CRAIGAVON has proven to be an inspiration to “new communities” all over Ireland, according to President Mary McAleese.
She was speaking during a visit to the St Anthony’s Centre last Thursday (January 27), when she met with members of the Craigavon community.
Mrs McAleese was introduced to local clergy, as well as representatives of the Brownlow Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership and Brownlow Limited.
The President also met a number of teachers from schools in the area.
Addressing a crowd of around 400 people in St Anthony’s Hall, Mrs McAleese praised the work of volunteers in the community.
“I can feel the spirit of community in this room today,” she said.
“As I was growing up, the community I lived in was well developed. The committees had already been set up, and the halls had been built, by previous generations.
“At the time, people my age took all that for granted. But Craigavon has a young community, and it’s in the process of building now.”
Mrs McAleese continued: “All over Ireland there are new communities coming together, and many of them are looking up to you. I know the people of Southill and Moyross in Limerick have taken a keen interest in the work carried out in Craigavon.
“Other people who face the same struggles that Craigavon faced are taking hope from what your community has achieved.”
Before making her speech, the President was entertained by singers Charlotte McClennand and Caitriona Corr from the Moyraverty Arts and Drama Society.
Craigavon Deputy Mayor Kieran Corr, who is also the centre’s manager, said he was “delighted” with the visit.
“It was a great occasion for both Brownlow and the St Anthony’s centre,” he said.
“She was very impressed with the performers and spoke to them afterwards. They were delighted with that as well.
“As the President pointed out, there is great community spirit here in Brownlow. She acknowledged the hard work of many members of the community, including those involved with Brownlow Limited and the Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership.”
Mr Corr added: “This was the first community centre in the area, and it’s still going from strength to strength 40 years after opening its doors.”
He concluded: “This visit showed the true side of Brownlow. Nobody can knock what we are doing, and what we are planning to do, in this community.”
St Anthony’s parish priest Fr Martin McAlinden also addressed the crowd.
He said: “Despite the teething problems that a new town inevitably experiences, as well as the unemployment of the early days, some poor housing developments, the impact of the Troubles, the sudden immigration of new families, and the intensive and hostile media depiction of Craigavon as an urban wasteland, for some time now we have been creating and deserving more positive headlines of our own.
“And this, to a great extent, is due to the developing sense of community which has been at the heart of Craigavon’s history over the past four decades, and has helped create a vibrant, confident town which we can confidently say has come of age.”