Councillors in Carrickmacross-Castleblayney Municipal District have united in their opposition to plans for a private members gaming club in Carrickmacross. The proposal was totally unnecessary and unwanted for 99.9% of the local population, according to Councillor Padraig McNally.
Councillor Noel Keelan said they did not want to see any such gambling facilities in Carrick. His Sinn Féin colleague Colm Carthy said he had been contacted by a number of constituents and the proposed club would not be a good thing to have in the locality. Fianna Fáil Councillor PJ O’Hanlon said a lot of parents were concerned for their children regarding the potential dangers of slot machines, which they had never had in the town.
Standing orders were suspended at their meeting on Tuesday in Carrickmacross to allow the five Councillors present to discuss the introduction of bye-laws in the town to prevent the establishment of gambling arcades or any other such gambling facilities. They agreed to write to the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to legislate immediately to allow local authorities to adopt bye-laws that would prohibit gambling facilities, including private members clubs.
The District Co-ordinator Cathal Flynn explained that the 1956 Gaming and Lotteries Act (Part III) which governs gaming had never been adopted for the Carrickmacross town area. This meant that unlike Castleblayney, Carrick had never allowed casinos, slot machines or such like into the town.
The District Council received a letter from a local resident saying that as a business person, mother and grandmother, she had serious reservations on what sort of message such an establishment would be sending out, and registering her strong opposition.
Referring to the planning application submitted last month to Monaghan County Council, the objector said that information on the opening and closing hours of the proposed establishment was extremely vague. She said she would be very concerned about the effect that it would have on the high amount of school-going children and young people in the town.
The planning application was received by Monaghan County Council on January 21st. It was submitted by a local architect on behalf of Carrick Gold Mine Ltd. It seeks full planning permission for a change of use from an existing ground floor commercial unit to a private members gaming club with external signage, and including all other associated site works. The premises is situated beside the car park at the rear of Carrickmacross Shopping Centre at Drummond Etra, Main Street. A site notice was posted on the door of the unit on January 16th. Two people, a man and a woman with an address in Carrickmacross, are described as directors of the registered company making the application. In a letter to the planners they say that the proposed use of the premises will be for a professionally managed Private Members Gaming Club. It would provide card games like Baccarat and other games like Texas Holdem etc “for groups of dedicated card players”. It is the Club’s intention to have weekly Poker tournaments, some of which will be for local sports teams and associations. The club also intends to host charity events for the above groups from time to time, according to the letter. The club’s facilities would be open to members only, who must be over eighteen. The club does not encourage impulsive walk-ins hence the proposed location “is not on the High St. for that reason”. According to the letter, the Club intends to serve teas/coffee and light refreshments and will not be applying for any form of alcohol licence and “it does not intend to sell intoxicating liquer on the premises”.
Objectors to the plans had until last Tuesday to submit their observations. Seven local people sent in objections. One of them pointed out that there are three secondary schools in Carrickmacross, and claimed that if the proposal is allowed, “it would put a large contingent of impressionable young people in the town at high risk of becoming addicted to gambling”. Another objector expressed concern that the car park area would become a focus for anti-social behaviour.
An investigation of the planning file at Monaghan County Council revealed that the proposed club would have two areas for video machines: six near the front entrance and in Area ‘B’, fourteen video machines in one part and a further ten in another. There would be three “poker tables” and two “pool tables”. There would be a space for a cashier at the back of the room. In a small corner of this space, an area is designated for a “tea/coffee maker”.
A decision on the application is due to be taken by St Patrick’s Day, March 17th. The sixth member of the Municipal District Council, Aidan Campbell of Fine Gael, was not present at the meeting but told the Northern Standard he was fully behind the strong objections of his five colleagues.
Cathaoirleach of the Municipal District Council Jackie Crowe also expressed his opposition to the plan.