Environment Minister Phil Hogan officially opened the €2.1m Friary Gardens sheltered housing scheme on the grounds of the former Franciscan Friary in Carrickbeg last week.
The Minister cut the red tape on the housing development for older people at a ceremony attended by Mayor of Carrick-on-Suir Cllr Richie O’Neill, the Provincial of the Franciscan Order, senior Respond! Housing Association managers, other local dignatries and residents of the scheme last Friday.
The sheltered housing scheme was completed in February last year and features seven homes, two apartments, an 8-bed group home and other communal facilities.
Friary Gardens was designed and developed by Respond! Housing Association, funded by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and constructed by Townmore Construction Ltd.
It is one of almost 70 estates built and managed by Respond! in the Munster area and one of ten housing projects Respond! plans to officially open this year.
The scheme was the first housing development opened by Minister Hogan since his appointment as Minister for Environment, Heritage & Local Government.
Minister Hogan paid tribute to Respond! for being such an active participant in housing for some of the most vulnerable groups in our society.
“The role of the voluntary sector cannot be underestimated and the sector will continue to be a very important cog in the social housing machine in the years to come. There exists an excellent relationship between the Department of the Environment, Heriage and Local Government and Respond! Housing Association and this will continue into the future.”
The Minister said the aim of Respond! was to create self-supporting communities that are linked to the wider community they live in, and they provide the necessary support and opportunities for tenants to achieve that goal.
However, he added that schemes like this were about more than just houses, they were about building thriving sustaining communities.
Projects like Friary Gardens were excellently designed and imbue a great sense of pride and confidence where people will want to live in a safe and secure environment, he said.
The Minister wished the residents well saying that this development was an excellent example of how the social housing needs of our society can be best met through the increasingly important partnership between voluntary housing groups and statutory authorities using the expanded variety of supply options available.
Respond Regional Manager Tom Power welcomed all present including the residents of the Housing scheme and many Franciscan Friars ,who had served in Carrick-on- Suir Friary over the years.
He thanked the Franciscan Provincial Council for donating the property and the Town and County Councils for their cooperation during the building works. The formal blessing was performed by Fr Tom Flynn PP, who praised Respond! for the good work the Association is doing in providing social housing for those in need.
Town Mayor Cllr Richie O’Neill said he was very impressed with the houses he viewed during a guided tour of the development and congratulated the Friary Garden residents.
Respond Chief Executive Officer Fr. Pat Cogan, who served many years in the Carrick-on-Suir Friary, said that life moves on and what was unthinkable for centuries has happened. The friars had returned the Franciscan Church to the people and he was pleased that the link with the Order in Carrick-on-Suir is being retained.
He said the development and its communal facilities will benefit the local community as well as its residents. The group home will be used as a respite centre for disabled adults supported by local voluntary groups in South Tipperary and surrounding areas.
Fr. Caoimhin O’Laoide, Provincial of the Franciscan Order in Ireland, said it was an occasion of great delight, in contrast to five years ago when there was great sorrow over the friars leaving Carrick-on-Suir.
He congratulated Fr Pat Cogan and Respond! and said he was pleased Carrick-on-Suir Development Association (COSDA) had taken over the former Church and was developing it into a community facility.