Construction work on the Killarney Sports and Leisure Centre, being funded by the local town council and government grants, is almost complete and staff recruitment has commenced.
The municipal centre has been a stormy issue at Town Hall meetings for more than 20 years, amid fears it could be a white elephant for the local authority.
Labour councillor Sean O’Grady, who has been spearheading the project for more than two decades, said it would be of tremendous benefit to future generations: “It’s the most important development in my time on the council, which is well over 30 years. It will be a tremendous facility for Killarney,” he said.
A May 1 opening is anticipated for the centre. However, the council remains divided on its viability. Some members insist it could be a financial millstone on future councils if it did not pay its way.
It will have a 25-metre swimming pool and a multi-purpose sports hall along with other health and leisure facilities.
It is expected the centre will be used by local people and some of the two million tourists who visit the area annually.
Meanwhile, there has been a call to dedicate a roundabout, being built at the entrance to the centre, to the memory of the late Killarney businessman, Michael D (Mackey) O’Shea who was one of the people credited with bringing the German-owned Liebherr company to Killarney in the late 1950s.
Today, Liebherr employs up to 500 people manufacturing cranes in its Killarney factory and is regarded as one of Ireland’s most successful industries.
Proposing the roundabout be called after Mr O’Shea, Independent councillor Danny Healy-Rae said the businessman had created much employment in Killarney, but helping to bring Liebherr to the area was one of the great achievements of his life: “He was a small man, but a mighty powerhouse of a man,” he said.
Mr O’Shea was a self-made businessman who started from humble beginnings. The hardware and builder’s providers businesses he established continue to thrive.
The final decision on naming the roundabout will rest with Killarney Town Council. Liebherr, meanwhile, is this year celebrating its 50th anniversary in Kerry. The company’s Killarney-manufactured container cranes can be seen in ports around the world.