THE campaign to revive Rathkeale Mart got a positive thumbs-up this week when over 160 people attended a specially convened meeting on the issue.
And although the meeting’s organisers, Fianna Fail politicians Niall Collins and Kevin Sheahan, stressed that the campaign was still in a preliminary stage, they were pleased with the turn-out and the outcome.
“I am very, very encouraged,” Cllr Sheahan said. “We have a mandate from the floor to proceed further and we promised there would be another meeting when we have something really positive to report.”
“The next step now will be to talk to Limerick County Council about their land-bank and what their intentions are for it,” he added. He was not discounting the possibility of a land-swap, he said, something which he had already been approached about. But he stressed: “Everything will have to be done out in the open,”
“There is an onus on Limerick County Council and its economic development unit to look at any proposal which would create economic activity and jobs,” Niall Collins TD said. “It is quite possible if the mart complex were to come into public ownership, a viable proposal could be pulled together to re-establish the Rathkeale mart in the same way as was done in Sixmilebridge.”
But the first requirement, he stressed was the availability of the site and he supported the mandate given to the Rathkeale area councillors to enter into negotiations. He cautioned however that the owners of the site have “yet to be fully identified” .
The former GVM mart was closed in late 2009 and the site sold, in two parcels. The main mart complex was bought in trust by a solicitor in 2011 but according to Cllr Stephen Keary and Cllr Kevin Sheahan, it has yet to appear in the land registry file.s.
Padraig Doherty, chairman of Rathkeale Community Council said they would welcome any possibility of business returning to the town. And he was hoping the campaign would take off as the closure of the mart had been a blow to the town’s commercial life.
John Enright, general secretary ICMSA, also addressed Monday’s meeting in Rathkeale House Hotel. “I think it is about getting a business plan in place to see if it is a viable proposition,” he told the Limerick Leader. Issues such as how the mart could be purchased and the facilities upgraded would need to be addressed, along with meeting the new working capital requirements. The big question, he said, was: “Do the numbers stack up? As an organisation, we would support the campaign but it is going to have to be viable.”
Jim Enright, from Co Clare was involved in the campaign to set up a farmers’ co-operative to buy the Sixmilebridge mart, which was also closed by GVM Marts at the same time as Rathkeale. “We never felt it should be closed,” he said. “We always felt the demand was there. It took two years but it was absolutely worth it.”
The mart there is now going “unbelievably well” with an average through-put of 500 cattle. If anything, the mart was now going even better than before, he said.