There have been renewed calls to finish off the transformation of Tipperary town’s former workhouse into a tourist hostel in view of the estimated €4m in tax payers money and public donations already invested in the project.
The appeals have come from former workers of the Tipperary Hostel Project, two Tipperary Town Council members Billy Bourke and Denis Leahy and Labour MEP Phil Prendergast.
Renovation of the three-storey stone building was halted in May 2010 when the Tipperary Hostel Project was closed down in controversial circumstances following the withdrawal of funding by Pobal.
Several members of the Tipperary Hostel Board of Management resigned around that time but four members decided to remain on under the new chairmanship of Jim O’Shea.
Since then the gates of the 19th century former workhouse have remained shut with large bolders placed in front of them to deter intruders.
Mr O’Shea told the Nationalist that the Hostel Board is still active and its remaining members are seeking new funding to resume the project.
And he pointed out that they are looking for new members to join the Board to assist them in getting the project finished.
But fears are growing that the renovations already carried out on the building over a period of ten years will be undone if work doesn’t resume soon.
Labour Cllr Billy Bourke said he didn’t want the building to be left to deteriorate into dereliction again after so much time, money and effort was put in.
He called for the members of Tipperary Hostel Board to find some way to get the project finished.
Former Tipperary Hostel workers Michael O’Dwyer, Ian Dawson and Michael O’Dwyer agree. Ian Dawson said there should have been a new host project set up to finish the job. “The gates shouldn’t have been closed,” he said
Michael O’Dwyer estimated that only another year and a half of work is required to complete the renovations.
“When we left the building the church was finished and the heating was done in the church. We did the work to the best of our abillity and people donated money to the project for the stain glassed windows in the church and slates for the roof,” he told The Nationalist.
He feels that prominent figures in the town and county basked in the glow of the positive publicity the Tipperary Hostel Project brought them when the things were going well but now they don’t want to be associated with it.
Cllr Bourke said the people of Tipperary town dug deep into their pockets to donate to the Tipperary Hostel Project and he fears that if it’s not revived and completed the town’s citizens will be reluctant to contribute to other local causes again.
Cllr Denis Leahy believes the project has gone off the priority list and some people just want it to go away.
He said a new Tipperary Hostel Board should be formed to kick start the project again and oversee its completion otherwise about €4m will have gone down the drain.
“I believe the remaining board members left should resign and a fresh approach has to be taken. We need a new group with fresh ideas to find the funding to finish the project. Otherwise we are going nowhere.
MEP Phil Prendergast said the Tipperary Hostel project was too big to be left in an unfinished state. Not only would it be a waste of the money already spent there but a waste of the talented workmanship that had already gone into the renovation of the building.
Jim O’Shea, Chairman of Tipperary Hostel Board Ltd Board of Management, responded that the Board has a very good hope of completing the project. It has made enquiries about securing new funding and was looking for new people to join the Board to help them finish the hostel.
When asked what funding bodies the enquiries have been made to, Mr O’Shea said he didn’t wish to mention their names at the moment because there were at an extremely delicate stage and it was confidential.
But remaining Board member former FF Cllr Michael Maguire explained that the Board was waiting for Pobal to come back to discuss new funding with them. It was an extremely slow process. They were originally told the agency would come back to them last March or April.
Mr O’Shea said it would have been easier for them to have left the Board but they felt it was important to continue on to get the project finished because so much money and effort has been put in.
Meanwhile, Tipperary Town Council senior staff officer Shane O’Dwyer said while the Town Council owned the former workhouse, Tipperary Hostel Limited held a long term lease on the building and held the responsibility for completing the renovations. The Council would like to see work resume on completing the project but hadn’t any entitlement to step in just as the owner of a commercial building hadn’t any role in a business leasing their property.