Rural TD activist fights plan for bar extension
A FINE Gael TD who has campaigned to keep rural pubs alive is at the centre of a local row -- for objecting to a bar's extension across the road from his house.
Mayo TD and former GAA manager John O'Mahony and his wife Geraldine were the only objectors to the plan by the owner of the Lir cafe bar in Ballaghaderreen on the Roscommon-Mayo border to convert part of an adjacent house into a venue for discos and late-night functions.
The cafe bar is located directly across the road from Mr O'Mahony's home.
Pub owner Colman Byrne, who is a former pupil of Mr O'Mahony, said their relationship was now "damaged beyond repair".
He said his pub needed the function room to survive -- having lost €70,000 in 2008, €80,000 last year and being on course to lose another €80,000 this year.
"I'm basically fighting for my survival and there are 20 people full and part-time depending on those jobs as well. If I don't have a Saturday night, I don't have a business," he told the Irish Independent.
Mr Byrne was taught by Mr O'Mahony while he was a pupil in St Nathy's College in the town from 1985-1990.
After Mr O'Mahony's objection, Roscommon County Council refused planning permission for the pub extension on Market Street last month on two grounds. One was that it would contravene the residential zoning of the site. The other reason was that it would endanger public safety because the access road from the pub car park to the N5 national route was too narrow to safely accommodate pedestrians and vehicles.
Mr Byrne, a former president of the Union of Students in Ireland, unsuccessfully attempted to be selected as a candidate for Fianna Fail in last year's local elections in Roscommon. But he denied his criticism of Mr O'Mahony was anything to do with politics.
"I am struggling and I couldn't care less about politics," he said.
Mr O'Mahony, who resigned as Mayo manager at the end of June, last night said he stood over his decision to object to Mr Byrne's pub extension.
"I was supportive of him and the residents were but the issue was the noise. The music went on till 2am and 3am in the morning and it was a real resounding boom," he said.
Mr O'Mahony also denied Mr Byrne's accusation he was being "hypocritical" for objecting while also highlighting the closure of rural pubs. "There's no vendetta here, no one would wish him but well in providing employment. But like all the rest of us you have to live within the rules and regulations that are laid down, and the planning laws," he said.
There have also been complaints from local residents that Mr Byrne's pub was disrupting their sleep at weekends. Michael Freyne, whose parents live next door, said they had made their objections known during the renewal of the bar's licence last year.
"It's mostly at weekends with late bars on Friday and Saturday nights. You basically can't sleep in any of the houses at 2am," he said.
Mr Byrne admitted he hired local bands and DJs to play gigs in the open-air section at the back which can go on till 1am.
"That was the reason for me building the extension was to bring my activities inside to solve the noise problem," he said.