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09 Dec 2021

Community urged to help restore iconic West Donegal building

Ambitious restoration plans for An Halla Mór, Dungloe revealed

Community urged to help restore iconic West Donegal building

The hall as it currently stands in Dungloe

Ambitious plans to transform an old building into a vibrant multi-purpose community facility in Dungloe have been revealed this week.

The newly formed ‘An Halla Mór’ Dungloe Committee is seeking funding to revamp and refurbish the old Parochial Hall or the Big Hall as it is more affectionately known.

The hall itself has fallen into disrepair in recent years and is in great need for an overhaul.

A few like minded people in the community came together to see if funding could be sought to have the hall restored to its former glory.

The new committee are presently applying for funding to have the floor, lights and heating replaced and to upgrade the existing facilities.

The hall was built and opened in 1913 by the Dungloe Branch of the AOH (Ancient Order of Hibernians).

They did not have the funds to complete the building so they made a pact with the parish priest at the time, Fr O’Scanlon, that if he completed the hall then it could be used by the parish for various parochial activities.

It was extensively used down through the decades for a host of community events such as concerts, cinema, bingo hall, Irish dancing and ballroom dancing, band practice, summer camps, badminton and homecoming events.

The local GAA used it for training and it served as the home of the District Court for many years too.

The Mary from Dungloe festival committee also used it for various festival activities during their week-long programme of events.

The highlight of the hall's many uses was the annual ‘Fancy Dress Ball’ which was a big occasion up until the 1990s and the Dungloe Amateur Boxing Club hosted boxing tournaments where upwards of 600 people packed into the hall to enjoy the
sport of gentlemen.

The new committee also learned that Pádraig Mac Pairais visited the hall in February of 1914 recruiting for the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) to enlist volunteers to help with the cause.

However, there is a strong feeling in the community that it should be kept as a community space, to be used by all groups, of all ages, and those looking to have space for their respective activities.

"All too often buildings are let go until they are no longer in a state of repair and we do not want this to happen to the hall.

"We have been approached by numerous groups in the community who wish to avail of it once the work is carried out. This is encouraging as it shows there is a genuine need in the community for this type of amenity/facility," said a committee spokesperson this week.

Negotiations are well underway with the present parish committee to have the hall handed over to the local community as a cross-community multi-denominational facility, accessible to all.

The hall itself is structurally sound from a building and roofing point of view, the works to be carried out include a new floor, new heating system and cost-effective energy saving lights, installing windows and doors, the rest of the work is
upgrading and mainly cosmetic.

Depending on funding the work will have to be carried out in phases with the first phase being the floor, installation of new heating system, lighting and an accessible toilet and changing amenity for children.

The committee spokesperson revealed their plan of action.

"We are embarking on a fundraising initiative to gather the 25% of funds needed by the community to meet funding criteria set down by the LEADER programme administered by Údarás na Gaeltachta.

"We have received assistance also from the Donegal County Council through the Community Enhancement Fund
and received training and support from the local branch of the Donegal Local Development Committee.

"We are holding a Christmas Raffle with some great prizes, sponsored by the Dungloe and surrounding businesses, and we’d like to give thanks to them for their support.

"It’s not easy especially at this time to be asking businesses to donate but we are delighted with the response we have received. We are also embarking on a ‘Sponsor a Board’ whereby you can sponsor a floorboard for you, your family or in memory of a loved one. We will acknowledge each donation via an inscription of the name which will be on display at the hall.
Donation minimum of €20 for inscriptions," said the spokesperson.

Further details will be posted in due course. If you wish to help out with this initiative or any part of the project, you can contact ‘An Halla Mór’ Dungloe Committee on Facebook, Instagram, or email them on anhallamor@gmail.com.

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