The official opening and launch of a new community centre, ‘Áislann Rann na Feirsde’ took place in the community of Rann na Feirste, West Donegal, on Friday, 21 October. Attended by over 300 guests, the event marked the conclusion of fourteen years of hard work and commitment by community group, Comhlacht Tógra Rann na Feirste Teo, in bringing their exciting development plan for a Heritage, Educational and Resource Centre to fruition.
The 581 sq.m. development is designed to operate as an integrated Educational, Cultural and Heritage Centre, with a strong interdenominational policy, which will provide a mix of facilities for use by both locals and visitors to the area. Some of the facilities included at the Centre which was unveiled to visitors at the official opening, includes an Auditorium Study Centre, a Heritage Museum, Enterprise Units with a focus on social enterprise, an IT suite, a Library/Meeting room, a Tea Room/Craft Shop and Naíonra (Gaeltacht pre-school). One of the key objectives of the new Centre is to provide a facility which can support a range of dedicated peace and reconciliation activities, which will use the Irish language, culture and heritage to develop and encourage dialogue between the two Catholic and Protestant communities.
The capital project for the building of the new Community Centre was funded by significant contributions from the International Fund for Ireland (IFI), under its Building Foundations’ Community Based Economic and Social Regeneration Programme, the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, Údarás na Gaeltachta and the local community itself.
With close to 15,000 visitors set to be attracted to the Centre annually, it is expected that Áislann Rann na Feirsde will bring much needed economic and social benefits, not only to the people of the village of Rann na Feirste, but to the wider area of West Donegal.
Addressing guests at the official opening of the new Heritage, Educational and Resource Centre, Stiofán Ó Dónaill, Chairperson of Comhlacht Tógra Rann na Feirste Teo, said: “It is a very proud and happy moment to be officially opening this important Centre. The new Centre will play a vital part in ensuring that the long-standing ethos of culture and heritage associated with Rann na Feirste, the area where the purest Ulster Irish is spoken, is protected and preserved, while creating employment and providing many economic and social benefits.
“On behalf of all the people associated with this community and the members of Comhlacht Tógra Rann na Feirste Teo, may I sincerely thank all our funders and supporters, without whom none of this would be possible.“
Speaking at the official launch, Paddy Harte Jnr., Senior Development Officer for the International Fund for Ireland, said: “This marvellous new facility will play a vital role in the social life of the Rann na Feirsde community. The centre will be a shared space, for both traditions to come together. The community here has always extended a warm welcome to visitors from across the island of Ireland, North and South, and today’s development will only work to nurture and sustain this ethos well into the future.”
Paddy Harte Jnr. added: “I would like to pay tribute to all who have been involved in this project since those early days, fourteen years ago, particularly the volunteers behind the local cross-community group, Comhlacht Tógra Rann na Feirste Teo, who have worked so hard to develop this marvellous facility. Your selfless contribution and tireless efforts have left a lasting legacy for reconciliation in our community.”
Paddy Harte Jnr. also expressed a collective thanks to the international donors who have supported the work of the International Fund for Ireland for almost twenty-five years: namely, the United States of America, the European Union, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The official opening event was well attended by government representatives, councillors, community leaders and distinguished guests.