“During the period since the last AGM the Board have actively pursued their aim of creating an additional Enterprise Centre building in the town. This originated from a Board proposal following the achievement of full occupancy for some time. The Board began this aspiration by commissioning a feasibility study in conjunction with Monaghan County Council and Enterprising Monaghan to ascertain the need and demand for such a facility. The results of the study which was completed by Alan Mc Adam of MCA Consulting having looked at many options including the derelict Market House building then recommended the erection of a new Enterprise Hub on a site off Mc Grath road which was owned by Monaghan County Council. Scarcely had the ink dried on the Study findings when the Department of Rural and Community Development announced the introduction of a new national infrastructural funding programme titled The Rural Regeneration Development Programme which sought applications from “Shovel Ready” projects. Through the assistance of Monaghan County Council planning was secured for the proposed building and a grant of 3.35m was subsequently awarded.
The arrival of Covid-19 in March 2020 was responsible for delaying the commencement of the project but today machinery on the site has signalled the commencement of the building works with a completion date in late 2022.
Her report also highlighted a number of major events which took place since the previous AGM these were stated as follows: “One of the major undertakings in 2019 was the compilation of an impressive magazine publication which recorded the journey of Castleblayney Community Enterprise over the 35 years of existence. The publication recorded all the major milestones and achievements over the period through photographs and illustrations. The copy was distributed to every house in town in December 2019 and attracted much favourable commentary. It also serves an excellent history recording of our Group and reminder of the all good work that has been undertaken over the years.
July 2019 once more seen the successful staging of the 21st Muckno Mania Festival. The Festival is run under the auspices of Castleblayney Community Enterprise with a dedicated team of local individuals and Board members who avail of the Enterprise Centre staff and resources to make it all possible. The popular annual event which in 2019 adopted the theme Circus Mania with a large Top in town for the weekend drew large crowds to the town. While the Pandemic put a halt to the 2020 Festival plans and as a spectacle was sorely missed therefore it needs to be highlighted how important the Festival is to the town.
Her report also give an account of the successful delivery of projects in collaboration with Monaghan PEACE IV Partnership and Monaghan County Council which allowed them work again with cross community groupings and ethnic minorities in promoting cultural diversity and integration while at the same time promoting positive relations at local level. The highlight of this PEACE IV Programme was a 4 day trip in March 2020 to the battles fields of World War 1 in Belgium and France which included participation from civic leaders and members from the ethnic minority groupings as well as board and staff members”.
In concluding her report Jacqui reported on the devasting consequences of the current pandemic by stating “Castleblayney Community Enterprise also suffered from the operational and financial impacts of Covid-19. The company is reliant on service delivery and activities which require face to face contact and attendances of groups for meetings and training which dictated a cessation of most revenue generating operations such as training programmes, meeting room hire, Scout Hall rental, fancy dress costume hire and also seen the abandonment of community activities such as Muckno Mania Festival, PEACE Programme activities and the likes. The early months of the Pandemic in 2020 seen the building closing its doors completely and this followed a gradual but restricted opening with perhaps the worst affects of negative trading income recorded between January and April 2020. The groups participation in the Community Service Programme provided grant assistance to continue employing staff on a limited basis and the group availed of other Pandemic relief measures such Monaghan County Council funding, waiving of rates and a Pobal support fund in 2021 towards some overhead costs “.
Jacqui’s secretary’s report was followed by an address by outgoing Chairman Gary Ogle who began with “It’s a privilege to be addressing this Annual General Meeting of Castleblayney Community Enterprise on its 34th year of incorporation. Over the years there have been many remarkable milestones and achievements recorded and as a Board we have always continued to grow in strength and to embrace new ideas and challenges.
That said the past 15 months have brought about the biggest challenges for our country and for each and everyone of us in our own daily lives. Many things have changed over that period and many things will never be the same again. Yet all of us tonight by our presence are giving notice of our intention to continue the good work and the contributions of Castleblayney Community Enterprise beyond this current pandemic.
I should also quickly add that our ability to gather to plan for future years is also down to the strength and ability of our management and staff who have managed to ensure that our doors continued to remain open during a difficult time for them also.
While COVID 19 has delayed this AGM somewhat we are nonetheless aware from Jacqui’s Secretary’s report that much has happened since our last AGM and much more is about to happen in the coming months and years.
By far the biggest achievement since our last AGM is the successful outcome of our aspiration to extend our operations and open a new Enterprise Hub facility to be known as the Ridge. This exciting development which stemmed from a stock-take by our previous Chairperson, Marese Heavin, not only adds to the continued use of our existing facility but also augurs well through this additional facility for the betterment of the town and local economy but also offers us an opportunity for greater sustainability as a social economy model.
However, we must not be under any illusions, for our work as a Board in arriving at that point has only just begun. There is an onus on each and everyone of us to play our part in promoting the facility and to use our own influences and connections to attract tenants for the building and therefore ensure its long-term viability”.
Gary spoke on other recent pieces of work undertaken by the group and future proposals being pursued “The testimony of our success as a group is also borne out by the decision to formulate a new three year strategic plan and to re-examine our mission statement which clearly states that we are not just prepared to sit back on our laurels but to instead to open up further discussion among ourselves as to our purpose and to hopefully begin a new phase of meaningful contribution within the community. This proposed plan is not only timely but also provides us with an excellent opportunity to build on what we have achieved but also to explore new, innovative and meaningful ways of serving our community in a modern world where so much has changed in the last decade.
Further opportunities were afforded to our group under funding from Enterprise Ireland grant aid resulting from the Pandemic to assist us create a new dedicated Website for the organisation which will allow us promote and develop our services which attract income these include training, costume hire, room hire and office rental. In addition further Enterprise Ireland support was obtained to engage consultants to assess our capabilities to develop training delivery through on line provision and to establish new areas of training which will increase revenue and also to alleviate our over reliance on face to face training which had to cease in full due to the Pandemic. The support from Enterprise Ireland also allowed us to refurbish one of our Units to assist in the provision of hot desking and remote working and there will be further benefits anticipated from our registration with the National Digital Hub initiative.
I wish also to highlight the invaluable assistance our group receive under the Community Service Programme which is administered by Pobal under the Department of Rural and Community Development. This funding is vital to our work and our ability to engage staff to carry out our day to day work. We are currently on an extended three-year contract which was due to have ended in 2020 however the Department extended by one year as they are conducting a review of the Programme of which details will be known shortly. This review may well have implications for the continuation of funding or the level of funding we receive going forward and as such we need to be mindful of this pending outcome. I acknowledge also the other generous supports we receive from other bodies such Monaghan County Council, Enterprising Monaghan, Monaghan LEADER Programme, PEACE Programmes, Enterprise Ireland, Cavan/Monaghan ETB and the support through the CE Programme.
I acknowledge too the support and assistance we have received from Minister Heather Humphreys and her offices.
I take this opportunity to thank you the Board for your commitment and dedication to the aims and ideals of Castleblayney Community Enterprise. At times we are challenged by others or question ourselves as a result of new and emerging communication platforms such as social media which is one sided and void of informed discussion or right of reply. Yet we will be truly judged by others on the basis of the legacies we left behind and the difference we make to the community we serve and that is unmeasurable, undisputed and something that each of you can be very proud of.
I want to thank Jacqui for her help and support in my role as chairperson and for her effective and efficient role as Secretary and for her readiness to call to the Centre to sign documentation and grant returns. I want to thank our Manager Tommy for his role in managing the day to day affairs of the organisation a role that has greatly expanded over the years as we have grown and also because of the additional legal statutory and health and safety guidelines and obligations that needs attention. I extend my thanks to the good work of all Staff and for their loyalty and dedication to their duties which keeps the organisation running smoothly.
Finally, as I said at the beginning it is a privilege for me to address the AGM as chairperson and it has also been a privilege for me to have served as Chairperson over the past 3 years. I was and remain very much aware of the quality of each of my predecessors and it has been an honour to follow in their footsteps. In light of my own personal and work commitments and the pending need to be more readily available for the progression and promotion of our Ridge building, I feel that it is time for me to step aside as Chairperson and make way for my successor. I would like to thank each of you individually all for your help, support and encouragement over the past three years. I will of course remain on the Board and willingly serve and assist in any way I can to help with the continuation of the good work of Castleblayney Community Enterprise.
Following the election of Officers the newly elected Chairperson Pete Mc Mahon thanked the Board for affording him the opportunity to serve as Chairperson he began by praising Gary Ogle for his role as chairperson during a difficult period in the groups history while at the same time during what will be adjudged as a significant and an important time with the progression of the plans to build an additional Enterprise Hub facility. He paid tribute to Jacqui Hanratty for her role as Secretary and acknowledged the role of management and staff during what he described as a time of great uncertainty. He stated that during his tenure he would be committed to the ideals of the group and would work hard to progress the promotion of the Ridge building, the development of the Strategic Plan and the implementation of the findings of the service delivery review. He expressed his future wish to have the group become more proactive in working with the educational sector in promoting entrepreneurship and innovation as this was an area he was passionate about and which stemmed from his own business acumen.
The AGM concluded with an expression of sympathy being extended to Board member Sean Mc Donald on the recent sad passing of his mother Teresa.
The Board of Castleblayney Community comprises of the following Directors:
Pete McMahon (Chairperson), Jacqui Hanratty (Secretary), Gary Ogle (Treasurer), Peter Cairns, Aidan Campbell, Liz Christy, Frankie Gorman, Marese Heavin, Janet Hill, Sean McDonald, Una McGuinness, Paul Shortt, Padraig Watters.