The closure of the public toilet on Tramore’s Strand Street for the majority of the month of June was unacceptable in Councillor Maxine Keoghan’s (Fine Gael) view and left her outraged.
Speaking at last week’s meeting of Tramore Town Council, Cllr Keoghan referred to several “unfortunate accidents” that people intending to use the toilet had experienced when finding it locked.
“Included in this group was a pregnant woman, an elderly lady and a number of distressed children with their agitated parents,” she said.
“Tourists were not the only people punished by this closure. The holiday shops which pay commercial rates amounting to €12,000 annually were directly affected by large queues for the use of their respective facilities…Also affected was the amusement park as people were directed away from this area.”
For a tourism-dependant town like Tramore, the closure of the Strand Street toilet during the summer months was “unacceptable” in Cllr Keoghan’s view.
“Tourism to Waterford means jobs and a number of small businesses depend wholly on summer tourism for their livelihood.”
Cllr Keoghan first expressed her concerns over the Strand Street toilet with Tramore Area Engineer Jane O’Neill on June 29th.
“I asked Ms O’Neill how was it that at the height of the recession in the 1980s the toilets were always open and now at the very start of the downturn the toilets are the first to close. Ms O’Neill was unable to comment on this matter.”
In response, Town Manager Brian White said he was sure that Ms O’Neill would like “to have the toilets open all year round but our budgets are reducing and reducing all year round”.
He added: “Waterford County Council did not have a state-of-the-art and architecturally designed toilet on the Prom in the 80s…the Council feels it has sufficient toilets on the beach.”
Referring to the Strand Street toilets, Mr White said the structure “belonged to another era” and said there was an onus on the businesses in the area of the town (primarily the Fairground) to “provide toilets of their own”.
He said that discussions about such a development were currently at a preliminary stage.
“They have created the demand, they have to meet it and we don’t have the money – you can see where I’m going,” Mr White stated.
Cllr Keoghan said that those responsible for the closure of these toilets “do not live in our town and as such may not fully appreciate the consequences of the decision to close the toilets”.
She said that the closure of the Strand Street toilet had led to tourists calling nature in a ‘new’ toilet – namely the open ground located to the rear of the town’s holiday shops.
According to one local businessman: “There was a time when, occasionally, inconsiderate youths could be seen using the grassy area to urinate. Now families do it out of necessity.”
Mayor Paddy O’Callaghan (Labour) said that the Council found itself in a “very tight financial situation” and that the maintenance of the Prom toilet was its priority in terms of the upkeep of such facilities.
While he would like to have given assurances to Cllr Keoghan regarding Strand Street, the Mayor was not in a position to do so because of budgetary constraints. “But hope springs eternal,” he concluded.