Could the development of this former convent reinvent West Offaly?

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Former Ferbane Convent can play a key role in developing a sustainable tourism product in west Offaly, local councilor Eamonn Dooley has pointed out.

Cllr Dooley was speaking following the announcement of Regeneration and Rural Development funding which is providing €683,000 for planning and design work to revitalize Ferbane through the redevelopment of key sites in the heart of the town which , while aiming to attract visitors, improve the well-being and quality of life of all members of the community.

“This, along with the creation and generation of businesses, improving the environment, remote working and the needs of the local community and the voluntary sector will form essential elements of the planning phase,” said Cllr Dooley.

The Fianna Fail man added: “Ferbane’s centrality to Bord na Mona and ESB operations in Offaly and the cessation of these operations has accelerated rural decline in the area over the past decade, but offers also an opportunity to maximize the potential that the current focus on green and digital transitions present. Last week’s announcement is the first step towards achieving Ferbane’s ambitious goals.

He said the catalyst for this funding is the acquisition of St Joseph’s Convent in Cluny for the regeneration of Ferbane – a significant boost for a community that has borne the brunt of the decline in power generation from the peat over three decades.

“The role of Sr. Maeve and the Order of St. Joseph of Cluny in ensuring that this tremendous resource continues to benefit the community deserves recognition and gratitude,” the Ferbane-based public representative said.

“This desire for community gain was also evident from the first meeting Padraig Boland and I had with Sr. Benedict, Sr. Helena and Sr. Joseph, to explore the opportunity the sale of St. Joseph’s Convent presented for Ferbane. I would like to thank the current congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cluny and wish them many more years of service within our community,” he added.

Cllr Dooley continued: “There were a few other key ingredients for the project to gain national recognition and support. The group of volunteers, aided by the local development company Offaly, who produced the Ferbane Community Action Plan in May 2019 and the consultation process that underpins this document have helped lay the groundwork for community projects when the he opportunity to acquire the convent presented itself.

“Some members of this group were joined by other volunteers to register a community-owned business limited warranty, An Síolán, who liaised with Offaly County Council in developing a application for rural regeneration and development funding.The group, under the leadership of Brian Flynn, having explored potential funding for this ambitious project, identified the current fund and essential partnership required with the local authority to take advantage of the funding opportunity.

“The positive response from Offaly County Council Chief Executive Anna Marie Delaney gave the initiative momentum and the hard work of Olwen Cummins and his council colleagues to coordinate the application process was key to ensuring a quality proposition rooted in regeneration. de Ferbane was presented to the Ministry of Rural and Community Development.

Cllr Dooley said Minister Humphries’ announcement paves the way for the professional development of comprehensive rural regeneration for Ferbane. Phase 2 of the process will focus on using the convent building and surrounding area, St. Joseph Convent, as a focal point for socially inclusive education and training programs that underpin West’s transition Offaly towards a resilient, sustainable and thriving low carbon community.

“Meetings with Joe Cunningham, Managing Director, and Tony Dalton, FET Director, of LOETB have been extremely positive in this respect and their partnership with Garret Buckley at Gallen CS provides unique opportunities for Ferbane to establish itself as a rural center for excellence in lifelong learning.

“The inclusion of St. Hilda’s services in the convent mix is ​​an extremely positive development and the ability of this community to respond positively to children and adults with developmental disabilities is a tremendous indicator of a resilient and inclusive community. The facilitation of St Hilda’s services at the Mary Ward Heritage Center during the convent’s planning phase means that local people in need of their services can now access them in their own community, and I welcome the support of St. Hilda’s organization and the HSE for this initiative.

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