Westport Town Hall receives €920,000 in funding from Fáilte Ireland

After eleven years of planning and fundraising, it was announced at the weekend that the Westport Town Hall redevelopment project is to get under way next spring. The project has also received a massive financial injection from Fáilte Ireland, who, it was formally revealed on Saturday, have committed €920,000 to the fund. 

The total spend on the project will be in the region of €3 million, with almost one million in local contributions already raised. This was matched by one million in funding from Westport Town Council, Mayo County Council and LEADER. Substantial contributions were also pledged by St Mary’s Parish and St Patrick’s Drama Group.

Westport Town Hall, long a landmark at the centre of community life in the town, has been closed for several years now. The building became structurally unsafe and it has been in a state of disrepair and in need of major investment for some time. In 2001, a committee headed by local businessman Noel Kavanagh, was formed to look at a redevelopment proposal, and after an industrious effort which involved local authorities and the goodwill of the people of Westport, those at the front of the campaign are on the verge of seeing their hard work rewarded.

A building contractor has already been selected to carry out the work, and the refurbishment will provide a modern performing arts centre incorporating a 244 seat theatre and general purpose hall for local and travelling performances, and a community meeting room overlooking the Octagon, together with associated facilities.

Reminiscent of the original Westport Town Hall, there will also be a first floor balcony, which will be utilised for civic purposes and other celebratory events.

Minister of State Michael Ring made the announcement of the €920,000 Fáilte Ireland funding from the aptly named Octagon Room – which looks across at the Town Hall – in The Wyatt Hotel last Saturday.
He said a super year for Westport continued to get better, and while it was not easy to get such a financial commitment over the bar, he said the project would be great for the entire area when completed, and will create employment.

“We had smarter travel, several big positive jobs announcements, national accolades and now in a fantastic sporting week where young Con Doherty brought home a medal from the world triathlon championships and Lee Keegan bestowed on the town its first ever GAA All-Star, I am delighted to announce this funding for a project that will also be at the heart of the community,” he said.

He thanked Noel Kavanagh and his committee for their sterling work, along with County Manager Peter Hynes, who was Westport Town Manager when this proposal was first mooted, and other members of the local authority executive.

Chairman of the Development Committee, Noel Kavanagh, said that it has been a long road to get the project to this point and he stressed that it was the community investment that drove it on.

“We have received fantastic support from all sides and have enjoyed a great marriage between Mayo County Council, Westport Town Council and LEADER, and as a result we hope to have one of the finest facilities in the country for the community, for visitors to Westport and the greater area,” he said, also heaping praise on Seán Staunton, whom he said was his sounding board on the project. Mr Kavanagh also indicated that there will be a ‘little more’ fundraising done at local level, saying there will be ‘one final sweep’.

Westport Town Manager, Martin Keating, noted the role played by the local Church and current Curate Fr Charlie McDonnell, who are transferring their ownership of the Town Hall over to the development group in order to facilitate the project. He also thanked LEADER and Gerry O’Neill, who he said provided considerable funding, and his predecessor Joe Beirne, who was present, whom he said had gotten the project through some rocky waters over the years.

Cathaoirleach of Westport Town Council, Ollie Gannon, also thanked all the contributors and noted that 2012 for Westport would long be remembered for numerous joyous reasons, while the final word fell to County Manager, Peter Hynes, who said it was a remarkable community in a remarkable town that had donated one million to the project.

Recalling being marched into a meeting about the plan in 2001, he said; “this is eleven years in the making, and the end result will be the better for that.” 

He called Seán and Noel remarkable leaders who never faltered in their determination and thanked his own team in Mayo County Council, Westport Town Council and LEADER. He also thanked Minister Ring and his department, the media and said that soon Westport won’t only be the best town to live in,’ it will also be the best town to go to the theatre in’.

Neill O’Neill
The Mayo News