Report on St. Brigid’s Ballinasloe shows desire to honour mental health history

Galway Daily news Report on possible future uses of St. Brigid's in Ballinasloe

A report on potential uses for the site of the former St. Brigid’s in Ballinasloe shows a consensus on what people want for the former psychiatric hospital.

The report follows up on a workshop with local businesses, state agencies, and community representatives in Ballinasloe held by Minister Denis Naughten as part of his ‘Re-imagining St. Brigid’s’ project back in June.

“This report clearly shows how positively this project has been met and the commitment and enthusiasm of the workshop attendees,” explained Minister Naughten.

“What was most interesting was that a consensus of opinion emerged for the future of the site despite the diverse nature of the stakeholders in attendance, a strong indicator of the support for the project.”

According to Minister Naughten, everyone involved wanted the site to retain a strong connection to the site’s mental health roots.

Consensus was for a multi-use space with an interactive museum and heritage site. Around this site would be a centre of excellence for mental health research with training facilities and a wellness village and trails.

The report claims that the mental-health themed facilities could support between 150 – 200 jobs in the Ballinasloe area.

The possibility of a commercial element was also acknowledged, with the report saying that: “The site could offer office space, conference space, start-up incubation space and also potential to use this site for film/production/media.

“From the beginning this project has been about stimulating debate on the future for the town and the St. Brigid’s site and about bringing together local knowledge and national expertise,” said Minister Naughten.

“To map how this could progress and what exactly the future could look like for this landmark location.”

The project has the benefit of a unique site of national significance, and the fact that collaboration with state agencies has been taking place from the very beginning works in its favour.

However the report also points out the difficulties that comes with working with listed buildings like St. Brigid’s that can’t have too much work done to them.

There’s also the possibility that the recommendations in the report are too broad, and beyond the capacity of the site at St. Brigid’s.

To progress the project any further would require the involvement of both local authorities, and the HSE would have to agree to sell the site.

But Minister Naughten insists that many of the key players are already on board, “The response to this project has been extremely positive from both the local community and the State agencies,”

“With the likes of Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, Government Departments, the Film Board and RTE among the many who attended the discussion workshop.”

The next key steps for any attempt to rejuvenate St. Brigid’s is to create an action group out of invested partners to promote it, and perform a feasibility study with a financial plan for the project.

No matter what decisions are ultimately made about how to use the Ballinasloe site, one thing that’s agreed is the need to move fast in drawing up a plan and securing financial backers, including approaching private philanthropists.