Galway County Council is examining the possibility of suing the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for alleged unpaid grants of €8.5 million, the Galway Independent has learned.
The grants relate to over-spends on harbour developments undertaken by the county council on Caladh Mór and Cill Rónáin Harbours on the Aran Islands of Inis Meáin and Inis Mór respectively.
The money outstanding, believed to be €3.1 million for the Caladh Mór harbour development, and a further €5.4 million relating to Cill Rónáin, would “financially break” Galway County Council if they are not recouped, it is claimed.
County Mayor, Cllr Tom Welby said the figures were “frightening” and he said the council would have little option but to pursue legal action against the department, should they withhold the payments.
“There was an understanding that, once the council did the works for the extras, then the department would have been reimbursing the council again,” said Cllr Welby, who said no-one wanted cost over-runs on capital projects. He said the department would have been briefed about any extra expenditure.
Cllr Welby said the money was not part of the council’s current budget, but said that interest accrued as a result of these debts would impact on the council’s day-to-day budget “without a doubt”.
“We’re left in a serious situation here. This can’t be underestimated in any shape or form. There is absolutely no way that Galway County Council could assume that level of debt. It would financially break the county council,” said Cllr Welby.
In a statement to the Galway Independent, a spokesperson for Galway County Council said the local authority is “continuing with its efforts to secure the recoupment of the outstanding expenditure incurred by the council in the development of Caladh Mór and Cill Rónáin Harbours”.
“The delays experienced to date in the recoupment of this expenditure from the now Departments of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht are a source of significant concern to Galway County Council given the significant and unprecedented financial implications for the council in the event that expenditure properly and necessarily incurred by the council is not recouped,” added the spokesperson.
A spokesperson for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht said yesterday that the works on the two piers were grant-aided by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and that “these grants have been fully paid to Galway County Council”.
“As the possibility of legal action has been raised, it would not be appropriate for the department to make any further comment at this time,” the spokesperson said.