Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody and Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council Marie Fitzpatrick joined forces last week to cut the ribbon on a new community centre for the people of Ossory Park.
More than 60 local residents of all ages gathered for the official opening of the facility on Wednesday afternoon. The new building comes equipped with full kitchen facilities, six computers, toilet facilities and a large community room.
Local residents are already contemplating the different potential uses for the centre, with suggestions ranging from computer literacy courses, to Christmas parties, and even just a general get-together for an afternoon cup of tea.
“The first thing that struck me about this place is the community spirit,” Brian Cody told the assembled crowd.
“Our Kilkenny team is built on spirit, and it is the same thing in Ossory Park. You can’t buy that.”
Community centres are increasingly seen as a means to promote civic spirit within an area or neighbourhood, and as a way of reducing anti-social behaviour and marginalisation. Local supports and services offered by the centres can improve the social lives of nearby residents, as well as improve their prospects in terms of education and employment.
This is already the case for the two Respond! housing estates in Kilkenny City – Millennium Court and O’ Loughlin Court – both of which have community centres.
“You see what you have produced off your own bat,” said the Cats manager.
“You had the drive and the enthusiasm to do it. So use it. All the possibilities are here for all age groups.”
Cathaoirleach Marie Fitzpatrick said it was a wonderful day for the residents of Ossory Park.
“You have come a long road,” she told them.
“The residents committee was formed 10 or 12 years ago, and the centre has now come to fruition. It is down to your hard work.
“I would urge you all to use your community centre to its full capacity. It is not just for children; it is for the adults too.
“We are living in a time now when everyone should be learning something. There are computers here, there will be women’s groups... So, don’t stay at home, come to the centre.”
The cathaoirleach also said that it was important for parents and guardians to use such community supports to shape their children’s positive development, and she singled out grandparents as one of the most important influences during a child’s formative years.
“Most especially, the biggest impact on a child’s life is their grandparents,” she said.
“You have so much to give them, to show and tell them. I have worked in schools and with a lot of young people, and one thing is sure – young people love their nannies and grandads.”
In the past 15 years or so, there has been a drive to create more such community centres in Kilkenny, many of which also offer pre-school and after-school services for children, as well as second-chance education initiatives for adults. This one has been a long time coming, and there was a sense of achievement among the committee who have helped bring the project to completion.
“This time 10 years ago, most people probably wouldn’t have believed you if you told them that Brian Cody would be opening up a community centre here,” said local Fianna Fail Councillor Andrew McGuinness.
“You have worked extra hard over the years for this. It is community spirit at its best.”
Brian Cody also said that he had heard that Liam MacCarthy would be paying a visit to the centre in the near future, and that if anyone deserved it, it was the people of Ossory Park.
“The [Kilkenny] team know that the support is here in this community,” he said.
“We see you as so much part of the effort.”