Minister for Children visits the county

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs was in Donegal yesterday to open a new childcare centre in Ardara and visit the Niall Mór Community and Entreprise Centre in Killybegs.

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs was in Donegal yesterday to open a new childcare centre in Ardara and visit the Niall Mór Community and Entreprise Centre in Killybegs.

Minister Frances Fitzgerald officially opened the Ardara Community Childcare Centre at 2pm and went on to visit the new Niall Mór centre in Killybegs at 3.30pm.

Local community activist Stephen McCahill said yesterday that the people of Ardara owed a big debt to Emily Whelan, who was the driving force behind the creation of the new childcare centre.

“It’s all down to one person really, Emily Whelan, who has worked tirelessly for this project for a number of years. She knocked on doors and kept knocking on doors until she got what was needed, a beautiful state-of-the-art childcare centre. Emily worked with children in the playschool in the community centre for many years but she knew that better facilities were required and she kept working until she got substantial funding from the Department.

“Now we’re all over the moon. It’s a great addition to the town, a wonderful facility, second to none. The centre is beautifully situated, in Charlie Bennett Drive, in the centre of the town. There is a playpark right beside it, as well as plenty of safe parking and it’s all very accessible.

“We’re very grateful to have a childcare facility of this standard and, of course, it’s a welcome employer.”

Emily says the project has been more than ten years in the making. “In 2000, we had a pre-school in the community centre. Then monies came on-stream from Europe that year. It took until 2005, but our application was successful and we received €799,000 to cover all of the capital costs and most of the setting up costs. We were subsequently granted a further €32,000 for furniture and fittings.

“Whatever money was allocated was spent the best way we could, providing the vert best facilities and programme of activities.

“We have roughly 65 families using the service. We provide full day care including creche facility, as well as pre-school and afterschool programmes. So well look after children from as young as 5 months old up to 12 years of age.

“All seven of our staff who work directly with the children are very well qualified, to Level 6 in Childcare and one is doing a degree in childcare.

We also employ 2 cooks and a cleaner on a part-time basis.”

During the Minister’s visit, the children presented here with a piece of Donegal tweed and a framed picture that they drew themselves.

The Minister also dropped into the Niall Mór Commuity and Entreprise Centre, on the site of the old Niall Mór NS in Killybegs.

South West Donegal Community Partnership oversaw this massive project, which saw the renovation and extenstion of the school at a cost of more than €1.8m.

Speaking on behalf of the Partnership, Margaret Doherty said yesterday: “The new facility will provide accommodation and support for a number of community initiatives, including the community childcare service which is managed entirely on a voluntary basis. The centre has only just opened its doors over the last few months. It provide training facilities for courses and programmes for any community group or for FAS-funded programmes. Two FAS programmes are already being delivered here. The centre also provides office accommodation to community -ased services, such as the Killybegs Chamber of Commerce, Donegal Local Development Company, Seirbhis Iompair Tuaithe Teo (Community Rural Transport), Information Outreach, and the Youth Project and Drop in Centre.

“It took the group six years, and plenty of determination to overcome challenges, to reach this point and we are absolutely delighted to have such a wonderful facility now. Funding was obtained from various agencies, including the IFI, who were key, especially in terms of supporting training and enterprise, as well as the NCIP funding for the childcare centre and we also obtained some Peace funding towards part-renovation of the school.

“There will be a big open day for the Childcare Centre on Monday, July 11 from 4-7pm and we would be delighted to welcome parents along to have a look at this tremendous facility.”