After almost two years in planning, Athlone Town Council has finally given the green light for a new €3.5 million art gallery.
At the May monthly meeting of Athlone Town Council, councillors unanimously agreed to proceed with the art gallery.
Located on the banks of the Shannon in the centre of town, the gallery will see the redevelopment of Fr Mathew Hall which has been lying idle for some five years since the town’s library was moved to the new civic centre.
Speaking during the council meeting Cllr John Butler said it was clear that everyone is in support of the development and that as the building is in the council’s ownership it is its responsibility to see it gets redeveloped.
“The art gallery is the best move for the town,” said Cllr Butler. “It may not be the best time to build it, seeing as we’re in recession times, but we must progess the town. We need to put money into the future of this town,” he said.
The design chosen will see the retention of the original Fr Mathew Hall, something which Cllr Mark Cooney was relieved to see. “This issue of the Fr Mathew Hall has been before us for a while,” he said. “New building versus the retention of old building - the consensus was for the retention of the old building. It’s now down to a matter of taste. I think the plans encapsulate what we need,” he added.
Cllr Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran also strongly supported the gallery on the night, insisting that there is a strong want for the development in the town. “There’s nowhere for people to show off their art... I know there’s a level of interest - artists are looking for a home,” said Cllr Moran.
Some councillors raised the issue of funding for the art gallery.
However county manager Dan McLoughlin reassured councillors that funding has been guaranteed. “What is more important here is what social structure this facility will provide,” he said. “There must be an access programme and community involvement. This gallery is not for money making. Funding has been put aside. This project will not be at the expense of frontline services,” he stressed.