Thursday 22 March 2018

Ahern drafted in to resolve dispute over handball alley

Dispute resolution: Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern Picture: Arthur Carron
Dispute resolution: Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern Picture: Arthur Carron
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has been appointed chief mediator in a long-running dispute over the future of a handball alley in Dublin's north inner city.

The ex-Fianna Fáil leader has been asked to help broker a deal between the GAA and the management committee of the Irish Handball Centre, in a dispute which has been ongoing for several years. The dispute over the potential demolition of the facility was widely seen as having played a role in the fiasco surrounding the cancelled Garth Brooks concerts in the summer of 2014.

It has now emerged that a formal mediation process between the parties is being chaired by Mr Ahern. His involvement in the process has allayed fears that the matter may result in a bitter court case.

Hearings have been held at the Skylon Hotel in Drumcondra and have been attended by GAA Ard Stiúrthóir Páraic Duffy and chairman of the Croke Park Streets Committee Eamonn O'Brien.

It's understood discussions are focusing on the relocation of the handball centre from St Joseph's Avenue off the Clonliffe Road to a location in the immediate vicinity.

Speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Mr O'Brien declined to discuss Mr Ahern's involvement, saying he wished to respect the mediation process.

But he said all sides were making progress and that he was hopeful a resolution could be reached.

"This dispute has been ongoing for some time and has been a tough battle. The important thing is that we have fought to protect the handball centre for the community and we will continue to do that," Mr O'Brien said.

Mr O'Brien agreed the recent murders in the north inner city illustrated the need for the centre.

Mr Ahern has taken on a number of roles in the area of dispute resolution since stepping down from Irish politics.

Late last year, he travelled to Istanbul to take part in negotiations between the Turkish government and the Kurds. He also carried out mediation work in the Ukraine, Nigeria and the Basque region of Spain.

Irish Independent

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