A number of projects that have been in the pipeline for a long time were announced or completed this week and all in their own way will bring enormous benefits to residents in Kildare South in the months and years ahead.
On Tuesday morning I attended the announcement of the purchase by Kildare County Council and the Department of the Environment of the Dominican church and grounds in Athy for €1.39m. It is envisaged that up to €8m will be invested in developing the site over the next decade with plans to convert the church into a library and build social housing on the site as well as develop an amenity park. As chairman of the friends of Athy Heritage Centre Musuem I am particularly delighted at plans to develop a new library which will also allow for the extension of the heritage centre museum in time. The strategic location of the site nestled between the river barrow and the grand canal is a strategic location with massive potential as we see the development of the exciting barrow blueway. While the departure of the Dominicans is a loss for the town, this multi purpose community site will be a fitting legacy to their many years of contribution to the town of Athy.

On Wednesday morning Minister for Agriculture and Defence Simon Coveney was at the Curragh Racecourse for the unveiling of plans for the €65m redevelopment of the Curragh racecourse. The project which will include a new grandstand, weigh-room and parade ring as well as a museum of Irish Racing is being financed jointly by the state through HRI and private investment. Work is underway on the plans and it is expected planning permission will be submitted by the end of 2015 with the project due to be completed in the summer of 2018.

Minister Coveney also confirmed that he had taken on board my proposal to establish a forum to include stakeholders of the Curragh Plains under the chairmanship of the Department of Defence. It is intended that this forum will be established in the coming months and stakeholders will be able to work together to address the issues affecting the Curragh. The Racecourse and the Curragh Plains are a fantastic resource for Co. Kildare bringing jobs, tourists, economic activity and a great recreational amenity. I want to see the history and heritage of the area enhanced and protected for future generations while also being used and enjoyed by Kildare residents

On Thursday morning I attended the official opening of the newly extended Kildare Village. Kildare Village is a retail icon which brings jobs and visitors at an ever increasing rate to Co. Kildare. The new €50m extension will increase employment at the shopping centre by 400 bringing to almost 100 the number of designer stores available on our doorstep. As well as the important employment and economic activity, the village provides excellent marketing for our County and the town of Kildare.

Then on Thursday evening I attended the Barrow Awards in Carlow which is an initiative funded by five local authorities through which the river Barrow flows. I was delighted to witness Athy take top honours and the €5,000 top prize for the significant work carried out in the long term project category. Rathangan Tidy Towns also flew the flag for Kildare at the awards when they scooped the Biodiversity award.

Last Friday I was a very proud past pupil at the official opening of Crookstown National School. The new school had been fought for since before I was a TD and it was one of my main aims to see it a reality once I was elected to Dail Eireann.

The Dail returns next week as we debate the Finance Bill and other legislation.

I would like to wish you and your families a happy and safe Halloween