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Symbol of Belmullet’s future

Auditorium in Belmullet Civic Centre
IMPRESSIVE The 170-seater Inis Glóire auditorium in the Belmullet Civic Centre is a multifunctional theatre with retractable seat rows, dance floor, sound system and screen for film shows. 

A symbol of Belmullet’s future

Anton McNulty

THE SMILE on the face of the Caothaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Gerry Coyle stretched the length of the Mullet peninsula as he officially opened the Belmullet Civic Centre, County Council office and Library last Friday.
The words ‘historic’ and ‘proud’ are often overused on such occasions, but for the people of Belmullet and the wider Erris community the completion of one of the most modern and integrated civic centres in Ireland truly was historic. And they certainly were proud.
The officially opening of the Council offices, which will house the Motor Tax Offices and the new library, was just the first step on a road which will also lead to the opening of Údarás na Gaeltachta offices, a new courthouse and a new arts centre in the coming weeks.
A crowd of over 150 people, including local councillors, Council officials and members of the community, were greeted by the Patrick Earley String Quartet, before they packed into the new theatre for the building’s official opening. Cllr Gerry Coyle said the town was proud of the new facilities and it was a ‘good news story’ for the area. He claimed the new building showed what can be achieved in rural areas when groups work together.
“A place like this cannot come to pass without all the pieces of the jigsaw coming together to complete the picture. This picture could not be completed without the wonderful support of the community, the GAA, the arts group, Mayo County Council, Údarás and the Courts Service, who all played their part. I am very proud of Mayo County Council and all politics is about giving a bit, taking a bit and being part of the bigger picture. When we go out from here as councillors, we put on the Mayo jersey and we have to look at the countywide bigger picture. That is the only way progress can be made,” he said.
Cllr Coyle paid tribute to all the people who worked to make the project a reality, including the former trustees of the community pitch. He thanked the Council and the County Manager, Des Mahon, who he said was true to his word from day one. The civic centre was a statement of intent from the Council that they are going to support rural Ireland.
“The jigsaw is complete in Belmullet and we are all very proud of what we achieved here. There is another €5-7 million project starting very soon to the extension of St Brendan’s College, we have a fabulous hotel down the road, we have a golf course which is number 28 in the world. This is a fabulous place to live and be part of,” concluded Cllr Coyle.
The €7 million building was first mooted after the local arts group, Ionad Ealaíona Iorras, received a €1 million grant for an arts centre for Belmullet. After the initial site plans for the building fell through, the trustees of the community pitch which was used by the GAA were approached to provide the site for the centre. At a public meeting in December 2002, the public overwhelmingly voted for breaking up the trust and giving title of the land to Mayo County Council on the proviso that an arts centre would be built, along with a car park and playground.
The building was part-funded by the Courts Services who provided over €1 million; Mayo County Council who gave €900,000 and Údarás na Gaeltachta, who provided €1.7 million, while an additional €1.4 million was from arts funding. Ionad Ealaíona Iorras are the only voluntary organisation involved in the project and a recent fundraiser raised €12,000 when 120 people each sponsored €100 for a seat in the new theatre, which will be used to screen the latest films, among other things.
Mr Des Mahon, the County Manager, said the project was the finest example of joined-up public service thinking in the country. The building was a symbol of a better and brighter future that the Council are striving towards, and he acknowledged the generosity of the park trustees, to whom the community owes a great debt of gratitude. He also paid tribute to Cllr Tim Quinn, who in his capacity as Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council was instrumental in getting the project off the ground.
In his conclusion, he told the persons present to make sure the building is full of life and energy and that the opening was not the end, but the real beginning, for Belmullet.