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05 Aug 2014

D3S_5161Bhuail Uachtarán na hÉireann Mícheál D Ó hUiginn agus a bhean chéile Saidhbhín Nic Giolla Chomhaill le grúpa fiontraithe culturtha in oifigí athchóirithe Chomhairle Ard Mhacha ar an tseachtain seo caite. Ba é ArdMhéara Ard Mhacha, an Comhairleoir Cathy Rafferty, a d’óstáil an tUachtarán agus a bhean chéile. Fuair na haíonna speisialta deis cluinstin faoi na forbairtí is déanaí le cur cur le soláthar cultúrtha na cathrach. 

Tá ard-iomrá ar Ard Mhacha mar shuíomh suntasach cultúrtha ón ré réamhChríostaí ach tá caibidil úr ar tí oscailt i stair na nGael sa chathair. Tá roinnt eagraíochtaí Gaeilge agus cultúir sa cheantar i ndiaidh theacht le chéile le fiontar nua sóisialta a chruthú darb ainm Aonach Mhacha agus cuspóir aige ionad úrnua Gaeilge agus ealaíon a thógáil do bhunadh Ard Mhacha. 

Tá stiúrthóirí na cuideachta úire ag oibriú le Gníomhaireacht Fhiontraíochta an Iúir agus Múrna, le Invest NI agus le heacnamaithe sinsearacha sa Roinn Cultúir, Ealaíon agus Fóillíochta lena gcuid pleananna a fhíorú. Rinneadh staidéir infhéidearthachta ar roinnt suíomhanna sa chathair sular socraíodh ar shuíomh an seanstáisiúin dhóiteáin sa Seamlas a bheas mar bhaile ag an fhoirgneamh úrnua £1.5 milliún. Tá maoiniú do Chéim 1 den infheistiú caipitil deimhnithe cheana féin ó Chiste Infheistíochta Gaeilge, ón Roinn Cultúir, Ealaíon agus Fóillíochta, ó Iontaobhas Infheistithe Pobail Uladh, ó Chomhairle Ard Mhacha, ó Iontaobhas Ultach, ó Gael Linn agus ó Invest NI. Ceapadh DA Architects agus Smyth Surveying leis an obair a dhéanamh ar thionscadal Aonach Mhacha.

Chuir Seán Ó Maoilsté, Stiúrthóir le hAonach Mhacha agus Oifigeach Gaeilge CLG Ard Mhacha, chuie sé fáilte mhór roimh shuim an Uachtaráin sa scéim:

“Sula raibh sé ina Uachtarán, bhí Mícheál D. Ó hUiginn ina pholaiteoir, ina fhile, ina shocheolaí, ina údar, ina chraoltóir, ina dhíograiseoir Gaeilge agus ina ghníomhaí cearta daonna. Bhí sé mar Theachta Dála (TD) do thoghcheantar Gaillimh Thiar ina bhfuill roinnt ceantar Gaeltachta agus ba é an tAire do na hEalaíona, don Chultúr agus don Ghaeltacht a bhí freagrach as Teilifís na Gaeilge a bhunú (TG4 anois) – céim mhór chun tosaigh do phobal na Gaeilge in Éirinn. Mar sin de, chuir sé an-suim i mbunú ionaid Ghaeilge agus ealaíon cultúrtha in Ard Mhacha, príomhchathair ársa Chúige Uladh. Ghuigh sé achan rath orainn uilig lenár n-iarrachtaí agus dúirt sé go raibh sé ag súil go mór le theacht ar ais ar cuairt ar an ionad nuair a bheas sé oscailte go luath in 2016”.

D3S_5121Tig ainm an lárionaid Ghaeilge – Aonach Mhacha – ó cheann de na mórthionóil Gaelacha nó aonaigh a tharla i réamhstair na hÉireann. Is ag na haonaigh seo a socraíodh gnó an mhórcheantair uilig, an chúige agus na tíre fiú – gnó dleathach, gnó sóisialta, gnó tráchtála agus gnó polaitiúil. Bhó aonach chúige Uladh ar siúl in Ard Mhacha agus mhair sé suas le trí sheachtain agus tionóladh é suas le trí huaire sa bhliain. Tá sé ráite ag scoláirí agus taighdeoirí gur ar Fhaiche Ard Mhacha a raibh an t-aonach ársa ar siúl ann.

Bhí an tUachtarán agus a bhean chéile an-tógtha leis na pleananna don tionscadal úr agus gheall said go mbainfeadh said leas as an tionchar a bhí acu le tacaíocht a fháil don scéim ar dhá thaobh na teorann.

Agus é ag cur fáilte roimh an Uachtarán agus a bhean chéile go hArd Mhacha, dúirt Gearóid Ó Machail, ionadaí Aonach Mhacha, go raibh dóchas aige go dtiocfadh céadshaoránaigh na hÉireann ar ais don oscailt oifigiúil in 2016: 

“Beidh Aonach Mhacha mar spreagadh d’fhorbairt teanga, cultúr agus oidhreacht na nGael i gcroílár chathair Ard Mhacha. Is léir go mbeidh tionchar suntasach ag an fhorbairt £1.5 million ar gheilleagar sóisialta Ard Mhacha i ré seo an chúlaithe agus na déine eacnamaíochta.

“Cuideoidh an tionscadal le 14 post lánaimseartha a chothú agus le líon suntasach post eile lánaimseartha agus páirtaimseartha. Cruthófar beagnach 100 post le linn chéim na tógála agus chomh leis sin cruthófar poist do mhúinteoirí, d’éascaitheoirí, d’ealaíontóirí, do cheoltóirí, d’oifigigh tionscadal agus do chúntóirí teicniúla ar bhonn tionscadail.

“Cuirfidh Aonach Mhacha le fás agus forbairt sé ghnó éagsúil atá ag feidhmiú in Ard Mhacha faoi láthair. Trí eagraíochtaí Gaeilge agus cultúir a thabhairt faoin aon díon amháin, soláthróidh an chultúrlann úr baile don chultúr a chuirfeas níos mó tionscadail éifeachtacha ar fáil don phobal. Tabharfaidh Aonach Mhacha beatha d’áit thréigthe i lár na cathrach agus cuirfidh sé leis an chonair cultúrtha idir an Seamlas agus Amharclann Phlás an Mhargaidh ag cinntiú go mbeidh sé níos sábháilte agus níos tarraingtí ag cuairteoirí agus ag mhuintir na háite araon. 

“Cruthóidh Aonach Mhacha gnó do shiopaí, do bhialanna agus do thabhairní a thabharfas seirbhísí don ionad i rith féiltí, ceolchoirmeacha agus gníomhaíochtaí eile.”

President of Ireland, Mícheál D. Ó Huiginn and his wife Saidhbhín Nic Giolla Comhaill, met last week with a group of cultural entrepreneurs in the newly refurbished Council Offices in Armagh City. The President and First Lady were in Armagh for a number of pre-planned visits as guests of Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Cllr Cathy Rafferty. Before lunching as guests of the Lord Mayor, the visiting dignitaries availed of the opportunity to hear about the latest developments in an ambitious plan to add to Armagh City’s stock of cultural tourism attractions.

Renowned since pre-Christian times as a site of major cultural significance, Armagh City is about to open a momentous new chapter in its history as a landmark, cross-border attraction for enthusiasts of Gaelic culture and traditions. Several Irish language and cultural organisations based in the city have joined forces to create a new social enterprise named Aonach Mhacha with the express purpose of building a modern Irish language and arts centre for the people of Armagh City and District.

D3S_5117Directors of the new company have been working closely with Newry and Mourne Enterprise Agency, Invest NI and senior economists at DCAL to bring their plans to fruition. Feasibility studies on a number of city centre locations were carried out before settling on the site of the former fire station in the Shambles as the home for the exciting, new £1.5 million venture. Funding for Phase I of the capital development has already been secured from Ciste Infheistíochta Gaeilge, Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Ulster Community Investment Trust, Armagh City and District Council, Iontaobhas Ultach, Gael Linn and Invest NI. DA Architects and Smyth Surveying have been commissioned to work on the Aonach Mhacha project.

Aonach Mhacha Director and County Armagh GAA Irish Cultural Officer, Seán Ó Maoilsté, welcomed the President’s interest in the scheme:

Prior to becoming President, Mícheál D. Ó hUiginn was a politician, poet, sociologist, author, broadcaster, Irish language enthusiast and human rights activist. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Galway West constituency that included a number of Gaeltacht areas and indeed he was the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht who was responsible for the establishment of Teilifís na Gaeilge (now TG4) – a landmark occasion for the Irish language community in Ireland. Therefore, he was keenly interested in the establishment of an Irish language and cultural arts centre in Armagh City, the ancient capital of Ulster. He wished our team every success in our efforts and looked forward to visiting the centre when it opens in early 2016”.

The name for the new Irish language hub – Aonach Mhacha – is taken from one of the great Gaelic tribal assemblies or ‘Aonachs’ which had their origins in the pre-history of Ireland. These were truly magnificent gatherings at which the business of the whole district, province or country – legal, social, commercial and political – was conducted. The Aonach for the province of Ulster was held in Armagh and could last up to three weeks and was held as many as three times a year. Scholars and researchers have identified The Mall in Armagh City as the probable location of this important, ancient assembly.

The President and the First Lady of State were impressed with the advanced state of planning for the new project and promised to use their influence to secure maximum support on both sides of the border for the proposed capital development.

Welcoming the President and First Lady to Armagh, Aonach Mhacha representative, Gearóid Ó Machail, expressed his hope that Ireland’s first citizens would return for the official opening in 2016:

Aonach Mhacha aims to act as a catalyst for the promotion and development of the Irish language, culture and heritage in the historic heart of Armagh City and in the surrounding district.  Clearly, the £1.5 million development of Aonach Mhacha will have a significant impact upon the social and economic situation in this period of prolonged recession and austerity.

The project will help sustain 14 full time jobs and upon completion will help create a further, significant number of full time and part-time jobs.  Almost 100 jobs will be created during the construction phase and in addition, extra employment for teachers, facilitators, artists, musicians, project officers and technical assistants will be created on a project by project basis.

Aonach Mhacha will facilitate the further growth and development of six businesses currently operating in Armagh.  By bringing language and cultural organisations under one roof, the new cultúrlann will generate a critical cultural mass which will allow much more ambitious and effective projects to be delivered. The proposal for the Aonach Mhacha cultural centre will regenerate a derelict part of the city centre, further develop the cultural corridor between the Shambles and the Marketplace Theatre and make the area safer and more attractive to visitors, thereby increasing footfall in the area and contributing to the evening economy. 

 “Aonach Mhacha will generate custom for local enterprises such as shops, restaurants and public houses which will be contracted to provide services for the centre during festivals, concerts and other activities” he concluded.