The arts community of Cootehill, and the Culture Minister, have expressed their disappointment that Ulster Bank have put their recently closed premises on the market. An Ulster Bank spokesperson confirmed that the Cootehill property is for sale, but said that the bank would not make any further comment on the matter.
Purpose built around 1890 the detached Italianate two-storey is a perfect example of the tradition, order and permanence that the bank wished to convey. Larry McCluskey had championed the idea of adapting the landmark premises as a centre for the local arts community.
He spoke of his regret at Ulster Bank’s decision: “It’s disappointing. It would have been a terrific gesture of gratitude from the bank to the local community who supported them for 180 years. It would also have been a good challenge to the local community to develop an arts centre ‘de novo’. It is a fine building with unparalleled public access and of architectural significance in the town.”
Larry said that such an exciting community arts project would have provided a hub for the groups and individuals who work on diverse projects like The Cootehill Arts Festival and the Gerry Whelan memorial traditional music weekend. By going on the open market the project becomes a bit more difficult.
“They [the bank] are going to let us have a look at it and we are welcome to put a bid on it. We have put a question to the County Council if they could purchase and make it available to the local arts community. We haven’t heard anything back on that,” Larry said.
He says that locals will continue to try to make the dream possible.
“We have also put a query in to Minister Heather Humphreys to see if there are fund to facilitate or accommodate putting a bid on the property. She has a genuine interest in the premises, and in the town in general, because of her links with the building.”
Some months ago the Minister Humphreys wrote to Ulster Bank calling on them to consider handing the Cootehill branch over to the community for use as an arts hub. The Culture Minister, a former employee of Ulster Bank, said that the gesture would assist in reversing the “negative response” to the bank’s decision to close the Cootehill office.
In a letter to The Anglo-Celt on the announcement that the premises was going on the market the Minister said: “I am disappointed to learn that the Ulster Bank building in Cootehill has been put up for sale. There was widespread shock and disappointment in the local community when it was announced earlier this year that the branch in Cootehill was to close.”
Minister Humphreys said that she had been hopeful of a different outcome.
“Given this strong connection with the town and in view of the loyalty and commitment that the people of Cootehill have shown to Ulster Bank down through the years, I felt it would have represented a gesture of goodwill on behalf of the bank if they were to donate the building back to the local community for use as an arts hub.”
The Minister spoke of the representations she made regarding the project: “I raised this proposal with Ulster Bank management and while obviously this is a commercial decision for the bank, the news today that the building has been put up for sale is a sad outcome and it is certainly very disappointing.”
A local source said that GVA Donal O’Buachalla, an independent firm of property advisors and chartered surveyors, will be handling the sale. It is believed that the former Cootehill Ulster Bank building will go on the market in about a month’s time.