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A&E services cut but €3.8m pool to be built

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore's constituents are set to have their hospital downgraded but will have to make do with a new €3.8m swimming pool.

The state-of-the-art pool will be constructed in Loughlinstown, south Co Dublin, after Junior Minister Michael Ring approved the funding.

It will be located in the Loughlinstown Leisure Centre, just a few hundreds yards from St Columcille's Hospital, which is to lose its 24-hour emergency department.

Labour leader Mr Gilmore, who represents Dun Laoghaire, said he had been seeking the development of the pool since he first entered politics.

"I am very pleased that it is now to proceed. This will now be a major addition to the sports and recreational provisions in Dun Laoghaire and will be a major local facility," he added.

The project will soak up more than half of the national budget for pools this year.

Mr Gilmore said he has been in "regular contact" with Mr Ring about the facility since the formation of the Government.

However, his powers of persuasion clearly didn't have the same effect on Health Minister James Reilly and the HSE.

It was announced in June that the provision of an around-the-clock A&E at St Columcille's would end this year.

Plans are also in place to stop accepting acute surgical services at the 106-bed hospital by the end of the year.

Dun Laoghaire TD Richard Boyd Barrett told the Herald the "swimming pool is a welcome addition but it's an absolute outrage that the loss in our A&E services is going ahead". He said the downgrade will not just affect people in Loughlinstown.

"It will affect all of the people in Wicklow as well. It's a disaster. People will die as a result of this move," the deputy said.

Cormac Devlin, a Fianna Fail councillor for the Dun Laoghaire area, said: "It (the pool) was already approved by the previous administration but it's fantastic news for the area and long overdue," he said.