.
Fine Gael councillor Joe Kavanagh tabled a motion on the matter last night, calling for external legal advice to be sought regarding land ownership in the area.
Mr Kavanagh clarified that his concerns related exclusively to the eastern side of the Tank Field. The school building is on the western end of the field and is, therefore, unaffected by the motion.
The complicated matter related to the fact that the developer of the land went into receivership in the 1990s. Since then, City Hall has disposed of the land but Mr Kavanagh’s motion contested that this disposal was ‘made on the basis of materially incorrect and incomplete information.’
While Mr Kavanagh’s motion initially called for ‘no further development’ to take place in the area until after the legal advice was sought, he amended the motion to ensure that work on the school will continue and that the legal advice will focus on the eastern end of the Tank Field.
The motion was carried, with City Hall now set to seek legal clarification about whether it was in a position to dispose of this land in the first place or whether further action is required.
Mr Kavanagh said: “The loss of green space is what residents are concerned about. I just want to make sure that we conduct our business in a fair and transparent manner.”
Sinn Féin councillor Stephen Cunningham welcomed the news that the school project will continue.
“I am still of the opinion that things were done correctly but I am happy to have the question asked once it excluded the Gaelscoil and the eastern end of the field, which it did once councillor Kavanagh amended the motion,” he said.
“There are very legitimate concerns but they are based on misunderstanding and misinformation.”
Mr Cunningham said that the primary concern of the residents that he spoke to related to the removal of access to the green area which, he said, is not the case.
“There is currently a one-metre wall around the pitches. A second 1.2m wall will be added but there will be eight gaps in these walls, allowing access 24 hours per day,” he said.
“That’s what is in these plans — no gates, no fields, just open access so people can go walking or bring their dogs or whatever they like. Some are not happy that the Gaelscoil is being built but, at the end of the day, I think we did the best that we could to keep both sides of the argument.
“This school will be a great addition. Moving kids from prefabs into a proper school can only be good. This school is as old as I am. Hopefully this will be the last winter in those prefabs.”