Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Public meeting on Ó Modhráin Memorial Hall issue

(Photo courtesy Google Maps.)
Kilcullen resident Orla O'Neill is leading a group trying to save the Ó Modhráin Hall in Newbridge for community use, writes Brian Byrne.

The group has called a public meeting for Thursday night at 8pm, in Newbridge Town Hall, to discuss the property and what it calls its 'sudden' sale last week, as a 'high profile development site'.

Orla O'Neill, whose father was a trustee of the hall for decades, says local people are 'shocked' at the sale, and want the Charities Regulator to confirm whether or not the current trustees have the right to sell it. "I'm familiar with the hall and the background but my wider interest is fighting to retain community and public spaces," she adds.

The hall was originally part of the historic British army barracks in the town, and was bought in the late 1950s and a trust set up to develop it for the promotion of Irish culture, dance and music. It was named after Éamonn Ó Modhráin (1881-1954) from Ballysax, who was a prominent nationalist and republican in Kildare during the early years of the 20th century.

It is understood the trustees were to hold the property for community use in line with its aims. Work was undertaken over 40 years ago to re-roof the property and in later years the trustees were asked to allow a youth centre use the building and plans were also developed for a band hall there.

Ms O’Neill said the Town Hall venue shows what can be achieved in giving new life to a historic building. She added the group has many questions about how the building came to be offered for sale and they want the planned purchase stopped rather than completed.

Last week an official at the office of the Charity Regulator said the queries raised by Newbridge people would be investigated. The hall and site were sold at auction for €270,000 and had a guide price of €200,000. Sale documentation said the agreement of the Charities Regulator is required.

"Although the site was derelict for decades the Council was finally going to do something with it until this happened," Orla O'Neill says. "They were interested in something for youth as far as I know."

Another Kilcullen connection to the Hall is that one of the former trustees was Joe O'Connor from Calverstown.