Business centre helps town leave past behind

Business centre helps town leave past behind

Newsletter article 31 Oct 2008

Article printed in The News Letter, 31 October 2008

A significant step in the future of the "new Northern Ireland" was made in south Armagh yesterday.

Darkley, near Keady, witnessed a number of atrocities during the Troubles. In 1979, two 16-year-old boys were killed by a Provisional IRA roadside bomb, and in 1983 three men were killed and seven injured when members of the Catholic Reaction Force opened fire inside a Pentecostal church in the outskirts of the town.

Darkley was once a thriving border mill town, but has suffered high levels of unemployment and economic hardship since the local mill closed in 1959.

Now the local community is puttting all that behind them with the opening of a new business and enterprise centre.

The Coach House represents a £1 million capital investment into the town, aiming to spark an economic turnaround and boost employment.

The project has been funded by the European Union´s Peace II programme, the International Fund for Ireland and the local Coach House Regeneration organisation.

The 7,750 sq ft three-storey building  comprises a mixture of business and light industrial units on the site of a former coach house, adjacent to Darkley House in the town.

It is the first major investment in the community and will provide - for the first time in three generations- new employment opportunities and new foundations for economic growth.

Denis Rooney, chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, said: "This is an important area for us because the Darkley community was very deeply traumatised by the horrific activities all those years ago.

"It takes a lot of time and help for a community to recover from that, and that recovery has to come from within the community. 

"The International Fund for Ireland is there to try and help where it can to support local initiatives where possible, to try and support reconciliation. One of the things about this project which is really useful is it´s sustainable element.

"These new facilities bring with them the prospect of new local jobs and have the potential to strengthen and underpin community life in the years ahead."

Ian Bothwell, one of the chairmen of the Coach House project, said the new centre would enable local people to "follow their dreams of employment" and provide an "opportunity for people to move forward from the past".

He said the project had given people hope for the future.

"We do have a future in the business world, and we have a future together and we are hopeful of better days," said Mr Bothwell.

Picture - NEW HOPE: Richard Treacy, chairman of Coach House Regenaration, and Eithne Gilligan, from the EU´s Peace II Programme, celebrate the lauch of the Coach House - a new business and enterprise centre - in Darkley.

Newsletter article 31 Oct 2008

Article used with kind permission of the Editor of the News Letter