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Castlebar funding welcomed, but amount questioned


COMPARISONS MADE ‘I don’t think we should be getting too excited about our slice of the pie’ – McDonnell.

Michael Gallagher

Reaction to the State’s allocation of €11 million to redevelop historic buildings in Castlebar has been mixed. This week’s meeting of the local municipal district heard details of plans to rejuvenate buildings, such as the former Imperial (Daly’s) Hotel, the old Post Office and Castlebar Military Barracks. While the funding was unanimously welcomed, a number of councillors were less than enamoured with the allocation for the Military Barracks project.
“Galway got €60 million, so I don’t think we should be getting too excited about our slice of the pie,” Cllr Al McDonnell stated.
“Physical evidence of our funding will be apparent in the Imperial Hotel where the majority of the money will go. In the history of Ireland, it’s of vital importance that the hotel is retained. The Land League was set up there and many important meetings were held which changed the lives of our people here in Mayo and across the nation.
“The Military Barracks has a different history – a history I would not embrace – but the funding for that project is nothing short of minuscule,” he added. Cllr Michael Kilcoyne backed him up, claiming ‘€2.5 million isn’t too much use to the Military Barracks’.
“That project will take at least €100 million,” said Cllr Kilcoyne, “so at this rate it will take more than 40 years to finish it. All investment is welcome, but Mayo is obviously a long way down the list of priorities.”

Game changer
The funding was given a warm welcome by Cllrs Blackie Gavin and Martin McLoughlin. CllrGavin said a number of good news stories had brightened up life in Castlebar recently.
“This funding is a massive boost to the town and will create an economic and employment spin-off. There has also been a €10 million [investment] in Fort Wayne Metals and supported investment in the town of €17.5 million, which is fantastic news.”
Cllr McLoughlin said the money was a game changer for the county town. “We’ve waited so long for this and it’s huge funding which will firmly bring our town into the 21st century.”
The regeneration project was also welcomed by Cllr Ger Deere, who has a personal connection with the Military Barracks.
“There is huge history involved in the Military Barracks project,” he said. “Personally, it means a lot to me, as my late grandfather came here as a soldier from Limerick and met my grandmother.
“I’m also very excited about the development of the old Post Office for youth activities. Many great people have worked a long time to make this possible. Castlebar Community Development led by Paddy McGuinness and the late Billy Flynn, among many others, were always pushing the youth agenda. I look forward to work starting on it as soon as possible.”
The development of buildings around The Mall in the core of the town was highlighted by Cllr Cyril Burke. “We’re lucky to have that area in our town, and this funding will enhance that. I would also like to welcome the developments at Fort Wayne Metals, where Michael O’Donnell and his colleagues have led the way. With jobs comes prosperity, and this is a great expansion for Castlebar, but I would also like to know what are the plans for the new industrial park on the Ballinrobe Road, because other companies may come here and want to develop, which will only be good for the area,” he concluded.