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Former Crossmaglen bank to be transformed into peace and reconciliation centre

Former Bank of Ireland in Crossmaglen
Former Bank of Ireland in Crossmaglen

The former Bank of Ireland in Crossmaglen is set to be transformed into a community peace and reconciliation centre.

And the team behind the initiative is the Darkley-based Crossfire Trust which officially opened up their hub in the premises in June.

Founder Ian Bothwell has submitted proposals for consideration to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council.

The three-storey property occupies a prominent site at Cardinal O’Fiaich Square.

It was left vacant after the Bank of Ireland announced plans in August 2021 to leave the south Armagh town and promptly did so three months later.

Now, however, if NMD Council agrees, the venue could be given a multi-functional use within the centre of Crossmaglen.

The application details a new community peace and reconciliation centre, with the ground floor to be run as a charity shop and food bank, which is currently in operation. There would also be a coffee bar and toilets at ground floor level.

The Crossmaglen community hub was officially opened in June. Pictured l-r: Pauline Bothwell, Michael Savage and Ian Bothwell

The rear yard, meanwhile, would be developed as an accessible community garden.

There would be a terrace cafe at the rear of the building too.

The first floor would be extended to the back of the property to provide a community meeting room – complete with heritage wall display – as well as kitchen and offices.

The new second floor accommodation would offer life skills kitchen, crafts and counselling rooms.

The community venue – which would boast access via stairs or lift – would see five staff on site daily.

The Crossfire Trust already operates Darkley House.

It is described on its website as a registered charity which “cares for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the people, primarily in South Armagh, Northern Ireland”.

The Trust was founded in 1984 by four Trustees who had considerable experience volunteering in Crossmaglen and who wanted to “develop further the links Ian Bothwell had made in the area since 1978”.

The Trust’s website adds: “At the height of ‘The Troubles’, Ian watched a TV documentary on the border town, Crossmaglen, which conveyed fear, isolation, community breakdown and the need for hope.

“In response to these scenes and the felt need, Ian travelled from his home at Tynan to remind the people of God and His love for them, despite the religious and cultural barriers that existed between Tynan to Crossmaglen, and to convey ‘there is a God and He does love’.”

All these years later and the Crossfire Trust is now hoping to establish a permanent base in the South Armagh town.

The application for the new community peace and reconciliation centre will now be advertised shortly with a decision expected in the coming months.

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