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Achill tourism project to include restoration of Franciscan monastery

News

REDEVELOPMENT Plans have been announced to restore the old Franciscan monastery in Achill and develop the site.

Anton McNulty


A MAJOR tourism project proposed for the site of the former Franciscan monastery on Achill Island will see the restoration of the monastery and the development of a heritage centre.
An Emergency General Meeting of Comhar Chumann Forbartha Acla Teo - who own the land around the monastery - took place in Achill on Sunday afternoon where they agreed to enter into a 99-year lease with Achill Monastery Development Company Ltd. They plan to restore the existing monastery building and incorporate a heritage centre, craft shop and a living history museum on a 35-acre site.
Achill Monastery Development Company Ltd, a newly formed Achill-based company, also aim to teach and develop traditional skills such as dry stone wall building and thatching and rent units to local organic food producers. The heritage centre will also have a dedicated research and archival department and they hope to have an exchange programme with Boston College in the US.
The Franciscan Monastery, located in the village of Bunnacurry, was built in 1852 where it was a centre of learning for the local community. When the Franciscan brothers left Achill in the late 1960s, it was sold as an agricultural co-op with 750 people becoming shareholders but over the years the monastery building has fallen into a state of disrepair.
Vincent English, one of four Achill people involved in Achill Monastery Development Company Ltd, told The Mayo News that they have received support from Fáilte Ireland and were very excited about the project.
Well-received
“The project has been very well received and we got full support at the EGM and everyone is very excited about seeing the monastery restored. Fáilte Ireland have come on board and we plan to start applying for funding.
“The building is not in great shape at the moment. Structurally it is sound but the old roof will have to be stripped back and replaced. The building holds a lot of historical importance to the community and the cost of renovating will be a small price for seeing it restored,” he said.
The whole project is expected to cost €3.5 million with the majority of funding to be secured through grants while €625,000 to be raised by the company. It is envisaged that once funding is received the heritage centre will be open within two years with the monastery fully complete within ten years.
Mr English said the project has been well received by the Achill Diaspora and he plans to travel to the US in the winter to gain support for the project.
This is not the first time that plans have been submitted to develop the monastery site. In 2007, shareholders were informed of plans for sheltered housing, a language and cultural centre and enterprise units while the new St Colman’s Care Centre was also to be developed on site.
While the ground works in St Colman’s began, it stopped in 2011 after the main contractor went out of business, and there has been no progress since. The other proposed projects never materialised.
Despite these setbacks, Mr English said he was of no doubt that this project will progress.

MPU Mayo