Councillors decide to pursue funding for John McCormack Centre

Elected members of Athlone Town Council are to pursue Fáilte Ireland for a grant promised to them for the creation of a John Count McCormack Centre.

Independent councillor Sheila Buckley put forward a motion at this week’s May meeting of Athlone Town Council to request a meeting with Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar to discuss the John McCormack Centre.

Athlone Town Council had prepared detailed designs in 2010 for the proposed John McCormack Visitor Centre, which was due to be located in the Civic Centre. As part of this they applied to Fáilte Ireland for a capital grant in order to proceed with the implementation of these plans.

To date, Fáilte Ireland has not determined grant allocation and council officials discuss the project with Fáilte Ireland on a regular basis.

Speaking at the meeting Cllr Buckley Byrne highlighted the importance of completing the cultural landscape of the town with the fulfilment of the John McCormack Centre. “Firstly we were going to put the visitor centre in the castle, then it was decided against this. Then we decided that the Civic Centre would house the visitor centre, but Fáilte Ireland seem to be struggling with funding. There is a huge vacumm in our heritage without a tribute to John McCormack,” she said.

Clrr Buckley Byrne suggested that a delegation shouldmeet with Minister Varadkar to get the John McCormack Visitor Centre underway.

Supporting the motion, Cllr Gabrielle McFadden said that if Athlone is to market itself as a tourist town then a centre for the internationally acclaimed tenor is a must.

Cllr Aengus O’Rourke said it was time to drive home the importance of Count McCormack by meeting Minister Varadkar face to face.

Director of services Barry Kehoe explained that the grant would only cover part of the costs of the visitor centre, and that Fáilte Ireland has not determined grant allocations yet. Fáilte Ireland have already invested €2.07m in the refurbishment of Athlone Castle.

A statue of John McCormack is hoped to be commissioned this year for placement in the Civic Square outside the main entrance to the Civic Centre.

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