Residents consider legal action in Croke Park handball row

RESIDENTS in the Croke Park area are contemplating the possibility of taking a class action against the GAA as a result of the ongoing dispute over the handball and community centre beside the Dublin stadium.

The GAA is planning a €9m revamp of the handball centre, which is due to host the 2012 World Handball Championships, and was granted permission for revised plans by Dublin City Council last month despite local objections.

A ‘Justice for the Community’ committee was established earlier this year charged with investigating possible legal options. Local displeasure over the facility’s future on St Joseph’s Avenue was voiced yesterday by Eamon O’Brien.

Chairman of the Croke Park Streets Committee, O’Brien said the local community was now “in serious conflict with the GAA” and added an ‘information convoy’ will be held tomorrow to express their concerns.

Starting at 3pm, 15-20 cars will gather outside the centre before making their way around the area with loudspeakers to demonstrate the fact that the community is “organising itself” on the issue.

It is believed the protest and ongoing debate surrounding the national centre has been responsible for the decision to play this weekend’s Handball All-Ireland (Softball) finals away from Croke Park for the first time since 1984.

The programme of games, which will see Dublin’s Eoin Kennedy take on Westmeath’s Robbie McCarthy in the All-Ireland Senior Softball final tomorrow, has been scheduled for Abbeylara in Longford.

The Streets Committee outlined its grievances on the handball centre in a newsletter in recent weeks, claiming Croke Park and the GAA ignored the objections of the community and their public representatives raised at recent public meetings.

Croke Park stadium director, Peter McKenna, has consistently defended the plans and has said they will be “replacing an almost derelict building with a €9m development, which will employ hundreds of people in construction”.

However, O’Brien and other residents dispute the claim the centre as it stands is derelict and accused the GAA of a “breach of trust” regarding the centre. The Streets Committee says the centre was built in 1970 with funds and materials from the Department and Education and local companies and banks and then vested in the GAA who they say have a duty of care to the community.

O’Brien added that the stand-off regarding the handball centre was merely the “culmination of things” for local residents whose feelings were summed up on the first page of last month’s newsletter.

“For the last number of years the local Croke Park community has put up with martial law-like movement restrictions during special events at Croke Park, there were 30 last year, having to have an identity card and, on top of the movement restrictions, suffer damage to their property and general disruption of their daily lives with conference noise, parking difficulties and loutish behaviour.”


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