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02 Dec 2021

Varadkar: Deal to buy former Granard bank is ‘on government’s agenda’

Varadkar:  Deal to buy former Granard bank is ‘on government’s agenda’

Senator Micheál Carrigy with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has thrown his weight behind calls for local authority chiefs to snap up Bank of Ireland’s former headquarters in Granard.

The Fine Gael leader said moves to give council bosses the green light to acquire the building were “very much” on Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys “agenda”.

Mr Varadkar’s comments come after the Leader told last week of how the three storey building was being viewed as a possible and significant addition to the council’s property portfolio.

The Minister for Enterprise was in Longford last Thursday to speak to local businesses and interest groups over ongoing challenges posed by Covid-19 and how counties like Longford were attempting to readjust economically.

“It’s definitely something we are considering,” said Mr Varadkar, when asked by the Leader if government bosses were supportive of those calls.

“We have seen a lot of bank closures in the last year or so, both Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland and some of those buildings are a heritage building in the middle of a town.

“It would be a shame to see them fall into disuse or to be used for something inappropriate and one of the things Minister Humphreys is doing as Minister for Community and Rural Development is examining those properties and seeing if there is a possibility to take them into public ownership.”

Mr Varadkar’s comments would appear to override those of a senior council official who approached the Leader during the Fine Gael leader’s visit to insist the local authority were not looking at the former bank offices.

Fine Gael Senator Micheal Carrigy welcomed those remarks, saying the vacancy left by Bank of Ireland’s departure earlier this month had provided an ideal opportunity to address some of the north Longford town’s longest standing problems.

“We have had serious parking issues in the town that we have been looking at for a long number of years and I think that and the adjacent site of the old Hourican’s Hotel is an opportunity for the local authority to maybe take them into ownership and solve that traffic problem but also making office space available in the town,” he said.

The Ballinalee postmaster was nonetheless at pains to stress whatever purpose is made of the now vacant bank offices, its presence does not fly in the face of separate moves to establish a remote working hub at the town’s one time Ulster Bank building.

“We have seen the successful project that Co:Worx is in repurposing the (former Ulster) bank (in Edgeworthstown) but in Granard the Ulster Bank building that was bought privately is in a redevelopment phase at the minute to be turned into a Co working hub,” he said.

“It’s important that whatever purpose the Bank of Ireland building is used for that it’s not in competition to another development of the same.

“It’s very important that that building be repurposed for the town of Granard.”

The former county council cathaoirleach was equally wholesome in his praise of the town’s local credit union in its attempts to provide an alternative source of on street banking facility for locals.

“I would compliment local credit union for taking the initiative and putting in for planning a cash machine unit at their premises which should be in place in the next two months so as to ensure the people of the town are not left without that facility,” he added.

Senator Carrigy’s remarks were comparable to those of local councillors Cllr PJ Reilly and Turlough ‘Pott’ McGovern.

The latter said it was his view both Hourican’s and the former Bank of Ireland building could possibly provide a definitive solution to Granard’s long term parking issues.

“I would be hoping that when the opportunity arises, we (Longford County Council) will get the backing and necessary funding from Minister Humphreys’ department to develop a huge car park and maybe OPD (Older Persons Dwellings) in Granard,” he said.

“That would, I believe, solve that particular issue once and for all.”

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