The following is the full text of the speech by Michael Sweeney, Chairperson, Ballinrobe Town Hall, at the official launch of the Campaign to Rebuild Ballinrobe Town Hall, March 9, 2016, in Flannery’s Bar and Restaurant.
Ever since seven enlightened community minded gentlemen formed the Ballinrobe Town Hall Company on 17th. December 1886 the hall has been the beating heart of the Ballinrobe community.
Sadly after 110yrs. the building was no longer fit for purpose, insurance having been withdrawn it had to be closed and demolished.
The rebuilding of the Town Hall has been the topic of conversation for many years and is close to the heart of all of us here in this community.
It’s almost 20yrs since the community lost the facility that for 110yrs supported and nurtured all the social gatherings necessary for a community.
This loss left a void in the community’s amenities but of more significance has been the cost to the community in general.
We have a great community and a great town. But this project is not just important for its own sake. It’s important also for the sake of Ballinrobe making a statement about itself.
That we believe in our town and that we are willing to invest time and energy in it.
As a community, we have this opportunity now to invest in our town for current and future generations. Let’s not miss it.
The Town Hall provided a suitable space for a variety of events. The community was enabled to socialise, to celebrate the successes it achieved. It afforded young people their first opportunity to perform on stage and to showcase their talents. It also allowed for touring artistic and cultural acts to perform.
It was the venue in the 1960s for the drama festivals. The renowned English based Glyndebourne Opera Company under the direction of Ballinrobe native Courtney Kenny performed there over a number of years.
It was the location for the birth and rebirth of the musical society which achieved national acclaim with its recent productions. It catered for ceilis, concerts, feiseanna, social dancing, bingo and large meetings. All these events can return or be accommodated more comfortably in the proposed new building.
However, more important is the fact, that many of the events allowed for lasting friendships to be formed among the people within our community and beyond.
The project has already inspired the formation of a drama group in the town namely The Wilde River Drama Group. Part proceeds of their productions the first of which will be in October will be donated to the Town Hall fundraising campaign.
Major projects have been done before. I refer to the Racecourse, The Golf Club, The Town Park, The Harry Clark Windows, The Lakeside Sports and Leisure Centre to name but a few.
AND WE CAN DO IT AGAIN.
In its ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ the General Assembly of the United Nations states that everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community; to enjoy the arts etc.. YES, we have the RIGHT but lack the facility to participate fully.
Health experts now accept that for the general health and well-being of a community venues, that cater for community interaction and engagement are as important as sports facilities.
What our committee has done to date has only scratched the surface compared to the work that has to be done from tonight onwards. It is not going to be easy but with effort comes attainment. We are calling on everybody with a love of Ballinrobe to support this project.
To be blunt this project needs you to dig deep into your pockets. The Town Hall will not build itself.
The finance required to be raised within the community is significant and Sean O’Connell will deal with this in a moment.
Having engaged with Mayo County Council and LEADER, the agencies from whom we will be seeking support, we are optimistic about receiving financial assistance. However what must be said is that it is annoying and extremely disappointing that, at present, no Government Department has authority to allocate funding for our project. When this was brought to the attention of the Government at the highest level it was acknowledged that it would have to be addressed. We are therefore calling on the incoming administration to ensure that this is carried out when the Programme for Government is being formulated. It is essential not just for Ballinrobe but for similar projects throughout this country. There are very few communities without such a facility so the overall budget cost should be very small.
A Company has been formed with Charitable Status. The Directors being Michael Burke, Sheena Duddy, Liam Horan, Des May, Sean O’Connell, Siobhan O’Malley, Margot O’Shea and yours truly. Siobhan O’Malley, Sean O’Connell and Liam Horan appointed Secretary, Treasurer and Public Relations Officer respectively. We are very fortunate that Siobhan, Sean and Liam agreed to act in these positions because their professionalism and skill sets are such that they would be an asset to any national organisation. I can assure you that without their work rate this project would not be as advanced as it is.
Gwen Costello, Mike Finnerty, Emmet Humphreys, Mary Jackson, Marie O’Haire, Rory O’Neill, Tony Walkin together with local representatives Cllrs Patsy O’Brien and Damien Ryan complete the present committee and their input has been vital to the project.
My sincere thanks to all the members of the group for their commitment and dedication.
The shareholders of the old Town Hall Company have got to be thanked and congratulated on their decision to transfer all assets to the new company. Their decision was a major boost to the project and has contributed significantly to our financial position.
The brochure unveiled tonight outlines the means by which everyone within and outside the Ballinrobe community can contribute financially to enable the project to succeed. The recently launched website has generated great reaction and interest and will be a major feature in keeping all informed of progress in the months ahead.
We very much appreciate those who have offered to assist and we invite more members of the community to come forward.
We believe that this project is crucial for Ballinrobe as a community.
It is an opportunity for the community to leave a legacy for future generations where they can enjoy all that was associated with the hall.
It is an opportunity for the community to once again have a focal point that will do justice to the many wonderful organisations and individuals in our midst.
Now is the time to replace the Town Hall in its historical site and with your support this can be achieved.