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Fundraising for Gort Square revamp steps up a gear

THE iconic statue of Christ the King in the heart of Gort will be the focal point for a rejuvenated town centre, as a local fund-raising campaign has been intensified to provide upgraded seating, planting and paving.

The Burren Lowlands Group, which works with 16 local parishes in North Clare and South Galway, has just teamed up with a local business woman to run a fund-raising raffle to boost efforts to cover the cost of enhanced paving around The Square. The Dolly Tub, which is a new business based in Peterswell and run by Susanne Orsford, has donated five gift boxes containing had-made sanitisers, balms, soaps and candles.

“We have extended our fundraising efforts because, while we’re very grateful for all of the support received to-date, we need a little more money to really get the project right,” explained Kathleen Bell Bonjeau of Burren Lowlands. “We had hoped to have the second phase of the redevelopment complete by Christmas, but Covid-19 has slowed things down. We now hope to be able to raise the funds needed to do additional enhancements, including new paving around the monument in The Square.”

The new initiative is part of what group PRO Tonii Kelly described as “a two-pronged approach”. “It will help us reinvigorate the fundraising and also give a boost to a local business.”

A funding application has also been made under government schemes set up on response to the pandemic. “We were delighted to secure funds under The Town and Village Renewal Scheme,” said Tonii, “but that didn’t cover the cost of the paving. We have an application in progress at the moment and we’re hoping to secure the support of Galway County Council. Our plan is to have the seating in place with planters and the new paving, so overall, there will be a huge facelift for the area. Stone has been secured and Jethro Sheen is already cutting that to size, you couldn’t get a better person to the job.”

The monument in The Square was put in place in the early 1930s after being commissioned in memory of the late Mattie Coen, who passed away in a tragic accident. Over the years, while Gort has prospered and new businesses have flocked to the Square, the condition of the old centre deteriorated, with concern in particular over the condition of the statue.

Phase One of the redevelopment was completed in January after the worn iron railings were removed from around the statue base. These were replaced with cut limestone paving and the statue was cleaned years of accumulated debris. The Burren Lowlands Group is optimistic that the second phase will be unveiled in early 2021. It is anticipated that refurbished Square will give a boost to the image of the town, as it welcomes the news that Fáilte Ireland’s Burren Discovery Trail, which is set to come through Gort next year.

“We have been running the tourist office in Gort on a voluntary basis for the last two to three years,” added Tonii. “It would be great to be able to upgrade The Square so that people might actually see the office and get some information about what’s available in the locality. Often, visitors tell us that they just didn’t see the office.”

The Square redevelopment is just one of a number of key projects which the voluntary Burren Lowlands Group is promoting currently. The team is also undertaking something of a rebrand itself to highlight the diverse parishes that the Burren Lowlands covers. The region takes in the parishes of Ardrahan, Kinvara, Gort, Kilchreest, Peterswell, Derrybrien, Boston, Crusheen, Beagh, Tierneevin, Kilbeacanty, Castleday, Kilaneana, Ballindereen, Carron and Tubber. “Our base is Gort,” said Tonii, “but we want to highlight all of the areas that are included in the Lowlands. With that in mind, we have a photo competition running and we’d love to see pictures from right across the area. We will be launching a new website and we’d love to make that representative of every parish that we cover.”

Entries are being accepted up to December 31 and full details of how to enter are available on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of Burren Lowlands.

Full details of the fundraising efforts are also available on those social media accounts and on Go Fund Me.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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