With Minister Michael Ring pledging that the transfer of ownership of Rockhill House outside Letterkenny would be completed “within weeks”, the chairman of the Heritage Association, set up to protect the structure and its surrounding lands, has urged that the issue not be “put back on the longer finger” again.
Demanding that joined-up thinking was required from those in control of affairs, Adrian Gallagher called on the Government to look at the overall picture.
“If they do so, we are sure that will agree with us and our expert advisors that the greatest value can accrue to the country by combining both the House and the Coillte owned lands surrounding it.
The Minister for State at the Department of Tourism and Sport, Mr. Ring, told the chairman in a recent letter that the handing over of the property to Donegal County Council was imminent.
“I understand that Donegal County Council agreed to acquire the property from the Department of Defence. I also understand that the legalities/administration are being concluded at the moment and the transfer of ownership should be completed within weeks,” the Government representative revealed in his response at the end of February.
Reacted the chairman of the Rockhill House Heritage Association: “If Minister Ring was telling it as it is, we should expect some movement before the end of March because if not, then the transfer will not have been completed within weeks as he had stated in his letter.
“We and Rockhill House will then be back on the long finger. We all deserve better and hope not to be disappointed again,” Mr. Gallagher declared.
Highlighting what he called the continuing “deadlock and deterioration” of the former army barracks, which closed three years ago, the chairman wrote to the Minister reminding him that they heard “such words before” but no concrete action had followed. The Association had also requested the Government previously to transfer the surrounding Coillte owned land to the County Council at the same time as the House itself.
“In the view of the Association and of experts who had examined the situation on their behalf, the combining of both properties would greatly add to the potential of Rockhill House to become a flagship tourism project.
“The need for “signature projects” to drive tourism in an area was emphasised by Shaun Quinn, CEO of Fáilte Ireland, in his speech during the recent Colmcille Winter School in Gartan. While Donegal does have Glenveagh National Park and now Sliabh Liagh is now being developed, there is a great need for an alternative to those especially in the Letterkenny area,” Mr. Gallagher maintained.
Rockhill House could, he said, be that “signature project” and was one that the whole county and even the greater North West could gain from.