What if Armagh Gaol was to be flattened to make way for free car park?
On Sunday evening we published an article on the ‘New Resident Guide’ launched which aims to assist people coming to live in the area.
This came after we posed the question on social media ‘What to do with the Gaol (Armagh)...is it best served as a hotel or do you think there are other ways this building could be put to better use? To which literally hundreds of you replied! And there were many great ideas (and some not so great - the joys of social media).
Mary McGurk said “What about a ten pin bowling alley for all ages a community room so non-bowlers can meet and have lunch or tea and coffee and a room where history of the city can be viewed” and Sam Cowan commented “turn the bottom half into a museum with some of the jail kept intact. Let the regimental museum move in as well and a coffee shop. Turn the upstairs into apartments”.
Considering that the construction of one of Armagh’s most magnificent buildings began in 1780 it’s fair to say it’s deep set in our history and should be treated like your lovely great granny with love and care. So, why has one of our Borough’s greatest treasures been left locked up and sentenced to life?
Last month we reported on how an update on Armagh’s Gaol hotel project was expected in Council report next month… we eagerly await! Indeed, if it had taken this long to sentence some of the former residents, the Goal may still be fully operational awaiting their arrival.
So what of the ‘New Resident Guide’.. well it states that Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon is a ‘vibrant area of Northern Ireland steeped in culture, heritage, business and enterprise’. However, some of our readers have pointed out the ‘dysfunctional traffic system in Armagh’ as well as the lack of infrastructure for our public transport network considering Armagh has no railway link between Portadown and Newry despite calls to re-open the line.
In September 2021 the commissioning of a technical study into the provision of a rail link between Portadown and Armagh City was approved by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s economic development and regeneration committee and following this in January 2022 it was confirmed AECOM had been appointed to carry out a technical study on the proposed Portadown to Armagh City railway line.
In a recent council meeting Ms Olga Murtagh - the council’s strategic director of community and growth - confirmed AECOM has submitted its draft report to the local authority and told the chamber the report should be presented to members of the economic development and regeneration committee in January but continued “There are some amendments needed in the report and we will be bringing that in as quickly as we can.”
So, an area ‘steeped in culture, heritage, business and enterprise’. With the borough’s capital city isolated from neighbouring towns and cities, the failure or lack of insight to reimagine our greatest treasure, a struggling hospitality industry and crumbling buildings which we covered in last week’s newsletters, who or what is to blame for the current unease?
Alas, no… our beloved Gaol is not being flattened. At least not to our knowledge and there is still hope of a railway line, these were merely the comments of some frustrated readers. The borough, yes, has its problems but equally it has so much going for it, it’s not an area on life support, it just requires some medical attention.
After all with our capital city branded “the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland”, home of it’s very own fort and seat of the High Kings of Ulster, not one but two cathedrals, home of St Patrick, legends of a Green Lady, our once-upon-a-time horse race course which is now our picturesque Mall and our endless array of stunning ancient stone buildings, how could you not love this place?
In the headlines
Today (Tuesday) will see both Unite the Union members and NIPSA members take to the picket lines. Pickets will be held at Craigavon Area Hospital and South Tyrone Hospital as part of strike action by Unite the union over pay and safe staffing levels. Whilst NIPSA say 'Our combined action is a warning to employers that workers are not prepared to accept real terms pay cuts and the destruction of services'
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