Kevin Kenneally and Maurice O'Connell
A BRIGHTER, more prosperous future beckons for Abbeyfeale if ambitious plans for the old, now unused, convent shape up.
The Abbeyfeale Community Council hopes to take over the building shortly and plans to transform it into a hub for new businesses and job creation, a community events hall and a visitor and heritage centre.
If the community council’s plans come to full reality, it could create scores of new jobs in the town as well as boosting Abbeyfeale’s attraction for tourism.
“The first step is securing the lease on the building, with a view to getting the freehold further down the line,” the chairman of Abbeyfeale Community Council, Maurice O’Connell told the Limerick Leader this week.
The community council has been in negotiation with the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board (LCETB) regarding the building for a number of months, he explained. “We are pleased that they want to go into final negotations with us.”
Mr O’Connell said they hoped the lease agreement will be signed off within the next month or two. But he stressed their plans would protect and enhance the current building while incorporating a new, future use for it.
The plans for the building are focused on developing a business enterprise incubation centre, and they hope to attract a significant anchor tenant as well as start-up companies by working closely with Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and Innovate Limerick.
“This project would never have gotten off the ground except that hi-fibre broadband is now in place directly outside the door,” Mr O’Connell said. And their hope and aim is to attract start-ups and businesses involved in technology. “The businesses coming in will not displace other businesses in the town,” he stressed. Rather, they will be adding to the town.
But crucially, there will also be a community arm to the convent transformatio. “We want to provide a multi-functional community events hall that will deliver to the needs of all groups of all ages,” Mr O’Connell said.
The plan also includes a proposal to develop an interpretive cum heritage centre which would showcase Abbeyfeale’s unique heritage and cultural richness and which would attract both domestic and international visitors.
Commenting on the project, George O’Callaghan, chief executive of LCETB said: “We are very supportive of Abbeyfeale Community Council’s plans for the old convent building. We look forward to the successful conclusion of those negotiations at the earliest opportunity in order to facilitate the community council’s development plans.”
“We see this an an unique opportunity that will benefit the entrire Abbeyfeale community,” Maurice O’Connell added. “The project will require the inclusion and support of all sections of the community along with support from the public and private sectors.”
“This project represents a new and positive chapter in the future of Abbeyfeale and its wider community.”
The Sisters of Mercy first came to Abbeyfeale in 1871 and went on to develop a national school and a secondary school. In 2011, the secondary school Scoil Iosaf amalgamated with St Ita’s Secondary School and the Vocational School in a new college campus now known as Coláiste Ide agus Iosaf.