7 December 2012 No Comments by The Northern Standard


THE expenditure of close on €500,000 on the improvement of tourist-angling facilities at Lough Muckno near Castleblayney, as part of a shared cross-border allocation of €1.3 million under the EU Interreg Programme for the upgrade of amenities on both sides of the Monaghan-Armagh Border was warmly praised by the Minister of State at the Department of Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources, Mr. Fergus O’Dowd T.D., when he officially launched the development at a civic ceremony at Concra Wood Golf Club, Castleblayney, on Monday last.
The project, which was managed by the Special EU Programmes Body, and spearheaded by Monaghan County Council, was approved as a Rural Investment Initiative, through an application by CASA—a local authority and cross-community partnership, involving Castleblayney and South Armagh.
The general attendance included the Mayor of Co. Monaghan, Cllr. Hugh McElvaney; the Mayor of Castleblayney, Cllr. Aidan Campbell, and the Mayor of Newry and Mourne District Council, Cllr. John McArdle.
The Acting Manager of Monaghan County Council Mr. David Fallon was in attendance, along with local Fine Gael Dail deputies, Sean Conlan and Heather Humphreys.
Members of Monaghan County Council and Castleblayney Town Council were also present, along with a number of senior Council officials including the Town Clerk of Castleblayney Mr. Jerome Savage ; Mr. Paul Clifford (Monaghan County Council), and Mr. Declan McKernan, the senior engineer involved in the project.
The attendance also included Mr. Dick Caplice (Carrickmacross) chairman of the European Police Angling Championship Committee, which held this year’s international event at Lough Muckno; Dr. Ciaran Byrne, CEO of Inland Fisheries Ireland; Jo Mahon, Regional Officer IFI, Ms. Pamela Arthurs, East Border Region Committee, and Mairead Liston, Secretary of the Monaghan Association in London.
Also present was Mr. Declan Connolly, Secretary of the Lough Muckno Partnership Committee, along with a number of leading officials of Concra Wood Golf and Country Club.

Presiding at the launch, the Mayor of Co. Monaghan, Cllr. McElvaney extended a hearty welcome to the Minister Mr. O’Dowd and all the other public figures and local authority officials from both sides of the Border, including the local Dail deputies, colleague-councillors, and their counterparts from the North, including the Mayor of Newry and Mourne Council, Cllr. McArdle.
Mayor McElvaney said the CASA partnership involving Castleblayney and South Armagh was in existance for a number of years and had a long history of collaboration with the successful delivery of projects relating to tourism development and promotion.
The latest project, he said, which was funded by Interreg under the Rural Development programme, had a strong tourism theme and focused on the natural resources of the area, most particularly Slieve Gullion and Lough Muckno.
He said Lough Muckno has long been recognised as an excellent angling water and the recent works which included the development of lay-bys and fishing stands, as well as tracks along the lake shore, in addition to the establishment of permanent pegs, had transformed the lake into an angling centre of excellence, which was unparalled in Ireland.
Mayor McElvaney, referring to the scenic beauty and charm of the area, said Lough Muckno is now a venue which is capable of hosting major European and international competitions, and he was delighted to report that the IADA (Irish Angling Development Alliance) is currently planning four major new competitions at Lough Muckno next year.
One of the events will be a major fishing competition for ‘The Gathering’ which will involve in excess of 200 overseas anglers, each staying in the area for six or seven days, and with each angler predictably spending an average of €200 per day, it should have a huge economic impact on Castleblayney and the wider area.
Mayor McElvaney went on to say that the hugely advantageous Lough Muckno development didn’t happen by chance and a number of people were instrumental in conceiving and delivering the project. He singled out Dick Caplice from the IADA and Ashley Hayden who represented the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board at the time, for the vision they had for Lough Muckno and began knocking on doors to make it happen.
He said Inland Fisheries was very supportive of the project and some staff at Monaghan County Council were involved in its delivery. In this regard he wanted to publicly acknowledge the work of Dympna Condra, Declan McKernan, the local Engineer, and Brendan Murphy.
As well as Monaghan County Council, Mayor McElvaney said there were two other landowners involved , Coillte and Concra Wood Golf Club, whom he also wanted to thank for their support and assistance in the delivery of the project.
Mayor McElvaney, in again welcoming the presence of Minister O’Dowd which he said indicated the importance of the occasion, also acknowledged the Special EU Programmes’ Body, which provided the financial “where-with-all” to enable Monaghan County Council to undertake the works required at the lake. He concluded by thanking all concerned and said he looked forward to the forthcoming events at Lough Muckno and seeing Castleblayney welcoming overseas anglers in very large numbers to the town.
Mr. David Fallon, Acting Co. Manager, joined in welcoming the Minister and other representatives to the launch, and said Monaghan County Council and Castleblayney Town Council were always fully supportive of joint North-South projects which were mutually beneficial to both areas.
He went on to refer to the huge economic benefit to be gained from tourist-angling in the region and the enormity of the potential from UK and cross-channel visiting anglers.
He said the valued existence and support of Concra Wood Golf Club was a further major advantage in the promotion of local tourism.
The Mayor of Castleblayney, Cllr. Aidan Campbell, in adding his voice to the welcome for the Minister and other guests, went on to refer to the splendour of the setting of the Concra Wood Golf Club, where they were assembled for the all-important launch ceremony.
He said the golf course and clubhouse was a fantastic addition to the town of Castleblayney, the county, and the region, and the fact that it was selected as the venue for a major European pro-event in July, with over 100 professional golfers from all over Europe playing there for four days, suggested that it could compete with the best in Ireland. Indeed he felt, from what the visiting golfers experienced, it would only be a matter of time until Concra Wood Golf Club hosted an Irish Open.
Commenting on the unique view from Concra Hill, which looked unto five counties, he said it was an experience they would have to travel a long way to find elsewhere.
Wishing Concra Wood Golf Club its well deserved continued success, the Mayor of Castleblayney, Cllr Campbell went on to refer to the project in hand in relation to the development of the additional amenities for anglers visiting Lough Muckno.
He said the CASA body, involving Castleblayney Town Council, Monaghan County Council, and Newry and Mourne District Council, with key players from the statutory agencies was initially set up in 2003 with a view towards having the hazardous Ballinacarry Bridge, which spans the Border, on the main Castleblayney-Dundalk route, realigned for greater traffic safety. While the bridge still remained extremly hazardous, other areas of common interest to the cross-border body were pursued, aimed at improving the economy on both sides, hence the Slieve Gullion and Lough Muckno projects.
The particular strategic areas targeted, he said, were tourism, enterprise, economic growth and community development. The partnership had identified a portfolio of cross-border projects to further their programme and benefit both areas of Castleblayney and Newry and Mourne.
In relation to the Lough Muckno scheme, he encouraged people to visit the lake and take a walk around the Black Island and White Island, to see the work done.
“The project focuses on the unique resource of Lough Muckno and our vision to establish the area as Ireland’s leading nationally and internationally-approved coarse fishing venue”.
He continued: “The next project element is the development of a playground in the park at Lough Muckno, and Monaghan County Council is looking at further developments to enhance the visitor experience”.
He said there is great support for the development plan from the local community and all stakeholders, including the various local groups such as Tidy Towns’ Committee, the Water Ski Club, the Golf Club, Muckno Community Partnership, Coillte, and the local Anglers’ Association. Similar ongoing developments, he said merited praise on the Northern side of the Border at Slieve Gullion.
Mayor Campbell concluded by paying tribute to all who were involved in the Castleblayney project, including Dympna Condra of Monaghan County Council, Marion O’Rourke, Engineer Declan McKernan, Brendan Murphy, and Michelle Boyle, to mention but a few of all those who deserved praise.

Minister O’Dowd, in thanking Mayor McElvaney for the warm personal welcome to Co. Monaghan, said he was overawed by the scenic beauty of the Lough Muckno area, having earlier also visited Hope Castle, before arriving at Concra Wood Golf Club.
He said the developments carried out at Lough Muckno were vital in enhancing the lake for promotion as a very valuable tourist-angling asset in an industry worth €150 million to the economy.
He recalled the success earlier in the year of the European Police Angling Championships and said the future of the local economy depended upon the development and showcasing of all our outstanding amenities to attract tourism and visitor-spending.
The Minister said the government is very conscious of the importance of tourist-angling and of the impact which the sector has upon the national economy. So much so, he said, that it is intended to make some changes in the legislation which will see the introduction of a new penalty system that will eliminate a need for court appearances for breaches, unless they are of a very serious nature.
The Minister said that having personally experienced how one area in Britain had a recent economic transformation as a result of a concentrated drive to promote tourist-angling, he believed something similar was about to happen at Lough Muckno and Castleblayney, as a result of the very praiseworthy efforts at cross-border community level in carrying out the improvements made at the lake.
Minister O’Dowd concluded by assuring the community of his best wishes and support for their continued success. The Mayor of Newry and Mourne Council, Cllr John McArdle said he was delighted to be involved with the CASA project, which had proved so successful for South Armagh and Lough Muckno.
He said the Concra Woods’ site was undoubtedly one of the most scenic in the whole country, even surpassing the beauty of the Fermanagh lakes in the North. He wished the Lough Muckno tourist-angling drive every success and was hopeful that huge numbers of visitors would continue to be attracted to the Border region.
Following the impressive launch ceremony, all the guests were treated to refreshments, laid on by the Concra Golf and Country Club hosts.

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