A MEETING was held this week to reveal plans of the upgrade of the old Catholic hall in Glenavy which will be used by both sides of the community.
On Wednesday, the meeting was held at the Church of Ireland Hall to underpin the £265,000 upgrade of St Clare’s hall which will go ahead thanks to a £195,000 grant from Department of Regional Development, and it will be augmented with a £70,000 fundraiser by the village.
The hall committee is made up of Maire Cormican (chairperson), Denis Wilson, Christina Maginnis and Tom Collins and the plan is for the hall, which is open to all local clubs and organisations, to be ready by early summer.
The news of the revamp of the hall comes weeks after a vandalism attack at the village war memorial and the Church of Ireland Church.
Denis Wilson, proprietor of a tool sales and retail business, said: “There has been tremendous interest from a wide range of organisations, and it will be a real asset to Glenavy. We are putting a new roof on the building and refurbishing it extensively inside.
“We are also planning an all-weather sports pitch in the village, and there is a great cross-community spirit developing.”
This was fostered by a cross-community carol service during Christmas week in the local St Aidan’s Church of Ireland.
One of the organisers, Dr Owen Gallagher, described it as “a wonderful success”.
He said: “About 300 packed the church. There was standing room only, and we all sang joyfully for about an hour and then enjoyed tea and hospitality in the parish hall.
“It’ll be an annual event, between St Aidan’s and St Joseph Catholic Church.”
The service was the consequence of the Catholic Parish Church helping to clear up the damage caused by the vandals to the local Orange hall, to the village’s war memorial and to St Aidan’s Parish Hall, on which sectarian slogans were daubed
The Catholic community also collected £2,000 to help pay for the damage, and the cheque was presented at the carol service by parish priest Fr Sean Dillon to Church of Ireland rector the Rev John Rutter.
Dr Gallagher said: “It was an inspiring, proud night for the village, and we are all wholeheartedly throwing ourselves into making this a village where everyone can feel valued.
“There are many new housing developments in Glenavy, but the infrastructure isn’t there, and such an infrastructure is vital to keep young people involved and occupied.”
He added: “We are convinced that the perpetrators of the vandalism came from outside the village and the residents from all sides are annoyed and disgusted.
“There has been a backlash from the residents and it is all going into positive action. It’s a case of good emerging from evil, and many new friendships have been forged.
“This will continue with our new hall, and that is a matter of great relief.”