VIDEO: Resource centre officially opens in Creeslough: A beacon of hope after October 2022 tragedy

By Jerome Hughes

A LARGE crowd assembled in Creeslough for a poignant opening ceremony of a new resource centre for the village, underscoring the community’s ongoing emotional journey in the aftermath of the October 2022 tragedy.

The Creeslough Community Links Hub was officially opened by Minister of State for Community Development, Joe O’Brien, last Friday.


“Today marks a significant event in terms of opening this public space that has already been functioning very well for the past few months. It’s extraordinary what a place like this can do for an area. It draws out people’s talents and abilities but also delivers great services.

“The people I’ve spoken to, who have been bereaved, tend not to want to get into it too much but I think what projects like this offer is a bit of hope and something positive coming out of a day that was absolutely horrific.

Minister O’Brien describes the opening of the centre as another step in the journey for the Creeslough community. The 2022 explosion happened at an apartment close to the local filling station. Ten people were killed and 8 injured.

“I came here a month after the tragedy and, of course, everyone was still very much in shock and not sure of the path forward. In terms of my department, I gave them an assurance that we would back them.

“We started off by finding out what the community wanted and needed in order to plot a way forward from that terrible day. That’s allowed the community to take the lead themselves. I want to pay tribute to the local organisations and volunteers for all their great work.

The Community Links Hub has been developed inside what was a derelict building that lay empty for many years. It has now been restored thanks to government funding. Majella McFadden, who manages the centre, has expressed hope that the hub will help to keep the community together.

“We have already been running some very successful programmes in the hub. We’ve had health and wellbeing initiatives. There’s a walking group and we have yoga, for example. There are also very important youth services here, including Foróige.

Majella says there are a lot of ideas to ensure the hub is fully utilised to support what she describes as “a very resilient community.” She says first consideration is always given to the families of the victims, and those who were injured, the wider community, and those who were there on the day – October 7, 2022.

“I’m honoured to have my role here but I also feel a deep sense of responsibility that, moving forward, this community centre acts as a gel to keep us all together and provide support in the coming years for everyone who needs it.

“There is a long road ahead but it’s a journey that we’re all on together. We’re on a different trajectory now in the aftermath of the tragedy so we really see the need for this facility,” added Majella.

Local Priest, Fr. John Joe Duffy, welcomed representatives from organisations, agencies, the government and the county council. He describes the opening of the centre as just one step in a multi-step journey of healing.

“I was very much heatened to see family members of those who died in the tragedy here today. For others it is too difficult and I totally understand that.

“It was great to hear long-term commitments from the ministers. Of course, we don’t know who will be in government in the years ahead but there has been great support from the existing government for this community.

“We also thank President Higgins from the bottom of our hearts after he spent a week here with us.

“It will be a long journey ahead. I come from Burtonport, from a fishing community, where I experienced grief and trauma at first hand. I know the journey for Creeslough will not be completed in a day, a week, a year or maybe even in our lifetimes.

“Whoever will be in the next government, I pray that they too will give the same commitment to the community as the current government. Mary Lou McDonald and other opposition politicians have been here and have given commitments.”

Cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council, Martin Harley, understands what the people of Cresslough are going through. In 2014, Mayor Harley’s teenage daughter, Kym, died in a road crash close to her home.

“Talking from experience, I know how tough it is going to be for the local people.

“For the people involved in the tragedy, there will be days when you’re feeling down. They should come here, sit down and have a chat, and a cup of tea with somebody.

“It can help get through the extra hard times and you can go back out again and feel a bit stronger, and face the challenges of the rest of that day. There will be a lot of days like that and difficult moments.

“When I speak to those impacted by the tragedy, it’s clear they are looking for some hope and a bit of comfort. There will never be a day of their lives that it won’t come into their heads.

“All I can say to them is that you grow to cope with it. You’ll never get over it but you’ll learn to deal with it better as the years go on. That’s the only solace you can give them. They will get strength because it is such a great community.”

Mayor Harley also said there were mixed emotions at the opening ceremony but described it as a very special day for the community.

“This centre offers a glimmer of light for the people of Creeslough. Things will not improve overnight. There is still a lot of pain and it will be like that for years.”

An investigation into the cause of the explosion is continuing. In the meantime, Minister O’Brien has promised that support for the locality will continue.

“We have a three-year financial commitment to benefit Creeslough and there will be a review of that when the three years is up. What my department looks for in communities is a bit of organisation, coherence, drive and energy. That’s here in spades so we know the money is going to be well spent.

“There have been some good ideas run by me which we are looking at, and the local authority has good proposals to improve the town’s infrastructure. I’m looking at a proposed site today,” revealed Minister O’Brien.

All of those who spoke at the ceremony said those who died in the tragedy will never be forgotten. They were James O’Flaherty (48), Jessica Gallagher (24), Martin McGill (49), Catherine O Donnell (39) and her son James Monaghan (13), Hugh Kelly (59), Martina Martin (49), Robert Garwe (50), Shauna Flanagan Garwe (5) and Leona Harper (14).


Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland