Concerns over future of Doon convent

Public meeting to take place in village

Áine Fitzgerald

Reporter:

Áine Fitzgerald

Email:

aine.fitzgerald@limerickleader.ie

Concerns over future of Doon convent

A public meeting has been called over the use of Doon Convent

A PUBLIC meeting has been called in Doon after locals raised concerns about the future use of the convent which they say could become a rehabilitation centre for young people with criminal convictions.

Following a meeting of Doon Redevelopment Group at the end of February, the parish newsletter was circulated earlier this month outlining details of the Doon Convent Redevelopment.

The main concern for locals centres on phase one of the proposed redevelopment - a social/care farm.

According to the newsletter, “the proposed plan is to provide opportunities for young people from Doon and surrounding areas, who are in employment education or training, providing avenues for them to improve their life”.

“There is bit of disquiet around the parish in relation to the plans Ballyhoura have for the convent so there is going to be a public meeting to gauge the reaction,” said Francis Cummins, secretary of Doon Community Alert.

“There are concerns that Ballyhoura Rural Services are going to use it as a social farming experiment for people who may or may not have a criminal conviction.”

The newsletter states that it will be a day service and at the initial stage it is envisaged that it will cater for four to eight students at any one time.

“When fully operational 15 to 20 students will be present. Activities will take place on the farm, and in the farm buildings. It is anticipated this site will become operational during 2017.”

Phase two of the project will concentrate on the redevelopment of the convent while phase three will concentrate on the old school buildings.

When contacted, Kay Dawson, chairperson of Ballyhoura Rural Services said she hadn’t been invited to the public meeting which takes place on Tuesday night in Doon Community Centre at 8pm.

“There is a group - teenagers in their latter years - 16 years and upwards for whom school doesn’t always work. They seem to fall through the cracks with no real focus on their future,” she explained.

“A model we have seen that really works for them is the social care farm concept whereby you go back into the use of the land and you build on their self esteem and self worth and upskill them.”

According to Ms Dawson, the future of the convent which is owned by the Mercy nuns has been the focus of  public consultation in Doon.

“There was a lot of work done in Doon in terms of what the community actually wanted. There was nobody coming up with any major ideas. The social care farm is only a small side of it.”

According to Ms Dawson, “this is Doon’s project and we don’t see ourselves as coming in and imposing something on Doon that would damage Doon.”

In relation to fears about the presence of groups of young people with criminal convictions, Ms Dawson said that nothing is set in stone in terms of what will become of the property. “We are teasing it out and seeing what kind of project would work,” Ms Dawson added.

“If you go into any village in Limerick or Cork or any county, you will see young people who have gone just slightly outside the margins and a bit of help would make an awful difference to their life.”