THE issue of dereliction in Donegal is to be explored through a conference taking place in Letterkenny next month.
The event, taking place on Friday July 22, will be officially opened by Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Peter Burke.
Other key speakers include Frank O’Connor and Jude Sherry from the Anois Agency. They started the Derelict Ireland campaign and are credited with bringing the issue of dereliction to national attention.
While there are no official statistics on the number of derelict buildings in Donegal, according to the last census there were 23,000 vacant properties in the county.
Next month’s conference is being organised by Letterkenny Tidy Towns in conjunction with Letterkenny Cathedral Quarter.
Donnan Harvey of the Letterkenny Cathedral Quarter said the event was timely, in light of President Michael D Higgins’s remark that housing policy in Ireland was our “great, great failure”.
“In the wake of President Higgins’s controversial comments it is an event that is both timely and topical as the housing issue tops the political agenda,” said Mr Harvey.
“I have been involved in the Letterkenny Cathedral Quarter project here in the town and despite the many obstacles put in our way at the outset we are now forging ahead.
“The Church Lane, which had more derelict houses than any other part of Letterkenny, is now thriving as both a residential and artisan area.
“It has been a real success story. We have turned a dying area into one that is very, very alive. We need to make this success more broad-based by addressing the issue of dereliction across the county.”
Other speakers include Donegal County Heritage Officer Joe Gallagher, broadcaster Lee Gooch who has been involved in the redevelopment of his own home, Kyle Thompson of the New Gate Arts Centre in the Fountain area of Derry and Architectural Officer with the Heritage Council and a former past pupil of St Eunan’s College, Colm Murray.
Chair of Letterkenny Tidy Towns Gerard McCormack said the conference was intended to be both informative and wide ranging, offering a platform to all views and opinions.
“Bringing back buildings, be they commercial or residential, can add so much value to our communities across Donegal,” Mr McCormack said.
“What is a derelict house today could be a home for a family tomorrow. And when we bring about regeneration we are helping to create opportunities for people, for families. This is what this conference is really about.”
The discussion takes place in Dillon’s Hotel on Friday July 22, starting at 11am.
Preceding it on the Thursday evening will be a guided tour of Letterkenny Cathedral Quarter starting outside Dillon’s 7.30pm. Brian Walsh of Letterkenny Community Heritage Group and Donnan Harvey will give an insight into the unique history of the locality. Everyone is welcome.
Donnan Harvey added, “The celebrations on Church Lane will demonstrate that dereliction does not have to be a permanent feature but when local community, the local authority, other stakeholders and government agencies work together, things can change.”