A COMMUNITY initiative is to be launched to try to buy Whites Castle in Athy for public use.
The castle was sold by local business man Gabriel Dooley in 2012 to an Irish American woman for a sum believed to have been approximately €195,000.
Now the landmark building is believed to be back on the market.
Local historian Frank Taaffe, who writes about the castle in this week’s Eye on the Past, had argued that Athy Town Council, which has since been abolished, should have purchased the castle in 2012 but their efforts then were “half hearted” he says.
Attention now turns to Kildare Co Council to see if they would be interested in purchasing the building.
Athy Municipal District Manager Joe Boland said that detailed discussions on the issue have yet to take place within the council.
“We have become aware only very recently that the castle may be going for sale. We have not made a definitive decision on it as yet. However, it is unlikely that we will take a lead in purchasing it because we are already committed to several major projects in Athy. These projects include the new library which will cost €3 million, the redevelopment of the square which is also likely to cost around €3 million. Work which is to be done at the Model School is likely to be another significant cost. So, it is unlikely, in this context, that for financial reasons we would be in a position to take a lead in the purchase of the castle.”
However, Mr Boland went on to add; “We would welcome and would consider being part of a local or national initiative which may secure the castle for public use. There would be merit in this happening as a tourism initiative and it would fit in with other ongoing initiatives such as the square, the planned expansion of the Heritage Centre and the Athy Regeneration Strategy.”
Responding to this Mr Taaffe said: “There will be a local community initiative, I can’t say what this will involve at the moment but something is planned.”
Athy Municipal District Cathaoirleach Cllr Aoife Breslin said she would be in support of a properly planned community initiative.
“The castle has huge historical value to the town of Athy. We are on the cusp of developing Athy as a tourism base and having the castle for public use would add to that. It has been in private ownership over the last few years and we have lost out because of that. I would like to see a plan and consultation locally about what we could do with it. There is a cost factor and that has to be considered as well but I would like to see what proposals are put forward and I support the idea in principle.”
Meanwhile Cllr Thomas Redmond has said that that he will personally back any community efforts to purchase the castle for public use.
Speaking to the Kildare Nationalist last Friday offering a donation from his personal financial resources towards the project if an initiative is put together.
“I had a very positive meeting with the County Manager this morning on this issue,” he said on Monday. “My belief is that there is a role for the Office of Public Works (OPW) to play in this and I would like to see this body step in and try to secure this building for public use.”