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The Irish World Heritage Centre to blossom

The Irish World Heritage Centre thinks big - and not just with its name – and gives us a ring

Published on October 14th 2009.

The Irish World Heritage Centre to blossom

Here’s a view of the proposed Irish World Heritage Centre on Queens Road in Cheetham Hill – which our colleagues on Crain’s Manchester Business ran yesterday and then , bless them, supplied us with the picture we have here.

For many years now the place has been considered too small to contain its ambition, which has prevented it apparently from ‘realising its full potential as a nationally and internationally significant attraction.’

But what’s the Irish World Heritage Centre, you might ask?

Well, it’s more the local Irish community’s community centre, in a stodgy early twentieth century building. It was opened twice, once in 1984, and then officially by the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Peter Barry, in 1986.

It claims to be ‘the main venue for the Irish community of Manchester to socialise in a welcoming and friendly environment and pursue Irish cultural activities and celebrate the rich heritage of Ireland. Over the centuries, Irish people who emigrated have contributed to world progress. The Irish World Heritage Centre is dedicated to the achievements of those men and women, largely forgotten. It is a celebration of their success, a recognition of their achievements and of the positive contribution they made in the countries which they settled and will be a continuity of Ireland's story embracing the Irish global family of over 70 million.’

Hardly the limpid language of Oscar Wilde but we know what they mean.

There’s a regular programme of events. On Wednesdays there’s a weekly activity including bingo, dancing and refreshments for the over fifties, and the Conradh Na Gaelige Irish Language Class, a social session involving singing, poetry or a short talk. Later this month from 23 October there’s the Sean Dempsey Set Dancing Festival.

For many years now the place has been considered too small to contain its ambition, which has prevented it apparently from ‘realising its full potential as a nationally and internationally significant attraction.’

In 2005 ago plans were put forward for a massive extension creating creating up to 750 new jobs.

The proposals envisaged the replacement of the existing Irish Centre with a new complex including a world-class museum and heritage centre, Gaelic football playing field and 100-bed hotel. It would also incorporate more than 200,000 sq ft of employment space.

These plans seem to have been scaled back. The new ideas submitted for planning permission to Manchester City Council are for a 30,000sq ft building with an exhibition space, multi-purpose function rooms, restaurant and bar.

Perhaps the most striking feature would be an outdoor space, for events and weddings, based on an Irish ring fort.

On 25 acres of nearby waste ground further building would deliver an 140-bedroom hotel, leisure centre and five-a-side complex. It seems the Gaelic footy pitches may have bitten the dust.

The ambition of the project has to be admired. What is certain is that with Manchester Fort shopping centre close by, new Manchester College facilities in the pipeline, the improvement of the housing stock, plus events such as the recent Cheetham Hill Festival, this most diverse of Manchester, indeed British, city areas seems to have turned a corner.

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RoibeardOctober 14th 2009.

Tús maith leath na hoibre!

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