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Culture boost for Westport

Culture boost for Westport

Joan Geraghty

A new business venture promoting Irish culture which aims to bring €10 million euro into the local economy over the next five years is being set up in Westport.
Gnó Mhaigh Eo has received €500,000 euro in backing from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and has also secured funding of €20,000 euro per year from Mayo County Council, €5,000 per year from Ireland West Tourism and €10,000  per year from Westport Chamber of Commerce, all for three years.
Westport Town Council also agreed to fund the project to the tune of €20,000 annually for three years at its October meeting last week.
Teaching of the Irish language will feature strongly in the cultural programme of the new body, which will also provide business services through Irish.
According to the submission to the council by Gnó Mhaigh Eo, the company will create four full-time jobs and 20 part-time jobs in Westport.
The submission continued:
“Gnó Mhaigh Eo will establish a Cultural and Language Centre and target major cultural festivals and conferences to the town.
“Westport is to be promoted as the Cultural Hub of Ireland, attracting visitors from all over the world. It will organise Bilingual Educational and Sports Camps for the youth of Westport and drama, music and Irish lessons will be provided in the town.
“Westport will become the gateway to the Gaeltacht and the Islands. Gno Mhaigh Eo will forge a business link with the Gaeltacht regions of Tuar Mhin Eadaigh, Acaill agus Iorras and the islands so that people from rural Gaeltacht areas will come and spend their money in Westport.
“The Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs is eager to officially launch Gno Mhaigh before the end of 2006, provided the matching funding is secured and in place.”
Reference was made to the fact that after Gaillimh le Gaeilge was set up in 1987, a GMIT survey found that Irish culture was worth €17 million pounds to Galway at that time. Gno Mhaigh will undertake a similar study regarding Westport and Mayo.
A total of 52 universities around the world now offer courses in Irish and Heritage studies. Gno Mhaigh Eo in Westport aims to attract these students to the town by organising cultural activities and day trips to the nearby Gaeltacht regions.
A written report on the activities of the company and its benefits to Westport is to be provided every six months, as well as a copy of the annual accounts. The steering committee for Gnó Mhaigh Eo is headed up by Westport native and journalist, Piaras O’Raghaillaigh.
Welcoming the project, Westport Town Manager said the whole area of Irish cultural development was ‘an Aladdin’s Cave waiting to be explored, certainly in the context of Westport.’
“Pearse O Raghaillaigh has put an enormous amount of work developing this over the past three years. The idea of Westport as a cultural hub is very attractive and would knit in well with its already being a tourist hub,” stated Mr Hynes.
Councillors warmly welcomed the project and unanimously  supported the request for funding.