St Annes Convent – David Lamont pictured above is the survey manager for the Parish Council and member of the Rathkeale Community Council and steering committee member of Team Rathkeale outside the convent
Rathkealers give their opinions about how St Annes Convent can benefit the town
In a show of community participation, Rathkeale had its say in how the now closed St Annes Convent might be reused in the future to benefit the town. 162 people responded to the survey that was available on paper and online in September 2020. With 90% adult responders the survey had a margin of error of around ±7%, an inclusive result for a small town isolated due to the pandemic.
638 ideas included using St Annes Convent and grounds as a heritage/arts centre; classrooms for learning new skills; services to improve physical and mental health; as well as accommodation for residents and visitors. Almost all participants suggested multiple uses with business-type tenants topping the list of opinions. That supports the Parish Council’s desire to use the facility for the benefit of the Rathkeale community and to ensure it does not become a financial burden.
Most wanted the facility opened as soon as possible and some offered to help by providing skills and small donations. When it came to managing the facility and tenants Rathkealers favoured using a professional over volunteers.
“We want to thank everyone who shared their opinions with us about St Annes Convent and David Lamont of the Rathkeale Community Council for managing the complex process,” said Noel White, chairperson of St. Mary’s Parish Council. “We will now start to look at the practical implications of renovating the facility and attracting tenants.”
The Sisters of Mercy nuns arrived in Rathkeale in 1845 and were given the convent by the people. They returned in 2013 when they left the town after 163 years of service.
Rathkeale, home to 1,700 people, is the friendly, active, sports-mad, town on the N21 near Newcastle West. It will be soon at the elbow of the new Foynes to Limerick motorway, about 20 minutes from many of the 94,000 people in Limerick City. Its workforce is highly skilled with 34% engaged in professional managerial, technical, or non-manual work. 43% work in Commerce, Trade and Professional Services and 7% in Agriculture. Crime reports to the Rathkeale garda station have fallen dramatically and remain near a 10-year low. The average residential property value is around €139,000, making rural Rathkeale an affordable place to live.
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