The historic St Mary’s Church and Graveyard could become a training centre for traditional building skills, with restoration of historic monuments and construction currently underway.
That’s according to chairperson of the St Mary’s Conservation and Restoration Committee Malcolm Noonan, who developed the initiative as part of the EU URBACT LINKS Project while Mayor of Kilkenny in 2009. Already, as part of the first phase of restoration works to the historic monuments, vacancies were created for two apprentices to work with stonemasons.
“We can do much more,” says Cllr Noonan.
“St Mary’s will require many skills and disciplines in ecological restoration/construction and many traditional building skills that could help in re skilling construction workers in particular towards a sector that will be growing in coming years.”
Cllr Noonan also said that with the recent announcement in the budget of the extension of the ‘Living Cities’ Tax incentive scheme to Kilkenny, further opportunites would arise for apprenticeships and jobs. The scheme offers incentives to owners of pre-1915 buildings in the city centre to restore them.
“In our Local Action Plan for the LINKS Project we included an aspiration for a ‘Living Above the Shops’ Scheme to add to this incentive, attract more people to live in the city centre and address a persistent challenge in our housing waiting list- that of single people seeking accommodation,” said Cllr Noonan.
“I am hopeful that the advancement of these schemes via the LINKS Local Action Plan (LAP) will see Kilkenny become a centre of excellence in traditional building shills providing tangible training and employment opportunities for local people and with a specific requirement for using locally sourced materials where possible.
“St Mary’s is a unique and very special place. It is only right and fitting that the great craftspeople who created this space should have their skills passed on to a new generation, deepening our understanding and appreciation of our common heritage and ensuring that it can be enjoyed by future generations.”