As some of you in Tramore may know there has been an ongoing effort by a community group to gain the Metal Man and his pillars and access to same by means of a cliff walk. At the eleventh hour another party has stalled the deal and in the last week some of us have been drowning in information and misinformation regarding this matter. Here is what I have found out.
To make things easier I am dividing this post up. The first a summary of the story as I see it drawing on information from all parties. Then there is a paragraph on each of the principals concerned and finally a paragraph about me.
I am the only individual named here for the simple reason that I do not want anyone to think this is a personal issue. Names of principals involved are readily available through their websites and other public outlets.
Back in 2009, Tramore Tourism, a community group, was encouraged by the County Council to seek ownership of the Metal Man and his pillars, including the pillars at Brownstown, from the Commissioners of Irish Lights(CIL) who were prepared to gift them to an appropriate organisation. The County Council had refused ownership due to lack of money to develop and maintain the site. In summer 2010 CIL determined that Tramore Tourism were the best candidates.
It was necessary for Tramore Tourism to set up a legal entity to receive the pillars and Tramore Heritage Ltd. (THL)was born in October 2011. THL is limited by guarantee and is non-profit and public. None of the directors can sell the pillars or make profit from them. Tramore Heritage Ltd. has applied for charitable status which may take a year or so to be passed but when it is it will provide extra safeguards for the public.
There are various business people on the board of Tramore Heritage Ltd. and there was also a Tramore Town Councillor, who we will call Councillor N0.1, involved in bringing it into being and whose enthusiasm for the project was strong but by 2010 Councillor N0.1 had left the group.
Tramore Heritage Ltd. worked towards the transfer of the pillars from CIL. They also opened negotiations with the farmers on whose land the pillars stand to gain access. Access had previously been shut off due to failed attempts by the County Council to gain access.
They met with various people to discuss their plans in detail.The first of such meetings was in November 2011 and was attended by Councillor N0.1 along with other councillors and interested members of the public. A public meeting was called for and held in January 2012 in the civic offices in Tramore.
In September 2012 Councillor N0.1 set up a private company called Tramore Cultural Developments(TCD) a private company limited by shares. TCDs stated aims include to “assist individuals and organisations working to advance the preservation of the towns heritage.”
In December 2012 Councillor N0.1 wrote to An Taisce raising concerns regarding Tramore Heritage Ltd.s company status and fears that the pillars were falling into private hands.
An Taisce in turn wrote to the Town Manager suggesting the deal be postponed until 2014 when Tramore Town Council would be dissolved, elections would take place and the new County Council could take on the ownership of the pillars they had already refused and lease it to a private company prevent it falling into the hands of…a private company. No private company was named.
Since this letter was received Tramore Town Councillors are considering their options. In the mean time, on March 30th a Facebook page was set up purporting to be administrated by a 14-year-old boy and raising those same concerns about the possibility of the Metal Man falling into private hands.
Over the following days many of the posts and graphics on the pages concerned Tramore Heritage Ltd. and its supposed private company status despite continued corrections and proof to the contrary from members of the public including myself. There was one direct attack in writing on a member of Tramore Heritage Ltd., now removed.
On April 3rd Councillor N0.1 began posting on this page whose aims were the same as hers. As she posted she continuously referred to Tramore Heritage Ltd. as a private company. She was continuously corrected by members of the public.
That page still stands at this time of writing and screen shots have been taken of the relevant posts.
That is the story so far.
Tomorrow, Tuesday the 9th of April, the Tramore Town Council vote. If Tramore Town Council vote to support this project CIL will go ahead with the transfer, if the Council vote against it then CIL will stop the transfer. Either way THL has said they will continue with this project and continue looking for support.
Below are screenshots from http://www.solocheck.ie showing the status of various companys whose names have come up during the debate.
SOME OF THE PEOPLE INVOLVED
COMMISSIONERS OF IRISH LIGHTS(CIL)
The Commissioners of Irish Lights is the General Lighthouse Authority for all of Ireland, its adjacent seas and islands. The Metal Man and his pillars are defunct and they no longer want the responsibility of them.
I am including these guys as they have come up in the debate. CIL continue to be involved in the Hook lighthouse as it is still operational but Hook Heritage runs the tourism end of things. Hook Heritage Ltd. is limited by guarantee in exactly the same way Tramore Heritage Ltd. is.
Tramore Tourism is a community group established in 1991 to promote Tramore and has many active members from various business sectors in the community. It works closely with many groups to promote the profile of the town. They were encouraged by the County Council back in 2009 to begin the process of obtaining the Metal Man.
TRAMORE HERITAGE LTD.
A legal entity set up by Tramore Tourism to receive the Metal Man and his pillars. It is limited by guarantee, it is non-profit and public. It has also been negotiating access, planning a cliff walk to the Metal Man and a trail that goes from the Metal Man right to the dunes. It’s directors are local people of various types of experience and backgrounds. To date its accountant, solicitor and surveyor have worked for them pro bono. If Tramore Heritage is ever wound up the pillars will go to the next appropriate community group.
I personally have found all their information clear and consistent and they are completely available to anyone interested in this issue.
TRAMORE TOWN COUNCIL
To be dissolved next year when the Waterford City and County Councils are amalgamated. Some Town Councillors already have a County Council seat. Some do not. Town Councillors to the best of my knowledge do not get paid.It is the Tramore Town Council who is voting on whether or not to support the project. If they don’t support it the project does not go ahead.
WATERFORD COUNTY COUNCIL
No matter who owns the Metal Man and the land around him they will always be subject to local planning laws and so in a way the County Council will always have control over the development of this area. The County Council previously tried to get access to the Metal Man and failed. The County Council encouraged and fully support the transfer of the pillars.
I am going to reveal my ignorance here and tell you I thought that we had no equivalent of the UKs National Trust and any time I saw the name An Taisce I always thought it had something to do with fish.. 🙂 An Taisce must be informed of any developments in areas where there are archeological, environmental or architectural concerns. Local authorities are required to consult with them on certain applications.
I do not know this councillor personally though she was in school a couple of years or so behind me. I had heard only good things when she first came on the scene, I think just after the Garrarus debacle and had heard nothing more until last week.
Councillor N0.1 is very strongly in favour of postponing a vote on transferring the pillars to next year, election year, persuading the County Council to change their mind and take ownership and then leasing them to a private company.
Councillor N0.1 has recommended that we all work together and described plans for a heritage trail in the same place that THL has been planning theirs.
Councillor N0.1 is a director of Tramore Cultural Developments Ltd. a private company guaranteed by shares. Councillor N0.1 has said she has no personal interest in gaining the pillars and has expressed her care for the land at Westown in this passage taken from FaceBook post. I have left out the sentence that refers to her family name.
The seven generations of my family that have preceded me cared for the Metal Man and raised families in its shadow. The cliff face that fell away over time was once the land my family used to provide food…….As such the cliff land the Metal Man stands on and the traditional pathway to the Metal Man was once land my ancestors used.
It is a passage that a cynical person might say is a claim on that land but I have recently been introduced to land that my family owned generations ago and it is beautiful too so I understand that sort of attachment but it is not my land, that is far in the past. I like to draw my pride in my family from current acheivements and future possibilities. But I digress, we should move forward…
THE FACEBOOK PAGE
The page that was set up by a 14-year-old to raise concerns about the transfer of the pillars to THL is probably the murkiest issue here. The page is rife with misinformation but plenty of adults have taken the information bandied about at face value too. It is surprisingly difficult to continue to believe one thing even when you have solid proof when another person is repeatedly, continuously stating the opposite.
Still, it is hard to understand how any adults around this boy did not encourage him to research his facts, how they had no apparent qualms about seeing him go into the public realm without the protection of correct information. Even 5 minutes on Google would have been enough to find out that Tramore Heritage Limited is a public company.
It is understandable that people would have concerns over the transfer of the Metal Man and they should be aired(or should have been aired a long time ago) but it is one thing to stick your head out a trench, quite another stick a child out of it which whether intended or not this is what it looks like.
As it stands this page is still in existence and up until its last post was posting information that was proven incorrect. I think that all members of the public were respectful to the boy and quite a few of us came to believe that there were hidden administrators because we did not believe he was responsible for the information and some of the comments of this page.
I believe it would have been too much to ask to expect everyone to let the information on this page go unchallenged as it was and is in the public domain and this is an important issue for Tramore.
A fact that is getting passed over a lot here is that the Metal Man is on private land as it has always been. All the land around here is farmed, the roads painted with glorious splodges of cow shit, the green fields reaching to the red cliffs and the sea. I do not know the landowners personally though I pass them on a daily basis and have swapped smiles and hellos but we go about our own business.
Years ago there was access to the Metal Man(my brother got chased by a horse when we were crossing to it one time) but due to bungled attempts by the County Council to get official access the way was closed in frustration a couple or more decades ago and I have understood that is unlikely another attempt by the Council would be welcomed.
To offer some more insight, a couple of years ago when a group of developers supported by the Town and County Councils were looking for land on which to build a golf course and hotel they focussed on Westown but their offers to buy were in vain and the developers had to move further from Tramore to Garrarus and beyond where the offer of money sent five or six farmers falling like dominoes down the coast.
All this I tell you to make it clear that even if the County Council were persuaded to take control of the Metal Man and lease it to a private company, that private company would still have to gain access to the land and though I do not speak for the landowners and have no right to I do know one thing. The Metal Man is not the only one with steel balls around here.
The pillars at Brownstown are also being gifted by CIL and the landowner there is delighted to be a possible part of a long coastal trail.
Who the hell am I to talk?Well, my name is Clare Scott and I live in Westown(or actually Westtown as it is on the maps)and have lived here for the last 7 and a half years but I didn’t live here a hundred years ago and I won’t live here a hundred years from now. Previously I have lived in Waterford, Amsterdam and Edinburgh. I grew up in Tramore from the age of four though I was born in the UK where my parents had emigrated for work.
Aside from some letter writing and fund raising to stop the development at Garrarus community work is not a big a part of my life and sometimes I think it should be. Mind you I am making up for it in the last week as the stalks of my eyeballs are entirely plaited after days of trawling through information and I have just done 7 solid hours at this PC today so far with no food or drink.
I hope from these efforts that people will not only gain some clarity regarding the issue at hand but will understand that I am not anti-development, I am just anti-stupid stuff.
I do admire people who work for the community as a regular part of their lives. Any time I get involved in any thing the infighting and pettiness puts me right off .
This latest debacle has made me realise that being an independent person with no affiliations or allegiances actually has some currency and that there may be a place after all for the outsider. Maybe a vital place.
If you asked me what it was that I really wanted on this issue it would be for everyone to stay away from this beautiful place and don’t be annoying me but I know I wouldn’t get anywhere 🙂 and if this land is to be opened up I for one, speaking as a current resident here, want it done properly. This means, if anyone is any doubt, that I am firmly in favour of the Council voting to approve this transfer to Tramore Heritage Limited so they can get on with opening it up.
Directors of the various companies mentioned are publicly available.
The landowners are due their privacy.
The Councillor mentioned here has has been public with her feelings and views and I feel I have represented them correctly using her own words. There are eight other councillors but they warranted little or no mention here whether for or against or undecided.
I met with members of Tramore Heritage last week on their invitation, one of a few invitations from that side and one which they extended to the public in general and to people in particular such as the admin of the FaceBook page. I received no invitations to talk with anyone else and felt I had enough information from other sources to make my mind up.