Ballyshannon town clock's south face since storm damage saw the clock face removed.
A councillor has made an impassioned plea to Donegal County Council to buy the landmark town clock building in Ballyshannon which has hit the headlines yet again following an incident last week where a stone lintel fell from the building.
Commenting on a motion before Donegal Municipal District tabled by Cllr Michéal Naughton that the council discuss the up to date position in relation to the repair of the town clock and the building in which it is housed, Cllr Barry O’Neill said it was “lucky beyond belief” that no one was killed when part of the building fell from a second floor window.
O’Neill said that but for the grace of God someone wasn’t killed: “It wasn’t just a stone that fell, it was a keystone. What happened last week is indicative of what happens when a building is left to rot.”
Referring to minutes from a council meeting in 2016 which indicated that at that time the council had attempted but failed to get in contact with the building’s owner, he asked what contacts had been made, if any, between the council and the owner.
“Has there been any engagement with the owner, my information is that he is willing to sell the building, I’d say he is interested in selling. Last week when the stone fell from it brought it home that if this building is left any longer, we would see serious issues with it,” he said.
In a written reply to the original motion tabled by Cllr Naughton, the council repeated that they effectively cannot do a great deal once the building is in private ownership. The full text of the reply is as follows: “The building remains in private ownership, and therefore, as per previous discussion, the council has provided the owners with information on funds available to assist with repairs for the clock from various sources at that time. This would still remain the position with a private property.”
Cllr Naughton said Ballyshannon was part of the gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way for people coming into the county. “The rate payers in Ballyshannon have been keeping the town alive, there is an onus on us all to support them, we need to help them,” he said.
He asked who is responsible if someone did get injured.
Cllr O’Neill said he was asking Donegal County Council to engage with the owner, he said he believed the owners were “as interested as anyone else” in having the building preserved and brought back to life. He accepted that repairing the building would not “cost a lot”.
He said the owners had “made it clear they are not in a position to preserve the building, they have made that quite clear”.
He said he had previously suggested at a meeting held six months ago that the building’s first floor would be an ideal library space and it would make sense for the council to stop paying “up to €20,000 per year for rented library space” and use this building which they would own.
“Why would Donegal County Council pay €20,000 per annum in rent when they have this option. This is the perfect building in the perfect town centre location.”
He said a Trust could be established to seek the funding if the council turn it over to the community.
Seconding Cllr Naughton’s motion, Cllr O’Neill asked the council to set up a working group to open negotiations with the owner with a view to buying the building.
The motion was “noted”.