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New £2m Tommy Makem Centre work to start on Monday

WORK will begin in Keady this coming Monday on a new state-of-the-art community venue at a cost in excess of £2 million, Armagh I can tonight exclusively reveal.

Seven years after a committee was first set up to review the old, outdated and not-fit-for purpose centre, this new facility and a new-look Keady, as our digital impression shows, will begin to rise in its place.

And the town is rightly proud that it should be named after the late legendary musician Tommy Makem, who was born in Keady and achieved global fame, both with The Clancy Brothers and as a solo star.

Tommy, who died several years past in Dover, New Hampshire, USA, never forgot his roots, and the town annually honours his memory and contribution to the Irish traditional and folk scene with a special weekend festival.

The idea to name the new venue the Tommy Makem Community and Arts Centre was first brought forward to Armagh City and District Council by SDLP Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon, and first revealed by Armagh I that same evening, with the full backing of councillors given.

Tonight he told us that the construction, to replace the already demolished old community centre, will start this Monday, November 25, and should be completed and open to the public within 16 months.

Councillor O’Hanlon, who is the chairman of the council’s Keady working group overseeing the project, said the day had been “a long time coming”.

A review group was set up in 2006 and now work will begin.

“Work started on site in July to demolish the old community centre and, on Monday, the construction of the new community centre will begin,” Councillor O’Hanlon said. “The centre will take approximately 16 months to complete at a cost just of over £2million.

“From Monday preparation works will commence, the site will be boarded and the footings for the new centre are to be in place before Christmas. And when the contractor returns in January the steel frame will start to be constructed.”

The works are only one element of a major multi-million pound investment planned by Armagh City and District Council for the South Armagh town.

“Works are already well underway on the new play park and only this week I led a site meeting to agree some of the finer details in relation to the perimeter fencing,” revealed Councillor O’Hanlon.

“During the same meeting we agreed a new fencing proposal for the pitch at Madden Row, which will see the site’s security improved. Only last week, we also viewed the type of new changing facility proposed for Madden Row and an amended planning application is due to be submitted for that facility in the coming weeks.

“All this work is very much welcome in Keady and I hope it will be a catalyst for regeneration in the town.

“We have already consulted on the proposals for the environmental improvement scheme planned for the town and have secured funding from the DoE for improvements to some of the derelict buildings. These schemes when taken together are a significant investment in the town and I look forward to their completion.”

Earlier this week, Armagh I also revealed plans to appoint a team to look at the development of enhanced features for a forest park in nearby Darkley, bringing a further boost to the overall locality.

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