Galway TD Noel Grealish has said that a much needed community centre for the Newcastle area of Galway City is ready to go if funded, and asked the government to commit to funding for such construction projects.
Speaking in the Dáil, Noel Grealish said that the site for the proposed Newcastle Community Centre is shovel ready, as a community led committee already raised the money for purchasing the site, and subsequently secured planning permission.
There has been €200,000 raised for the project by the local community already, Deputy Grealish said, and Galway City Council has committed another €900,000. This comes to almost a third of the €3.8 million estimated price tag of the poject.
“There has long been a need for such a facility in the Newcastle and neighbouring Dangan areas, especially since the only hotel in the area, a focal point for the community, closed in recent years.”
He added that Newcastle is a “maturing area” with one third of the population in the area listed as over 60 years old in the last census.
“People in the area need a facility like this within easy reach of their homes. They need somewhere to meet up with their neighbours, enjoy social activities or take further educational courses will become more pronounced as the population matures further.”
“All that is needed is adequate funding for this project. Those involved have ambitious plans to contribute to the health and wellness of the local community, as well as providing educational opportunities and accommodating sporting activity.”
With the money raised by the local community, and the commitment from Galway City Council, that leaves a shortfall of €2.9 million for the facility to serve the community of 6,000 people.
Deputy Grealish asked Taoiseach Michéal Martin to commit to establishing a community centre fund to provide capital support for building projects like this.
Beyond the initial cost of construction, Noel Grealish said that the local community is committed to ensuring the long term viability of the community centre by using it to also generate income which will cover the operating costs.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar acknowledged that there has “never really been” a dedicated capital fund for community centres nationwide.
While the €4.5 million community enhancement fund launched in May of this year is open to all community groups, the Taoiseach said that the “scale of allocation” in this fund is unlikely to be enough for this project.
He added that a review of the national development plan, being carried out by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath, is examining the introduction of a dedicated programme for large scale grants for community centre projects.
The Taoiseach also said that he would speak with Ministers Heather Humphreys and Darragh O’Brien to see what could be done in conjunction with the city council in the meantime.
“I will certainly pursue that with the Ministers involved to see whether, in conjunction with the local authority, we can do more to make sure that what is a shovel-ready project can actually be brought to fruition.”