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Culloville celebrates opening of £1m Community Centre

The opening of the newly-built Community Centre in Culloville marked a new era in the history of the village, which has long been overlooked for development and investment, those in attendance at Wednesday’s event heard.

Those gathered were told that residents in the north’s most southerly village have long felt cut off from economic progress often enjoyed by other areas, and the completion of the new £1million Community Centre was only as a result of years of hard work and lobbying by a committed group of people.

The project was funded by SOAR through the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme (The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development) with support both financially and administratively from Newry and Mourne District Council.

Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill, performed the official opening duties and said it is “particularly positive” to see the tangible benefits and outcomes for rural communities that benefit from her Department’ Rural Development Programme.

“The project was funded under the Basic Services Measure of the Rural Development Programme which aims to improve or maintain the living conditions and welfare of those living in rural areas, and to increase the attractiveness of such areas through provision of more and better basic services, for the economy and the rural population. I think we can all agree that with this project, those aims have certainly been achieved,” she said.

Mayor Daire Hughes commended the work of the Culloville Development Association for its foresight to develop such an exciting project and to Councillors and officials within the Slieve Gullion area who guided, advised and lobbied for them throughout the process.

Chairperson of Culloville Development Association, Mr. Gerard Callan said the completion of the Community Centre represents the culmination of a lot of hard work from a committed group of people who were determined to see this project happening.

“I would like the thank the four voluntary groups in the Culloville area who contributed greatly to the project – namely Culloville GAC, Culloville Residents Association, St Malachy’s Youth Club and Culloville Camogie Club.  We also would like to greatly thank all the funders and Newry and Mourne District Council for their support in getting the project to this stage. The support of local councillors is also much appreciated by the Development Association,” he added.

The Community Centre is a new ‘state of the art’ modern facility including large multifunctional hall, meeting rooms, gymnasium, office, kitchen, changing rooms, toilet and storage facilities.

The construction of the Community Centre represents the second project undertaken by Culloville Development Association who recently completed a new Community Walkway facility on the playing pitch on the Concession Road. The project was also funded by SOAR and included the walkway, lighting and perimeter fencing.

Mr Callan said he hopes this facility, together with the new centre, will give every person in the area the opportunity to avail of the very best in Community facilities into the future.

Sinn Fein councillor Terry Hearty congratulated all the groups involved in the scheme “for the absolute mammoth effort they have put in to making this facility a reality”.

“Their hard work, commitment and perseverance was monumental and should serve as an inspiration to community groups right across Ireland as to what can be achieved when people work together,” he said.

“It was a pleasure working with them. No task was too big or too small for anyone to do, everybody rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in and today they’re seeing the fruits of that labour.

“The new centre is a fantastic facility and something the entire area can be proud of.  It’s something the Association will be delighted to show off and I’m sure they’ll be inviting people from right across south Armagh, Louth and Monaghan to come out and enjoy the various activities and entertainment that will be on offer.”

Reflecting on the efforts of those who contributed to the project, Councillor Hearty said the absence of Anne McGeeney, who sadly passed away last year, “cast a shadow over the celebrations”.

“Anne had been a tireless supporter of the project right from the consultation phase,” he said.  “She was tremendous to work with, her energy and enthusiasm for the project was infectious and it’s just a pity that she didn’t get to see the centre open for herself after all her hard work.

“However, if we can make this centre the vibrant community hub she had envisaged, then that will be the best tribute we can pay to her,” he added.

SDLP Councillor Geraldine Donnelly described the occasion as “a great day for Culloville and its people”.

“I am absolutely delighted to see this project come to fruition. I know the people of Culloville will be so proud of this facility and it will be well used.  I congratulate all those involved who made this possible,” she said.

Her colleague and the party’s Westminster candidate for Newry and Armagh, Justin McNulty, offered his congratulations to everyone involved in the project.

“This new centre just proves how a rural community can pull together to develop a project that will benefit all.  The centre will promote healthy living to young people providing state-of-the-art gym and sports equipment. It will also promote good community relations, being open and welcoming to all,” he said.

“This project funded through Leader and SOAR emphasises the importance of having a Rural Development Fund so that local rural communities can benefit from facilities and services on their doorsteps.”