There’s no denying it’s been a difficult year for the people and businesses of Lanesboro, with Covid-19 striking the community in a variety of ways.
The town has also suffered job losses at Bord na Móna and the ESB Power Station, and is fighting back from a number of challenges.
But it’s important to emphasise the fact that the town is fighting back and the community has really pulled together in support of each other and local business owners.
“We’re a very strong community. We’re sticking together through sport and things like that,” said Lanesboro’s Cllr Gerard Farrell.
“The church is back up and running on a townland basis, with a weekly rotation. The local club did a fundraiser recently, which was a huge success.
“It’s been a tough year from a business point of view but we have a great community who are very supportive.”
Lanesboro is looking towards the future now, following job losses at the ESB power station and Bord na Móna, with a number of projects put forward for the Just Transition fund, and other funding that has come the town’s way in recent weeks.
“We were delighted with a big windfall of money to look into developing an amphitheatre and a visitor centre in Lanesboro,” said Cllr Farrell.
“There’s a danger of recession now so next year, funding will be hard got, so it’s good to have that now.”
A €25,000 cash injection from EirGrid will see the development of the amphitheatre at a disused quarry outside the town.
The open-air venue will be used for entertainment, performances, exhibitions and sporting events and will replace an old substation dating back to the 1950s. It will be constructed on lands adjacent to Lough Ree Power Station in the town, with work expected to begin next year.
A huge emphasis is being put on replacing the jobs loss at Bord na Móna and the ESB Power Station in Lanesboro, as well as energy renewal, recycling, etc, according to Cllr Farrell.
“I’m quietly confident that something will come up for us through the Just Transition fund,” he admitted.
“It wasn’t great news that ESB were looking for tenders for the demolition of the power station but they have to do what they’re told. They need to come up with a plan, and to cross the ‘t’s and dot the ‘i’s, and I’d be fighting very hard to get something to replace that.
“We’re trying to keep all options open. It’s a fantastic site. It’s a big site and we need industry in it. There are jobs in Longford town. There are jobs in north Longford with Pat the Baker and other factories. There are jobs in Edgeworthstown.
“We always had jobs in Lanesboro and the surrounding areas of Newtowncashel, Killashee, Kenagh, even Roscommon. We need something to replace that now, so there’s a big push on that for next year.”
But Cllr Farrell is quietly confident that Lanesboro will get something out of the Just Transition fund.
“That will be a big part of creating jobs in the area,” he said.
Longford Westmeath TD and Lanesboro native Joe Flaherty recently welcomed the inclusion of three local projects in the first round of Just Transition Funding, including a Lanesboro Anerobic Digestion Facility and a Lough Ree Technology Cluster Study.
“It is good to see the inclusion of the FDT Consultant Engineering & PM Ltd in respect of their plans for an ambitious Technology Energy cluster on the site of the power station,” Deputy Flaherty commented, noting the importance of ensuring the Department is aware of their decision to provisionally grant funding to such a project while also progressing with plans to demolish the site.
“The proposal would put the Shannonside town at the centre of alternative and green energy production and would open a new world in the specialist area of research and energy development for the region.
“There is also approval for Longford County Council to proceed with a feasibility study for an anaerobic digestor which will benefit the wider region.
“I look forward to working with those behind the projects to see their progression and successful funding. If fully approved they will bring much investment and jobs to our region.”
Aside from that, tourism is really on the up in Lanesboro. The addition of an ‘access for all’ boat to the area has provided great potential for tourism, while the Greenway connecting Lanesboro to Clondra across the bog has attracted a large number of people, especially at a time when social distancing is key and families and individuals are looking at exploring their home county.
“Fantastic work was done on the Greenway and I have to commend Bord na Móna for the labour and the machinery provided,” said Cllr Farrell.
“The tourism potential is definitely there and there’s big potential.
“It’s great to get the funding and support but now it’s a matter of delivering on those things. The Just Transition Fund is really important to Lanesboro going forward.”