Senator Michelle Mulherin is calling on Mayo County Council to purchase the former Garda Station on Walsh Street, Ballina, before it is auctioned by the OPW in the autumn, pointing out that a number of local cultural and tourist entities are interested in using the building.
Senator Mulherin says the old Garda station would be perfect as a cultural hub and complementary to the nearby Jackie Clarke Library and the proposed Mary Robinson Centre and she understands that the OPW is prepared to sell the property to Mayo County Council at a very reasonable price.
"Comhaltas has an interest in getting involved in the building and so too has Ballina Costume Company," Senator Mulherin has informed Mayo County Council.
She continued: "Also, now that the Military Barracks is being developed as a Digital and Innovation Centre, it will no longer be available for various festivals and events which are held in the town throughout the year, and the Farmers Market may be displaced.
"The old station could also in part be developed as a much-needed hostel to provide budget accommodation and cater for a particular market of tourists and visitors that are not being provided for adequately at the moment. Ideally, I would involve the creation of a master plan for Walsh Street in the town centre where the old garda barracks is located.
"I am aware from my own involvement a number of years ago where I was liaising with the then Ministers of State for the OPW, Brian Hayes and Simon Harris respectively, that the OPW was prepared to sell the property to Mayo County Council at a very reasonable price.
"I think it was a missed opportunity then that the Council did not acquire it and I would urge you to act now to pursue this possibility before the opportunity is lost.
"One of our objectives is to build on rich cultural heritage in the area as a basis for the growth of our tourism industry. We must continue to invest to realise our full potential in that regard.
"I know from my conversations with Hugh Rouse, President of Ballina Chamber of Commerce, that the Chamber is very interested in supporting my proposal. I have sought a meeting with the Council and Chamber to try to advance matters while we still have the opportunity."