A PRESSURE group has been set up in Newbridge to block last week’s sale of the Eamonn O’Modhráin Memorial Hall on Cutlery Road.
The move follows deep shock and anger at the sale of the hall through auction as a high profile development site. Up to this point, the hall had been in the ownership of a charitable trust.
The Kildare Nationalist understands that the hall and the site on which it is built were sold at auction for €270,000 and had a guide price of €200,000. It is also believed that sale documentation said that the sale cannot close without the agreement of the Charities Regulator.
The building, which was part of the historic British Army barracks in Newbridge, is adjacent to the Whitewater Shopping Centre. Prior to the sale, the Charities Regulator had been contacted by concerned locals who asked for the sale to be stopped pending an investigation into the trustee’s powers.
Local woman Orla O’Neill is one of the organisers of the meeting and she said that local people have been shocked at the sudden sale of the building and they now have a series of questions they want the Charities Regulator to answer. These include whether the trustees of the building are allowed to sell it.
She said: “We need to know who the current trustees are and what is their link to the primary aim of the trust, which was to run the memorial hall for the promotion of Irish cultural activities. How is the sale of the Eamonn O’Modhráin Hall serving the public interest?”
Ms O’Neill added that the people of Newbridge deserved to know what connection, if any, the current trustees have to the trust that was set up to manage the building in the town for a very specific purpose.
The Kildare Nationalist understands that Kildare County Council, with the backing of councillors and deputy Fiona O’Loughlin, had sought to acquire the property for public use through the Derelict Registers Act. It is also understood that the council was prevented from acquiring the property through an injunction taken against it by the trustees.
The Cutlery Road building was bought during the late 1950s and a charitable trust was established to manage the property. It was named after Éamonn Ó Modhráin (1881-1954), who was a prominent nationalist and republican in Kildare during the early years of the 20th century. He was active in the Gaelic League, was arrested and imprisoned in 1916. Local fundraising took place to develop the hall to promote Irish culture, dance and music. It is understood the trustees were to hold the property for community use in line with its aims. Work was undertaken over 40 years ago to re-roof the property and in later years the trustees were asked to allow a youth centre to use the building. Plans were also developed for a band hall there.
Local councillor Joanne Pender said: “I had sought the withdrawal of the property from auction pending local consultations on the building. However, the sale at auction went ahead. Since the auction, I have made contact with the Charities Regulator and an official at that office had told me that queries raised by Newbridge people would be investigated.”
Local TD Fiona O’Loughlin said that she, too, had been in contact with the Charities Regulator.
“I have asked them to put a stay on the sale for three months and I have asked the council to undertake a feasibility study with a view to acquiring the property for use as a youth and cultural space. The refurbishment of Newbridge Town Hall has been a huge asset to the town and surrounding areas. However, the town is still crying out for a youth space and I feel this could be a dual space, one which promotes Irish culture and has an exhibition to honour Éamonn Ó Modhráin, while also being a youth space.”
The public meeting to discuss the property, and its sale, will take place in Newbridge Town Hall this Thursday, 3 August, at 8pm.