A suggestion on social media regarding the future of the former AIB building in Gaoth Dobhair has kicked off a discussion about possible uses for the premises.
As part of the discussion, a local independent councillor has also called on the bank to gift the building to the local community for its use.
The building, on the main road through the Gaeltacht village, has been vacant since AIB closed the branch about three years ago.
The issue arose this week, after local curate, Father Brian Ó Fearraigh, suggested on Facebook on Monday evening that the building could be developed as a purpose-built, state-of-the-art youth centre.
Speaking later to the Democrat, Father Brian said he had suggested the need for such a centre when he addressed an Éigse Uladh some years ago on the role of young people in modern society.
He said he was reminded of that the other day when he saw the “for sale” sign on the former bank building.
“Certainly there are groups out there, individuals out there providing services to young people, and I commend them wholeheartedly,” Father Brian said. But there is no dedicated youth centre in Gaoth Dobhair.
“What if we had a community-based facility that’s purely youth-focused, with fully trained youth workers available on a full-time basis?” Father Brian asked.
Local independent Cllr. Micheal Cholm Mac Giolla Easbuig supported the idea. He also said he would like to see a discussion within the community on the future of the building and for the building to be handed over to the community.
“I would love to see the young people of Gaoth Dobhair come together and decide the future of this building,” the former youth worker said. He said in Catalonia and the Basque country, it is not uncommon for young people to run local youth projects.
“And I think our young people have the ability to do this,” he said.
The councillor said he would also like to see a community campaign put pressure on the government to push for the building to be turned over to the community.
“We’re a community that’s been devastated with unemployment and emigration and lack of investment for infrastructure, but especially for our youth,” Cllr. Mac Giolla Easbuig said. “And we’re saying, ‘Gift this building to the community.’”
Patsy Ferry, admin/youth worker with Letterkenny Youth and Family Services, lives in Gaoth Dobhair and said she would like to see the building developed as a youth centre.
She credited existing services for young people in the wider area, saying groups like Pobail le Chéile in Falcarragh and the Ionad Naomh Pádraig in Dore were doing “massive work”.
But she added, “I do think a dedicated youth facility, a stand-alone with professional youth workers – you couldn’t beat it.”