There was widespread disbelief at the local monthly meeting of the Ballinasloe Municipal District when the Executive in responding to a question from Cllr Timmy Broderick conceded that the matter of the disposal of Garbally House and some land had come before the Council Corporate Standing Committee before Christmas.
It appears the Bishop of Clonfert had offered the transfer of the House and a parcel of land for a nominal euro to Galway County Council but that a Consultants Report tabled to the same meeting suggested a sum of €4.2 million would be need to just stabilize and bring up to standard the same building.
The County Council Executive’s advice to the Group who need to approve such matters prior to a full Council meeting was that upgrading costs were prohibitive and that was before running costs and possible uses be identified.
A robust discussion ensured with the officials and the members over the procedures used in halting the negotiations and as to the significant possible uses for the House and attendant grounds.
The point was made by several present at the meeting that town was bookended on the East by a decaying St. Bridgids and the West by an opportunity with Garbally.
The 19th century house and sprawling estate could be transformed into something similar to that in Westport – which attracts thousands of visitors on an annual basis - suggested Cllr Timmy Broderick.
Cllr Broderick said that Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara was acquired by the County Council only weeks after they rejected the Ballinasloe opportunity for development potential and there was no reason why the same approach could not be applied in terms of Garbally.
Cllr Declan Geraghty (Ind) from Williamstown, who also attended Garbally College, supports the view that the development of the main house, library, steps and system of tunnels would make a huge attraction on its own.
Cllr. Michael Connolly who was a minority member of the Standing Committee that refused to recommend purchase reminded the meeting that he had sought permission to bring the matter in full to the MDC but Standing Orders prevented same.
Cllr Dr. Evelyn Parsons asked the Director of Services Eamon Hanrahan “ you advised us at a meeting last Autumn that the Council were powerless to do anything with the St. Brigid’s campus as it’s not the legal owner, we were being offered the ownership of this huge asset of a Mansion and our Phoenix Park of town and you rejected it?“
Cathaoirleach Cllr Dermot Connolly believes that there were other agencies such as Failte Ireland that could be in a financial position to acquire it, as the Council did not have the resources for it.
There was unanimity of the 6 public reps that this decision was too hasty and further enquires and discussions should take place with the owners .It was agreed that a report into it’s possible potential would be compiled by Galway County Council and discussed with the MDC.
The original Garbally Estate bought by the Diocese from the bankrupt Clancartys in 1922 comprising the House, gardens , farm – all the lands of the Hospital, HSE, Batchelors Walk , Ard Mhuire the New Scoil Mhuire site, The Dowagwers House – at Corheen in Loughrea plus valuable tracts of farmland - some 650 acres in total for £6,750.
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