“The new plans for the Dominican Priory in Athy are a fitting tribute to the Dominican fathers who served so diligently there almost 800 years,” says Martin Heydon, Fine Gael TD for Kildare South.

“The news that Department of Environment, Community and Local Government is joining forces with Kildare County Council to provide €1.39 million for the purchase of the Dominican church and grounds in Athy is really positive. While the local Athy community was extremely sad to see the Dominican Order go, it is great that something positive has come out of the sale of the land and buildings, for the benefit of the whole community.

“The site is now going to accommodate sheltered housing for those needing independent living as well as an amenity park, and the Dominican church will be converted into a library as well as maximising the space for performance of the arts. Up to €8 million will be invested in developing the site over the next decade. Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Alan Kelly has also said that the site presents opportunities for the expansion of the Heritage Centre and Museum in Emily Square in Athy.

“Since the Dominicans announced last February that they were moving out of Athy, I have pushed for the building to be taken into public ownership in light of its significant strategic location in the town and the huge potential that the site has from a community perspective. Kildare County Council has confirmed their intention for this site to serve as an important community and cultural hub for the town and its hinterland, and I commend their vision for the site.

“The design of the church leaves it well placed to be an excellent venue for concerts and shows, as proven by a number of recent shows including Shackleton’s Endurance last weekend, the recent Lions Concert with the Garda Band and the upcoming Jack L concert in November.

“As chairman of the Friends of Athy Heritage Centre I have been working with Kildare County Council to find a new site for our library service. This in turn will now allow us to extend the heritage centre as it works through the process of gaining full museum status. This full museum status coupled with the securing of the cabin in which Ernest Shackleton died, will also prove to be a significant tourist draw for Athy and South Kildare.

“The Dominicans site which sits on almost 9 acres is nestled between the Barrow and Canal leaving it perfectly placed to be a hub on the very exciting Barrow Blueway Project, again with very significant tourism potential.

“The church is to have its last mass on November 22nd and to be handed over to the Council by December 1st. I know that with the new plans, this site will be a real addition to Athy and surrounding areas and is a fitting tribute to the proud legacy of the Dominicans who served there for so long.”