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22/09/2021

Offaly GAA's issue over events and concerts at O'Connor Park as lease row continues

Offaly GAA's issue over events and concerts at O'Connor Park as lease row continues

Kilkenny manager Brian Cody watching his county play Galway in the Leinster U-20 HC in O'Connor Park this year.

OFFALY GAA'S issues with their O'Connor Park lease agreement with Tullamore GAA Club were revealed at a meeting of the County Board on Tuesday night.

Their issues were revealed in the full text of a letter from Tullamore GAA Club that was formally read into the record by Offaly GAA secretary, Colm Cummins.

In their latest letter which was sent on September 12, Tullamore reveal that they were told by Offaly GAA chairman Michael Duignan at a meeting on September 1 that their issues were:

1 – Rent reduction on O'Connor Park;

2 – Reducing/ceasing of access rights for use of O'Connor Park by Tullamore GAA;

3 – Terminate the need for Tullamore GAA's permission to hold events/concerts in O'Connor Park;

4 – Cease of reduce the payment of monies to Tullamore GAA as part of any future arrangements in regard to the renaming of O'Connor Park by a sponsor.

In the Tullamore GAA letter, they insist that O'Connor Park is not for sale and the lease agreement is “not for review as there is no provision in the lease for a review”.

However, at the end of their letter, Tullamore GAA do throw out an olive branch and give a glimmer of hope that they may enter into discussions with the County Board once they are fully compliant with the lease, all outstanding rent money is paid and they receive a written guarantee that money will be paid in the future.

The Tullamore letter outlined: “It is Tullamore GAA's position that it will not consider entering discussions on any of the above issues until such time as: (i) Offaly GAA are compliant with the lease agreement, (ii) all outstanding monies due to Tullamore GAA are paid in full and (iii) Offaly GAA provide a written guarantee that rent payments going forward will be paid in accordance with the lease.”

The row between the County Board and Tullamore GAA Club erupted last year when the County Board sought a reduction in the yearly rent because of loss of income from Covid-19 shutdowns. When this was refused by Tullamore GAA Club, the County Board initially didn't pay the money due.

Tullamore GAA subsequently offered to donate €15,000 to the board but this was turned down because of the “conditionality” of their gesture. Things have escalated to breaking point in recent months with termination of the lease now a live option for both parties.

While Tullamore GAA claim that they were told by Michael Duignan in May that they would be “terminating” the lease, the County Board have since made it clear that they don't wish to exit O'Connor Park – Mr Duignan made this statement at a meeting of the Management Committee on September 7.

In their most recent letter, Tullamore GAA Club accuse the County Board of being a “bad debtor” and claim that they are owed €48,406.52. This figure is given as €33,139 in a report presented to last night's meeting by treasurer Dervill Dolan.

The yearly money paid to Tullamore GAA Club was outlined by Mr Dolan. The total rent in 2020 was €56,245, payable in two lots. The board paid €42,184 and owe €15,407 from 2020 with outstanding rent of €14,061 and a CPI increase of €1,346.

A 2.9% increase has seen this figure go up to €57,876 for 2021 – the yearly rent is inflation linked. The County Board have paid 75% of this to date, €43,407 and owe €14,469. They have been levied an interest charge for late payment of €3,263 and this has brought the outstanding tally up to €33,139, with Mr Dolan writing “partly in dispute” beside this.

Tullamore have been very critical of the County Board in some of their letters this year and in their most recent one, they address the possibility of a termination of the lease, writing:

“On termination of the Lease Agreement and in accordance with the Lease. Offaly GAA must:

1 Give Tullamore GAA six {6} months advance written notice of its decision to terminate the Lease Agreement

2 Surrender O'Connor Park back to Tullamore GAA Club without a penalty of any kind

3 Discharge all outgoings inclusive of all rent payments due to Tullamore GAA as per the Lease Agreement.

4 Yield up O'Connor Park {Including fixtures and fittings - other than trade or tenant's fixtures} together with all additions and improvements thereto and in such a state and condition that It be handed back to Tullamore GAA in all respects. consistent with full and due performance.”

The County Board plan to discuss the Tullamore letter at a future Management Committee and then call a special meeting where they will make proposals to delegates – if agreeement is not reached in the meantime.

Mr Duignan told Tuesday's meeting that they haven't replied to the Tullamore letter yet as there are a number of points in it they wish to consider and respond to. He stated that they will be doing this soon and will report to the County Board in due course.

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