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Rockhill House begins a new era in its history

Posted on January 6, 2015 by Adrian Gallagher

In August 2014, the Department of Defence put Rockhill House up for auction with an asking price of €260,000. With two bidders active on the day of auction, it was eventually bought for €670,000 by a Sligo based businessman, John D. Molloy, who also has business interests in Co. Donegal. He is presently in the process of refurbishing the property. We wish him well in his endeavours.

Rockhill House features in Irish Times’ “Buildings at Risk” series.

Posted on June 19, 2014 by Adrian Gallagher

The Irish Times’ Sylvia Thompson featured Rockhill House today in her series “Buildings at Risk” see http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/homes-and-property/buildings-at-risk-rockhill-house-letterkenny-1.1836690

Taoiseach enlightened on “The National Diaspora Centre of Ireland – The Home of a Billion Stories”©

Posted on May 12, 2014 by Adrian Gallagher

This morning, on his visit to Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D., who is also Minister for Defence, met Mr. Adrian Gallagher, Director of the National Diaspora Centre of Ireland Ltd. who brought An Taoiseach up-to-date with matters relating to the project which is planned for Rockhill House, the former army barracks. Apart from the discussion Gallagher also presented An Taoiseach with two books connected with Donegal, the autobiography of Fr. McDyer, the campaigning priest from Glencolmcille and “Rockhill House – A History”, by the (now former) commandant of Rockhill House, Col. Declan O’Carroll. He also presented a written request (see below) requesting the Taoiseach to facilitate the project by allowing Rockhill House be transferred to Donegal County Council to be used as a location for “The National Diaspora Centre of Ireland – The Home of a Billion Stories”©

12/5/2014

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D.,
Government Buildings,
Dublin 2.

Re. Rockhill House – the future site of the National Diaspora Centre of Ireland.

Taoiseach,

I would like to welcome you to Letterkenny especially as you could be said to be one of Donegal’s own. With your family connections to the county, you are a member of our diaspora and we always welcome our diaspora very well. I am not sure if my previous letters actually reached your own eyes when they were sent into your office and so I would like to take this opportunity to further enlighten you personally on what is a most important and exciting project, i.e the National Diaspora Centre of Ireland or NDCI for short. It is important not just for Donegal but for Ireland as a whole and for the massive numbers of people living abroad with Irish connections and how they view Ireland. It is very exciting because of all the possibilities it opens up. We ask for your help to have Rockhill House, the former army barracks and the surrounding Coillte property returned to the people of Donegal via the Co. Council to be used as the location of the NDCI.

I’m sure you don’t get much time for relaxing reading given the massive amount of official documents you must have to study. However I happened to be in a second-hand book shop on Saturday and knowing of your close ties with Donegal and especially the south of the county, I thought that this copy of the autobiography of a man who did great work in those parts, the late great Fr.McDyer, might be of interest..Of itself it is also very enlightening on the issues that face areas far removed from the seat of power and how they have to fight for their very existence, never mind talk of development. I hope that this was an issue you wished to tackle with your regional policy strategy.

When Fr. McDyer wrote this autobiography in 1982 he thought that he had seen the waves of hardship and emigration recede for good but in the last five or six years, I’m afraid, they have rolled back once more, decimating communities throughout this county especially. We see ourselves now again in a battle between hope and despair.

Early in his preface to the book he says: “The person struggling through the business of some meeting with government officials is also the child preparing mischief”. But we need not worry about mischief here today as after all, I’m not dealing with a government official but rather I’m dealing with the government itself! And we are men of the same vintage! As such I am asking for your assistance on behalf everyone in the North-West. As I said we are in a battle and in a battle symbols can be very important. Little things such as the lowering or raising of a flag can signal ruination or salvation. You can help us raise our flag of hope higher by assisting us make the National Diaspora Centre of Ireland a reality here in Letterkenny. It will signal that Donegal and the greater north-west area is a great place to live, do business and visit. Later on my fifteen year old son will be among those in the audience as you officially open Colaiste Ailigh. He and other young people like him deserve the opportunity to remain and work at home in Donegal without having to emigrate, if they so wish. This country needs their vigour and skills to ensure a better future for all of us.

Last Thursday a business group visiting from Massachusetts, USA, told of their experience of the devastation caused in certain areas of Massachusetts by the departure of major industries, just as Donegal has seen with the loss of the majority of the textile industry and how the creative economy helped redress the situation. They gave the example of the great benefits flowing from a museum of modern art being located in a town of similar size to Letterkenny. This showed how such an arrival can “make” a region, provided it is properly planned and executed, which is what we are doing here with the NDCI.

In this case we are not asking for anything to be “given” to us here in Donegal. We have already taken the initiative and started the process to make the NDCI a reality. Having already secured the name, we have now made the national diaspora project a much bigger one than the one conceived for Failte Ireland by the very highly paid consultants. For a start we have made this a centre to serve the two parts of this island and for that we have received the backing of the Good Friday Implementation Committee. We are not dealing in hear-say as the consultants seem to have been. We in Donegal know emigration first hand and we do have experience in dealing with the diaspora, whether via initiatives such as the very successful Donegal Diaspora Project, contact with Donegal Associations worldwide or through the work of clan organisations, such as the Gallagher Clan, with which I myself am involved. We have also consulted those who may know best what is required, i.e. members of the diaspora themselves from across the Globe, to get their views on what they may need and expect from such a centre.

The NDCI would also be a key component of Donegal’s infrastructure and to achieve it we’re not talking here in terms of the half billion (or is it a billion?) cost for a few miles of track for Dublin City. In fact we require no capital input from the Government as all we want is two pieces of property that already belong to the people, be given via Donegal County Council for the use of the people. In turn this will help serve a global audience and help “sell” Ireland to that audience.

We do need immediate improvements to our road infrastructure in Co. Donegal such as an improved N14 Letterkenny – Lifford road, for which much of the preliminary design work has been completed. That would also boost the benefit to us in the Republic from the €50 million we are giving to Northern Ireland in support of the building of the new A5 road there. An upgrading of both the A5 and N14 would once and for all remove the false perception in Dublin that Donegal is far far removed from the capital. At the launch of the Gathering in Dublin Castle in 2012, you may remember I tried to advise the audience, including the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar T.D., of the fallacy of that view. It is recognised that the largest segment of the Irish diaspora live in the UK and it is in our favour that we can be more accessible to many of those and at more affordable rates than Dublin can be reached directly across the Irish Sea.

Lastly I would also like to present you with another book, a signed copy of “Rockhill House – A History”, by the (now former) commandant of Rockhill House, Col. Declan O’Carroll. This edition is from 1998 and so excludes mention of the major refurbishment that was carried out in the years after 2000 nor does it tell of its demise as a barracks of the Irish Defence Forces in January 2009 and its sad deterioration since then. We hope that Col. O’Carroll may shortly be in a position to add this information to this book and that he will also be able to tell of your part, Taoiseach, in the upcoming rebirth of this great two hundred and fifty year old house as an unique, authentic experience of scale, “the National Diaspora Centre of Ireland – The Home of a Billion Stories”© 2014 National Diaspora Centre of Ireland Ltd.

Yours sincerely,
Adrian Gallagher

National Diaspora Centre of Ireland to be located in Rockhill House

Posted on May 8, 2014 by Adrian Gallagher

Rockhill in its prime as an army barracks

A company, the National Diaspora Centre of Ireland Ltd. (NDCI) has been formed to establish a centre in Letterkenny to assist Ireland link with the Irish diaspora worldwide and for them to link back to Ireland in a meaningful and personal way. The NDCI will also recall and tell the global Irish diaspora experience using state of the art facilities. It will serve all the diaspora, no matter from which jurisdiction on the island of Ireland they or their ancestors originated. The promoters of the project see Rockhill House, the former army barracks and “big house”, as an ideal location for this centre.

Donegal knows emigration better than most unfortunately but it is also an area that has seen a great number of the emigrants keep in touch with “home” and visa versa. Donegal associations are to be found all across the world. The Donegal Diaspora Project operated by Donegal County Council is one of the best and most active projects of this kind in Ireland. One of the NDCI’s promoters, Adrian Gallagher, has been working on a voluntary basis with and for members of the diaspora since 2005 through the Gallagher Clan organisation. Similarly this and the efforts of other clan organisations, such as the O’Donnells, the O’Dohertys, McGinleys etc., has resulted in many members of the diaspora recognising Donegal as the original “homeland” and coming to visit. This has benefited not just Donegal but the whole country as these visitors go on to visit other areas of the country as well.

Using this combined experience of the needs and expectations of the diaspora and linking with other entities operating in this field, including organisations across the border in Northern Ireland, it is planned to create a centre that will be unique, giving an authentic experience to all users and visitors and of a scale that attract and serve its target audience.

Giving its size, its history, its surroundings and general ambiance, Rockhill House, the former army barracks, is seen as the ideal venue for the NDCI. It can fit most of the criteria laid out in the recently published “National Diaspora Centre Feasibility Study” produced for Failte Ireland. Few others of those sites contending to gain government backing to host a national diaspora centre project have anything that can compare as regards the experience and the building and none of them can offer the possibility of serving all of Ireland’s diaspora as could Co. Donegal, which, though politically in the Republic, is geographically tied to Northern Ireland.

While others have talked, the promoters in Donegal have begun the task of making the NDCI a reality. At this very moment, among other things, plans for the buildings are being put together, branding is being conceived and they already have control on the “National Diaspora Centre of Ireland” title. Suitable website domain names have also been registered.

“While we can do much ourselves, we do need the assistance of the Government in relation to Rockhill House but we hope that that will be shortly forthcoming”, said Adrian Gallagher. “When he took office in 2011, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D., challenged the people: ‘to see what you can do for your country’. Some of us took up that challenge. We now ask An Taoiseach to support our efforts to aid our country (which has all been voluntary). In that spirit we hope and expect that he will announce on his visit to Co. Donegal next week that Rockhill House and the surrounding Coillte lands are being transferred back to the people of Donegal via Donegal Co. Council to serve as a location for the NDCI. Nothing else will be acceptable. We are only asking for what is ours to be made available to us, the people of Donegal, so that we can use it for the betterment of Ireland and its global diaspora in a proper manner, even to the satisfaction of Gabriel Byrne”.

Can we say “A New Dawn Approaches for Rockhill House”?

Posted on February 27, 2014 by Adrian Gallagher

Rockhill House - Planning for the Future

The Rockhill House Heritage Association welcomes the decision by Donegal County Council to keep alive the prospect of the Council acquiring Rockhill House. They also welcome the Council’s intention to request a reduction of the cost of any payment to the Department of Defence. In the Association’s opinion this should be a nominal sum given the local communty’s strong support for the Defence Forces.

Given all that has happened (or hasn’t happened) over the last five years, it is good that the Council is still considering its acquisition. We agree that the financial terms should be renegotiated as in our opinion only a nominal payment should change hands. This is public property, thus owned by the people and originally transferred to the Department of Defence in 1942 for a nominal sum. Why also should the Council be saddled with extra legal costs arising for a high price having to be paid? The local community in Donegal has shown strong support for the Defence Forces over the years, both in terms of personnel as well as sentiment. This was over a sometimes dark and dangerous period in our history. Though no longer based in Rockhill House that support still continues. The Department and Government should recognise that and and show the State’s appreciation by facilitating a speedy transfer of the property and supporting future developments there.

The time is now right to drive forward and in the process gain a very meaningful project for Letterkenny and Donegal. Letterkenny has long been seen as being in need of a flagship project and I think that Rockhill House can be such. That would help not only Leterkenny but County Donegal as a whole.

However the local community must also play its part, in the first instance by voicing its support for such an outcome. Results so far from a questionnaire we circulated to local businesses and others show a strong support for Rockhill House. I think that they can see the benefits that will follow for the local economy from a strong project being based there.

Back to the beginning

Posted on February 13, 2014 by Adrian Gallagher

Rockhill House in 2011

It seems that after five years nothing has changed in regards to Rockhill House except that it has now fallen into great disrepair.

The future ownership question of Rockhill House is back in the melting-pot following the announcement by RTE’s Eileen Magnier on the Six One News on Monday evening (it is 30minutes:30 sec. into that clip) that Donegal Co. Manager, Mr. Seamus Neely, is proposing to the Council that they do not acquire Rockhill House at this time. While the Council may see themselves as being unable to be involved in its future, others of us still see a future for Rockhill House and will continue to fight to see that it is preserved and that a project of suitable standing be established there. Will YOU help?!!

Support Rockhill House Petition

Posted on December 3, 2013 by Adrian Gallagher

Hi folks, Please find below a petition about a subject close to my heart. It is addressed to the Irish Minister for Defence Alan Shatter T.D. requesting that the future position of the former army barracks, Rockhill House, near Letterkenny, be finalised; that the building be retained and developed for the benefit of the people of Ireland and Co. Donegal in particular.

Your assistance by signing this petition would be greatly appreciated by me and if all goes to plan, by future generations who may visit and enjoy Rockhill House.

13/1/2014

The petition is now closed.

We would like to thank everyone who supported our efforts by signing it and hopefully our combined efforts will soon bear fruit.

Local businessman offers to buy Rockhill House

Posted on November 29, 2013 by Adrian Gallagher

Here below (from today’s Donegal News) is a solution for the Minister of Defence and Donegal County Council. Donegal News 29-11-13

Businessman offers to buy Rockhill House - Paddy Walsh

Rockhill House lying boarded up and seemingly forlorn

The Neglect of Rockhill House Continues – What Are We To Do???

Posted on November 11, 2013 by Adrian Gallagher

Three years have gone by since the earliest post was added to this page.

It is four years since I first got involved in seeing if it could be protected and put to good use.

It is almost five years since the then Minister of Defence, Tony Killeen caused the Army to abandon it, and Rockhill House still lies neglected and unloved – at least by our public authorities, the Department of Defence and Donegal County Council (not to mention how little interest Letterkenny Town Council showed in its wellbeing or future).

Are we too to follow the example of our public bodies and politicans and ignore and forget this hidden gem????

State bodies fail to deliver Rockhill’s resurrection

Posted on April 10, 2013 by Adrian Gallagher

Four and a half years after Rockhill House, the former army barracks was abandoned by the army in January 2009, the listed building still lies unused and seemingly unloved.

Isn’t it a great testament to our government, both local and national, to our state bodies, to our local authority … and to the people of Letterkenny and Donegal?!!

The latter seem to be happy to allow the State system let our resources go to to waste. At least so it seems as little in the way of protest has been heard. It is a waste both in terms of deterioration of the building and in a failure to use it as a resource to generate wealth. This waste is happening at a time that the State seems to want to grab more and more of our personal resources in order to keep itself afloat.

Is it not time that the State system was held to account for such waste? Or are we too dim to connect such waste with the removal of our money from our pockets?