Abbeyfeale undergoing a gilt edged renaissance

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The Rev William Casey memorial, Abbeyfeale. Photo: Cian Reinhardt
The Rev William Casey memorial, Abbeyfeale. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

WHAT Abbeyfeale has as its backbone is ‘the good of the people’ to haul it into this prospering era. The most signal example of this vigour is the Abbeyfeale Community Council (ACC) which works with a dozen stakeholders – State agencies, voluntary and private enterprise – to advance the town.

Maurice O’Connell, a North Kerry native who put his roots down in the town 20 years ago, has served as council chairperson since this voluntary body was established in 2016.

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“I am very clear about being chairperson and not chairman as that brings it home that the  position is open to everyone,” Maurice jokes, hoping to clamber off this lofty perch soon enough.

The Council’s hard work has brought immense reward to the hinterland and feeds into many regional bodies.

“The town is going through a multi million euro transition with a new traffic plan. As part of that, Limerick City and County  Council (LCCC) have bought the building next to where the E-Hub is going to go. That will be turned into a car park and a new civic space,” he reports.

“Then in about five years from now, there is a plan for a ring road from town to Newcastle West. This will take the heavy traffic off and allow people a safer, more enjoyable life.

“It won’t be a full blown bypass and that’s important, to distinguish the difference. We are keeping it close to the town if people want to come in.

“Last year, we were overall runners up in the JP McManus-sponsored Going for Gold competition and this year, Abbeyfeale has been shortlisted for Pride of Place. We will know later on in the year how we have done in that.”

Abbeyfeale is shortlisted by LCCC for one of the categories in this 26-county competition that rewards incentivised communities.

“We will go forward to the national awards of Pride of Place.

“That follows through then as ACC was closely involved with a project with the City and County Council’s Healthy Limerick initiative. We were shortlisted for a national award there for a project we did around Abbeyfeale health with them.”

There’s more ‘best in practice’ to report, evidence of the town’s rising profile and fortunes, with Abbeyfeale Town Park’s win this Wednesday 17 of worldwide status – the Green Flag Award for excellence in presentation.

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The International Green Flag Award  sees this park added to a list around the world that are deemed to be of exceptional standard.

“It was Abbeyfeale Community Council that helped them with the application and to source some funding to prepare for same,” Maurice confirms.

“I am absolutely thrilled with Green Flag win as for me, it represents all the hard work of volunteers over the past 20 years, the committee and obviously those in the Community Employment Scheme, without whom it would not be a success.

“Tidy Towns is involved with all the groups, along with ourselves. And the town is a fantastic example of the work and the effort they put in over the last number of years.”

“A lot of the progress that is ongoing and planned for Abbeyfeale is down to the very good relationship between ourselves and LCCC, Innovate Limerick and West Limerick Resources. We’ve done quite well.”

“Do you know about the Greenway? Because another few million is after being released for the people of Kerry.”

The Greenway has been magnetising tourists for a while now. It used to be called the Great Southern railway line, the 40km that used to run from Rathkeale to Abbeyfeale.

“Kerry County Council has now been awarded around €3million to extend it into Listowel, which is the next extension and eventually it will extend back to Tralee. The old railway tracks have been taken up and it is already a major tourist attraction for cyclists and walking groups but the connection to Kerry is important.”