Rockhill House Heritage Association have received confirmation from the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter, TD, that the Department will finalise the handover of Rockhill House to Donegal County Council in approximately three weeks.
In a statement the association say this commitment followed further correspondence from the group to the Minister, as well as to the Taoiseach and other ministers, enquiring as to why Rockhill House continued to be left in a limbo between the department and the council, at a time when its reclamation and restoration should have been underway. This latest correspondence arrived on the eve of the anniversary of the Minister first telling the Association of the planned handover, the association’s statement added.
Since 2009, after Rockhill House ceased being an army barracks, the Rockhill House Heritage Association has been campaigning for the preservation and protection of Rockhill and following expert advice, they judged that the best way to do so was through it being turned into a “signature” / flagship tourism project. They have also called for the adjoining wooded area owned by Coillte to be reunited with the House. In their view and that of experts that they had examine the situation, a combining of both properties would add a scale to the project that would make any future project much more feasible.
In this most recent correspondence Minister Shatter told the Association that “agreement was reached sometime ago” for the sale of both Rockhill House and the former Lifford barracks to Donegal County Council. As part of the sale agreement the Department undertook to have some damage to the Lifford barracks repaired. This work had been due for completion by the end of 2011. This did not happen at that time. “The work has now commenced and is expected to be completed in approximately three weeks. At that stage the Department will finalise the handover of the properties to the Council” says the letter.
Welcoming the Minister’s correspondence the chairman of the Rockhill House Heritage Association, Adrian Gallagher, said: “We hope this brings this sorry stage of Rockhill House’s history to an end for once and for all. In the past we have been given so many dates that never materialised, that perhaps we have grown a little sceptical. However, we will take the Minister’s explanation at face value and look forward to the completion of the transfer. Perhaps a little openness earlier by the parties directly involved would have saved us some of the effort we have produced to keep Rockhill on the agenda.
“We have had no recent contact from the Minister of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, T.D., or his department, who are the beneficial owners of Coillte, in regard to the Coillte property at Rockhill. We hope that when the deal with Donegal Co. Council is being finalised by the government it too will be part of the agreement. Otherwise the Council and those who may run Rockhill House on behalf of the people of Donegal will have one hand tied behind their backs, so to speak.”
Mr Gallagher added: “As an association we have been glad to assist in putting and keeping Rockhill House on the agenda - at no little cost to ourselves in terms of time, effort and resources. We are again ready and hope that we will be allowed assist in the further development of what can be a great resource for the people of Donegal, who will shortly own it. It is up to all of us to play our part in maximising its benefit for ourselves and for future generations.”