Celtic Cross & Cathedral Car Park

Last week, in one of my last official acts as Mayor, I officially launched the environmental improvements at the Cathedral Car Park, the centre-piece of which is the new Celtic Cross (which was the source of much controversy earlier this year, more info here).

The cross is an absolutely stunning piece of work, towering over an area which has seen huge improvements over the last three years. It was a great honour to officially unviel the cross, and launch the new car park. This area of the town is an area the Council are very proud of, and rightfully so. In my speech, I paid particular tribute to all the council staff who have worked on the project, between designing, planning and building.

Redmond Herrity is an exceptionally talented artist and sculptor, and this piece will be a testament to his skill for many decades to come. If you’re in Letterkenny, check it out (it’s located outside the Cathedral, which can be seen from all around the town).

New Street Signage for Letterkenny

It was once said to me that “whoever put up the signs in Letterkenny, obviously knew where they were going”. It’s true to say that Letterkenny was very poor for signage, both directional and informational.

We’re trying to do something about that. We’re working to improve the directional signage for drivers at all the major junctions, and have commisioned over 100 new place name signs to be erected throughout the town. These signs have come out really well, and are starting to be erected around the town. Here’s an example, from Castle Street (which runs from the Cathedral to the top of the Market Square). This sign is located on the wall of the grounds of the Convent.

New Letterkenny Street Signs - 1

The signs are made from cast Iron, and are then hand painted. In particular, the Town Crest has come up really well. These signs should be appearing at all public spaces in the Town over the next few weeks.

I think they really match the character of the Town, in particular the area from the Cathedral to the Square, where the Town Council has been investing money to improve the area. On a side note, we should be officially unveiling the new Celtic Cross (yes, that Celtic Cross) at the Cathedral Car Park on June 21st.

Of course, not everything always goes perfect. It doesn’t take much to wreck a picture-perfect area of the town. In the interest of balance, this is the image that greeted me just beside where this new sign was located:

New Letterkenny Street Signs - 2

This would be annoying, and disgusting, at the best of times, but this is of course June, which means Tidy Towns judging. I’ll be in touch with the council first thing in the morning to try to get this sorted out. Letterkenny Town Council puts a lot of resources in to fighting litter throughout the year, so I would be confident this bin will be fixed quickly.

Update: I passed the bin above at 9:10 am the next day (Friday) and it has been repaired and cleaned perfectly. Many thanks to those involved from the council side. Quick to respond as ever!

Update: Here’s a photo from Brian McDaid, for the launch of the new signs

New Street Signs
Cllr Damien Blake with Joe Gallagher, Michael McFadden, Raymond Shiels and John Buchanan, launching the new street signs.

Letterkenny Educate Together School Approved

A huge congratulations today to Kathryn Daly and all involved with the Letterkenny Educate Together group, as their school has been officially sanctioned to open in Letterkenny in September.

Educate Together Schools are multi-denominational, parent-led schools with a strong focus on inclusion and bringing children of differing religious, cultural and social backgrounds together. After the development of Letterkenny in recent years, most people would agree that this new school is very welcome, and fills a real need locally.

Kathryn, together with a very hard working committee, have put a huge effort in to this project. They have more than 40 children registered to start in September, and are now working to finalise a location for the school. I’m sure they will be as succesful in that as they have been at every stage of this project.

Update: More information on Educate Together is available on their website.

Letterkenny Cathedral Car Park

Following on from yesterday’s Derry People Donegal News front page story, there was a discussion today on Highland Radio about Letterkenny Town Council’s decision to erect a Celtic Cross at the Cathedral Car Park, which would also feature an image of Pope John Paul II. This decision is being questioned, as the Car Park is also outside the local Church of Ireland Church, and a Presbyterian Parish Hall (Trinity Hall).

I was not at the meeting when this decision was taking (I attended at the start, but had to leave as the meeting took place during my exams), but the minutes are available here on this website Scroll down to “MONUMENT – CATHEDRAL CAR PARK”, 5 points from the very end. I have also spoken to many other councillors and officials about this, and have spoken on Highland this morning about the issue.

This decision was taken shortly after the death of Pope John Paul II, and was intended to mark his contribution to life in modern Ireland. That said, I also respect the position that this image may cause offence in such a public position, and support the idea that we should be erecting a piece to show our shared history, and the common parts of our cultures.

I have proposed that we arrange a meeting between representatives of the council, and all the parties in the Cathedral Car Park, to discuss this issue and seek a resolution. I hope to arrange this for early next week.

As I said on Highland Radio today, I would particularly like to thank Rev Stuart Wright for his response to this issue. Rev Wright has always been very approachable, and he has dealt with this issue in a very proactive and measured way.

If you have any comments or questions about this issue, please either post them here or get in contact with me directly.

Update (Feb 28th 2006): An innacurate report in today’s Donegal Democrat claims that I have “confirmed” that the Pope’s image will be removed from the cross. This is not true; I confirmed that I will be meeting members of the clergy and outlined that it would be possible to replace the middle section, on which the Pope’s image currently is. The council will decide on this issue on March 8th. I’d also like to highlight that it was never the intention of the council for the Pope’s image to appear on the cross. There has been a substantial breakdown in communication on this issue, one which we are moving to address as quickly as possible.

Update (March 3rd 2006): This story is close to being resolved. At the next council meeting (Wednesday March 8th) I will be proposing that we replace the section with Pope John Paul’s image with a section done similar to the rest of the Cross, and that the image of Pope John Paul be donated to the Catholic Diocese of Raphoe. I am confident this will be accepted by the members; I have discussed it with representatives of the Catholic Church, Church of Ireland and Trinity Presbyterian Church, and they all accept the proposal. The story has been featured on Radio on Highland, BBC Radio Foyle, BBC Radio Ulster, RTE Radio 1 and in many of Ireland’s national papers. We’ve moved to resolve this situation as quickly as possible, and I hope it will be finalised next week.

2006 Council Trip to USA

At our last monthly meeting (Monday, January 9th), it was once again agreed that Letterkenny Town Council would send a delegation to the USA during St Patrick’s week, maintaining a tradition that has run for over a decade. I’ve discussed this in the local press this week, including on Highland Radio News.

When first elected, I opposed the Council’s trip to New York for the St Patrick’s Day parade. I didn’t believe that the trip offered value-for-money for the Town’s Rate Payers. I still don’t believe it did. Traditionally, the Council went to New York alone for the parade, and some functions with the Donegal Association. My opposition, and my motions to defer the trip, were voted fown 7-2 in the Council Chamber. As Deputy Mayor, it fell to me to travel on the trip.

I agreed to this, on the grounds that the trip was changed. Rather than travel solely to New York, we also travelled to Philadelphia where Donegal man Vince Gallagher was the Grand Marshall, and Elizabethtown in Pennsylvania, which is twinned with Letterkenny (and has been for a few years now). We then travelled North to New York, where we attended the St Patrick’s Day parade on Fifth Avenue, and a number of excellent functions with the Donegal Association.

The trip was hugely succesful, and indeed effective. During the trip, members of our delegation attended functions with the Mayor of Philadelphia, the Minister for Education Mary Hanafin TD, The Governor of New York, and New York’s Mayor Bloomberg. We were giving a fantastic welcome in Eliabethtown, which has borne great fruit for Letterkenny.

The traditional trip to New York has now developed into an important excercise in building relationships across the world for Letterkenny and Donegal. Every year, the Council’s budget for International travel is underspent, and our international relationships bring much more money back to the town than are spent on our travelling abroad. Our relationship with Elizabethtown regularly sees groups of more than twenty people coming to Letterkenny, whereas we send only four people. The Town benefits on educational, commercial and tourism levels from this relationship, which we can only further benefit from.

This year, I intend to take the Council back to Elizabethtown, with the end of our trip in New York for their St Patrick’s Day parade (on a Friday), and to meet with the Donegal Association there. I believe that we should be focussing on extending our relationship with our Sister City, without diminishing the support we show to the Donegal Association in New York.

If you have any thoughts on this matter, please get in contact.

Letterkenny Development Plan- Area of Town Centre Extension

Letterkenny Map

Letterkenny Town Council has just started a period of public consultation on a proposed addition to the Letterkenny & Environs Development Plan, 2003-2009. The plan relates to the development of the lands in the “area of Town Centre extension”- the lands bounded between the Pearse Road, Port Road and River Swilly.

The plan proposes a number of important developments in the area, relating to public walkways, open spaces and commercial developement, and sets the guidelines for all future development in the area.

The plan provides a number of exciting opportunities for the the development of the town, most notably the “Railway Square” public space. The plans can be inspected at the Town Council Offices, at the Public Services Centre on Neil T Blaney Road. Some information is available online at the Donegal County Council website, including this map of the area (3mb, PDF)

I’d encourage everyone with an interest in the development of the town to visit and inspect the plans. The Consultation Process will be open for submissions until the end of the month, and all submissions will be considered.

Letterkenny is Litter Free

IBAL Prizegiving 2005

On Monday December 12th I attended the prizegiving for the 2005 Irish Business Against Litter Litter-League, to collect an award for Letterkenny.

The Town ranked “Litter Free”, the highest category possible. This is testimony to all the hard work undertaken by so many in the town to ensure that Letterkenny is among the best presented, most attractive towns in Ireland.

Together with our recent Gold Medal in the Tidy Towns contest, this shows how well Letterkenny is doing in the National ranks. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but we can be sure that our Goal of winning the Largest Town category in the Tidy Towns is very reachable.

Pictured above are Minister Batt O’Keefe (left) and IBAL’s Dr Tom Cavanagh presenting me with Letterkenny Litter-Free award