|The crowd start to assemble for the official opening of Forrest Hall|
It was a dry cold day in the Square in Mitchelstown last Thursday evening. As daylight faded, the beautiful Christmas lights lit up the square. There was also a warm glow in the hearts of the huge crowd assembled there. They were in the square to witness a Historic event as Mitchelstown Community Council prepared to open their new Forrest Hall Community Centre
This was indeed a great achievement for them, and proof of the local community spirit, that such a project has come to fruition, and the new community centre stands proudly in this beautiful square in the heart of Mitchelstown in what was for a long time a disused building.
Mr Sean Finn Chairman thanked everybody for being there and paid tribute to Councillor Frank O’ Flynn, who was the first person approached by the Community Council about the project, Sean said that Frank’s enthusiasm, support and advice throughout the project was invaluable.
Sean also paid tribute to Richard Keating, Mary Ryan, James Fogarty, Alan Morgan, and Barry Owens, Pauline Moriarty and all of the Cork County Council Staff who collectively came behind them, and encouraged, supported them and who were, to a person, a pleasure to deal with.
He also thanked community Garda John Hennessy a great friend of Mitchelstown Community Council as well as all the County councillors who supported this worthwhile, local, project.
He Said ‘Susan Gallagher from Clann Credo was most supportive and obliging in all of our dealings. Clann Credo is a Social Investment Fund in Ireland founded by Sr Magdalen Fogarty and the Presentation Sisters in 1996. Its goal is to make capital available to community-focused enterprises to promote their growth.’
He also paid tribute to the main contractor Billy O’Rourke and all his staff from Fox and O’Rourke, as well as the various sub-contractors who did such a fine job of work to a very high standard and deserve acknowledgement.
He said others, such as Dom’s Tiles and Albany Colours, deserve special mention for their help and generosity, not excluding others who worked on the project.
He thanked Denis McGrath, their next door neighbour for giving us the use of his yard over the past eleven months, evidence of a great neighbour to them here, and he thanked all the neighbours in New Square for their patience during the project.
Sean said ‘A community based project such as this is dependent on the goodwill, talents and generosity of many volunteers. We are indebted to our Tús workers especially David O’ Gorman, supervisor and all involved in the Tús operations. Thank you to Graham Williams, Kevin Piggott, Jason Skinner, and Brian Murphy who voluntarily painted the interior and exterior and engaged in other work in Forrest Hall during the final stages’.
He added ‘My sincere thanks to my dedicated and diligent fellow Forrest Hall committee members, namely: Therese Horgan, Garda John Hennessy, Harry Walsh and Ger Brennan whose stamina and endurance kept the project alive. Thank you to Kayren and Mary who maintained the Forrest Hall Facebook page during the past year, ensuring that people far and wide were kept abreast of the developments by regularly uploading photos and news of the progress’.
He also thanked the donors; and said ‘this would not have been possible without you. Every donation made a difference and we assure you that every cent was and will be put to good use in developing this amenity’.
Sean Continued saying ‘This venture could never have got off the ground without Declan Finn, a capable, community orientated and skilled young engineer/architect. Declan’s vision became a reality; his weekly, and sometimes daily, visits kept our project on track. His great talent is evident to everyone who has been in Forrest Hall and his voluntary work for our community will leave a footprint for many generations to come. (I have unofficially heard that RTE are head-hunting him to replace Dermot Bannon, in Room to Improve, but I can’t verify that.) Thank you very much Declan.’
The Community is already seeing the benefits of the new Community Centre and Forrest Hall is the new home to Cloyne Diocesan Youth Services under Brian Williams and staff and Cork ETB under Nuala White and staff also use the centre. Both organisations will be an invaluable support to the community especially the young people of Mitchelstown.
The official blessing by Canon Fitzgerald Canon Tim O’Leary, Fr Gabriel Burke, and Rev Walter Hill then took place followed by the Official Opening by Mayor, Seamus McGrath who officially cut the tape and opened Forrest Hall to the public.
The County Mayor praised the vision and commitment of Mitchelstown and said that it was a huge day for the town of Mitchelstown and surrounding area. He said that Cork County Council recognise the great benefits of working with Community Councils to bring benefit to local communities. He said that he had toured the building earlier and that it was a credit to them. He said also that the co-operation and partnership approach was one that Cork Council will definitely use going forward.
As they were officially opening the building during 2016, the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, Mitchelstown Community Council unveiled a plaque, designed and sculptured by local craftsman, JJ O’ Mahony, Limerick Road, to honour the events of 100 years ago. The plaque was erected and displayed on the front of Forrest Hall to remind people of the sacrifices made by our forefathers on our behalf. Councillor Frank O’ Flynn Chairman of Cork County Council’s 1916 anniversary team unveiled the plaque and read the 1916 Proclamation and the James Fitzgerald Memorial Mitchelstown Brass and Reed Band played Amhrán na bhFiann as the Christmas Lights shone brightly in New Square beneath the Galtee Mountains.