Thursday 11th May 2017: Four community projects from Counties Limerick, Cork, Leitrim and Longford were the recipients of €10,000 in funding following the presentation of awards in the Local Ireland, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) sponsored 4th annual Get Involved Community Initiative awards ceremony in Dublin today.
Broadford and Ashford Walking Trails, St. Patrick’s Boys National School, Skibbereen Sensory Garden and North Leitrim Sustainable Energy Committee were each awarded bursaries of €3,000, while Longford Revamp was awarded €1,000.
The projects spanned a wide cross-section of community activities ranging from the provision of beautiful walking trails in Limerick, a magnificent sensory garden in a boys national school in Skibbereen to an amazing energy project in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim which, when completed, will result in the town and environs greatly reducing its carbon emissions. The Longford revamp project restores old furniture and provides valuable local employment.
Now in its 4th year, the Local Ireland Get Involved Sustainable Communities awards initiative is promoted by 51 weekly paid for newspapers. 32 projects from the 26 counties entered the 2016 competition. The projects span the essential areas necessary to build sustainable communities, clean energy, water conservation, local food production, eco-tourism and developing sustainable local community employment.
In his address, Jim Gannon, Chief Executive SEAI commended the project finalists and said that the current vision for SEAI is to identify and assist communities to help themselves. “In 10 years from now I expect that Ireland will have hundreds of communities that will be pursuing sustainable activities. At that time our role will be to assist these communities in the key areas of education and technical support.”
David Burke, President of Local Ireland and Managing Editor of the Tuam Herald in his welcoming address said that all the projects presented were all about community, the most important thing we have. “Member titles of Local Ireland highlight the key issues that are necessary for these communities to survive and thrive. Our titles have a gross readership of 1.5m people outside Dublin and Cork cities. We get Involved, we inform, give leadership and support to all that is good in our communities. We have been around for over 150 years, and in the case of the Tuam Herald for 180 years and have invested for the future with our multi-platform news delivery systems”, he said.
Duncan Stewart, award winning architect, broadcaster and environmentalist and chairman of the judging panel commended all participants for the quality of the projects presented and for their unstinting commitment to making their communities more sustainable for the future. “I can see this initiative being in every community in Ireland over the next ten years. If it’s not, then those communities will die because they are facing massive challenges. The impacts of climate change are coming upon us very quickly. I think the only solution is going to be a bottom up movement and you are the pioneers of this movement. It is only through local collaboration that we can turn it around and capitalise on these opportunities.
Declan Meally head of Emerging Sectors with SEAI said; “The energy we see from people getting involved is absolutely massive. The biggest community project in the world is hitting us now with climate change. Looking at the projects we have seen here, that is the only way we are going to tackle this; thinking big but starting small”
Further information; Johnny O’Hanlon, Director, Local Ireland; email@example.com
Ballintrillick Environmental Group (Co. Sligo) – Sligo Champion
For Get Involved 2017, Sligo Champion chose to support a pioneering local community centre in Ballintrillick, North Sligo. The community centre is also home to an eco-friendly hostel and this hostel, set in a remote and beautiful part of Ireland, four miles from the nearest village, attracts visitors from all over the world. The income from tourism then provides a means for the centre to offer services for the local community that are not provided by anyone else, public or private.
Founded in 1992, the Ballintrillick Environmental Group was set up to deal with rubbish in the local area. The clean up operation has continued ever since on an annual basis. They formed a company, got charitable status and decided to use a derelict VEC building for the community. Today the Benwiskin Centre is a social hub and a community resource used for family gatherings, parties, plus social and sports clubs.
The hostel uses solar panels, a biomass system to decrease oil usage, a water harvesting system, plus its home to a community garden and polytunnel where locals grow their own organic vegetables. The group has also created a children’s playground garden in what was an overgrown field and has developed an old mill site to create a new local amenity with picnic area, sculpture trail and forest path.
Now the centre requires an extension to provide sufficient space for guests, staff and the local community. Planning permission has already been granted for the extension but the build will cost approximately €250,000 to complete.
Cloughjordan Community Group – Scohaboy Wetlands project – Nenagh Guardian
Nenagh Guardian supported a bog visitor attraction in Cloughjordan for Get Involved 2017. Cloughjordan Community Development Committee is pioneering a nature/biodiversity project focusing on the Sopwell/Scohaboy wetlands. The group aims to develop a unique natural heritage attraction along the Beara-Breifne National Waymarked Heritage Trail, which will connect into Ireland’s Ancient East trail, as well as offering a quality local amenity.
The project includes the creation of a new 1,200-acre visitor attraction ‘wetland’ at Sopwell/Scohaboy. The area represents some of the last remnants of a unique habitat and as such is of national and international importance.
The visitor attraction will aim to offer education on areas like heritage habitat management and protection, the bog as a carbon sink and peatlands role in climate change; plus an interactive tourism component by which visitors can learn about traditional peat culture and usage.
The wetland project will enhance Cloughjordan’s offering as a ‘stay-over’ location along the Beara-Breifne Way and Ireland’s Ancient East Trail, plus it will make the wetlands more readily accessible to the entire population of North Tipperary and Offaly.
Longford Revamp – Longford Leader
Longford Leader decided to support the REVAMP project in Longford town in this year’s Get Involved competition. REVAMP is an innovative furniture re-cycling and reuse initiative, which was launched 15 years ago. REVAMP was originally created as a training project for long-term unemployed young people however, it subsequently expanded and now strives to promote the re-use of unwanted, high quality furniture, provided at a low cost to people living in Co Longford and the surrounding area.
The project combines environmental, social and economic factors and no other project of its nature exists in the Midlands. Crucially, the project provides an opportunity for various training experiences under the FAS training programme and enables participants to gain FETAC certification and hands-on experience in areas including furniture restoration, carpentry, furniture polishing, painting and laying wooden floors. Through these training opportunities REVAMP aims to raise the skills, self-esteem and aspirations of participants.
St Patrick’s NS, Skibbereen, Sensory Garden – Southern Star
For this year’s Get Involved competition, The Southern Star championed a garden project based at St Patrick’s National School, Skibereen. The project started with a desire to create a sensory garden on a small area of unused land located behind the school. The school has three classes for children with autism and the idea was that this could act as a nice space for the students in these classes and for the entire school. However, the project quickly evolved into a multi-faceted organic garden that the school hopes will benefit not just its own population but the wider Skibereen community.
The garden now comprises a geodome, which enables the school to grow all year around and take classes in the garden during colder months; ten raised beds, a sensory garden; a zen garden where children can rake and play with sand; a willow dome and tunnel, which will grow to provide a natural, growing classroom; a wild trail; an amphitheatre for outdoor lessons; an insect hotel and a woodland area.
The garden provides wonderful educational benefits, plus a space of peace and tranquility that encourages children to be mindfully present in nature.
North Leitrim Sustainable Energy Community – Leitrim Observer
This year, Leitrim Observer chose to support the North Leitrim Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) for Get Involved. North Leitrim SEC encourages households in its local area to participate in an energy efficient project with the possibility of grant aid for work.
The group was set up by volunteers in summer 2016 to promote community-owned renewable energy and energy efficiency in the area. The group organised an application to SEAI under the Better Energy Communities Programme to assist households and organisations to increase their energy efficiency and cut fuel costs. They made contact with partners in the business and public sectors and then set about identifying private households to participate in this project.
The application would fund a range of energy saving measures to a level of 35% of the total cost for most households, rising to 80% for certain households. Eligible measures include certain types of insulation, heating upgrades and door and window replacement.
The project is being run this year as a pilot so the number of households involved was limited.
Broadford-Ashford Walking Trails – Limerick Leader
This year, the Limerick Leader supported a project that has seen walking trails redeveloped and promoted for tourism purposes. Run by the voluntary committee, the Broadford/Ashford walking trails promote six routes in the Mullaghareirk mountain range.
Each of the six routes has been selected to provide spectacular views over Co Limerick. They are fully waymarked and have illustrated storyboards in the picturesque villages of Broadford and Ashford. The six walking routes are An Gleann Beag Loop, the Gleann na gCapall Loop, the Killagholehane Way, the Broadford to Ashford Way, the Ashford to Lough Ghe Way and the Gortnaclohy Loop.
Local sports clubs use them for training and team building, local schools as part of their active weeks. It is also an opportunity to gain local knowledge and familiarise oneself with the area as the start of all of the walks are storyboards detailing routes, flora & fauna and local history.
Broadford and Ashford is also home to a hill walking group by the name of The Mullaghareirk Ramblers. Affiliated with Mountaineering Ireland, the group meets every 3 weeks to climb mountains in the Munster region. The group make great use of the local trails to maintain fitness.
A core part of this project’s success has been the development of a detailed interactive website. Before launching the trails the website was set up at www.walkbroadfordashford.com
Also, in order to regularly communicate with followers, the group also set up a Facebook page which can be found at www.facebook.com/broadford- ashfordwalkingtrails
Desk top judging of the 32 projects submitted for Get Involved ’17 has been completed and the shortlisted finalists are;
- St. Patrick’s Boys School, Skibbereen, Co. Cork, Sensory Garden in conjunction with Southern Star
- Nenagh Guardian, Shohaboy/Sopwell (Cloughjordan) Wetlands in conjunction with the Nenagh Guardian
- Revamp furniture Longford, in conjunction with the Longford Leader
- Ballintrillick Environmental Group (Benwiskin Centre) in conjunction with the Sligo Champion
- Broadford Trails in conjunction with the Limerick Leader
- North Leitrim NEC and Seamus Dunbar in conjunction with the Leitirm Observer.
The next state involves the judging panel, chaired by Duncan Stewart, visiting each project on Thursday/Friday 4th/5thMay. Each project will also be filmed during the on-site judging process.
These projects are competing for a €10,000 prize fund, made up of Overall winner; €5,000, 2nd €1,500; 3rd €500; Community Energy Champion €3,000.
The awards presentation will take place on Thursday 11th May in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Blanchardstown. There will be a Café conversation, moderated by Davie Philip, Co-Founder Cultivate, centred around how community projects can grow and develop their projects and engage with other agencies. The awards presentation will include each project making a 2 minute Dragon’s Den style presentation to the judges and a short film of each project will be screened on the day.