Town Hall speech, Ballinrobe Masses, Nov. 15 & 16, 2014


Saturday evening Mass: Sean O’Connell, treasurer

Sunday morning first Mass: Liam Horan, PRO

Sunday morning second Mass: Michael Sweeney, chairperson


First off, I would like to thank Canon Conal Eustace for his very kind invitation to the members of the new Ballinrobe Town Hall committee to address Masses this weekend, so that we can outline to the community our plans for the rebuilding of the hall.

As you are no doubt aware, Ballinrobe has not had a town hall since 1998 when the old hall closed; and, for safety and insurance reasons, it was knocked down a year later – so we have had over 15 years without a hall.

In that time, community groups have been forced to ‘make do’ with a variety of local venues in which to stage events. Thankfully there are some excellent facilities available locally, but I am sure you will agree with me when I say it has long been a common lament: “this town needs a town hall.”

A fresh move is now underway to rebuild the town hall. We are fortunate that much of the old town hall site is still available to us, and that is certainly a major boost as we set about developing this project.

In recent months, the town hall committee has been expanded by a number of new additions – most notably Siobhan O’Malley as secretary, Sean O’Connell as treasurer and Liam Horan as PRO. Michael Sweeney, as chairperson, is a link with the old Town Hall Company.

So far we have held one public consultation meeting at St Joseph’s primary school on Wednesday night last and one drop-in session at Ballinrobe Credit Union yesterday to outline our preliminary plans. After this Mass today, students from Ballinrobe Community School will hand out those plans – these also double as Comment Sheets because we want to get feedback on them.

The space available at the town hall is confined by adjacent buildings and lands, yet in the preliminary plans drawn up by local architectural consultant Donal McCormack, we have been able to create a 400-seater performance area, including a balcony, plus a variety of meeting and general purpose rooms and a properly resourced and spacious kitchen.

The approach is to create as broadly-based a facility as possible that will meet the needs of the community.

Over the next few days, we invite you to study those preliminary plans, talk to members of the committee and read local media coverage so that you can see what is being proposed and suggest any amendments you feel might enhance the building. You can return the Comment Sheets to us and we will pool the information to help give us the best town hall we can feasibly create.

Our aim is to give Ballinrobe a town hall of which we can all be proud: a hub of community, cultural and artistic life – a venue that will serve the community as long as the old hall did. That was there from 1886, when it was purchased by the parish from the British Government for the nominal sum of £5 until its demise at the end of the last millennium.

Down the line, community support will be needed. We don’t know yet how much the hall will cost, nor do we know exactly what public funding we will attract. We have already met with Mayo County Council and LEADER personnel to begin the process of gaining public funding, but, until we have finalised our plans, we cannot be sure what we will get.

What we do know, however, is that public funding will only flow when a local need has been demonstrated and proven – another reason why we need people to take part in the current consultation process, as represented by the hand-outs and comment sheets today.

No matter how much we get, we will rely on local financial support too. Ballinrobe has never been found wanting in terms of backing worthwhile community projects, and from the feedback we have been getting to date, we know that people are enthusiastic about the town hall being rebuilt so that this community can have a focal point that will do justice to the many great community organisations and individuals in our midst.

As I said, I would ask you to take the preliminary plans that are being handed out today, give them some thought and come back to us with your comments.

This public consultation process is crucial in determining what people feel is needed so that the town hall can be of maximum benefit in the future, without overlapping in any way on existing facilities. As the project progresses, we will keep people fully informed. Shortly we will launch an appeal for photographs from events of yesteryear in the town hall so that we can rekindle many of the warm memories that people have of the venue.

Thank you for your kind attention and I hope you too look forward to a day when Ballinrobe will have a superb town hall where we can sing, dance, play music, act, and engage in countless other community activities for many years to come.

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