Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Opinion: A fascinating outcome for a location of such historical importance

John Geoghegan • President of Mullingar Chamber of Commerce

Mullingar Chamber’s involvement in the Columb Barracks has always been a key tenet of my presidency. The military presence at this location goes back several hundred years and when the decision to close it in 2011 was taken it was one of the darkest times for Mullingar, in the middle of a massive recession. 

I always felt passionately that this premises in this town at this time must have a future I and was delighted to be invited on to the Advisory Committee by the Land Development Agency. We worked very hard with all stakeholders to advance through the public consultation process which concluded late in 2021. This involved meeting with all local businesses with a concern in the space of higher education and training to see what was needed and some of these meetings went on well into the evenings in 2021 at the height of the pandemic, but we had superb engagement from local businesses and our members at Mullingar Chamber. 

This consultation identified a logical strategy for this site going forward, with a key unfulfilled higher education need at its core. This process took a significant step forward before Christmas when I met with Minister Simon Harris, facilitated by Minister Peter Burke to press forward with our observations.

This led to a full stakeholder meeting in the Mullingar Park Hotel on Monday, March 7, 2022 attended by all stakeholders (the LDA, TUS, Enterprise Ireland, Solas, LWETB, PPN, Jason McKevitt Historian) and attended by Minister Simon Harris and Minister Peter Burke.

This meeting was a fascinating and frank exchange of views from all sides and it was hugely refreshing to see all the key players in one room trying to establish which route for higher education and training could best be accommodated at Columb Barracks.

This is a once in 100 years opportunity for Mullingar to advance with a dedicated centre of excellence for training in the electric vehicle space.

 
It was brilliant to see two ministers in charge of their briefs in full action at close quarters in Mullingar and they, particularly Minister Peter Burke, made it perfectly clear to all present that time was of the essence and the word of the day he used was “urgency”. It is testament of the speed and efficiency of the current administration to see that this project could be advanced in the intervening period culminating in today’s announcement.

This is a once in 100 years opportunity for Mullingar to advance with a dedicated centre of excellence for training in the electric vehicle space. This is a fascinating outcome where a location of such historical importance can potentially accommodate a user which will play such a leading role in all our transportation futures, the electric vehicle. Past meets present meets future. 

None of this would have been possible without the outstanding leadership and encouragement shown to me by Minister Peter Burke in advancing with this project. His understated, always straight-forward, direct, no-nonsense and constructive approach to dealing with matters and putting the business of business ahead of his own promotion, speaks volumes of his character and professionalism in his role as government Minister.

Mullingar and Longford-Westmeath are very fortunate to have such a high calibre government Minister in our constituency, and this project is testament to his outstanding work and the engagement of all stakeholders and businesses in the town and environs including Mullingar Chamber in advancing with this project.

I look forward to seeing the project advance to the next stages and remain committed to this and the other priorities at this location, housing, historical preservation and the community uses.

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