Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Statement regarding Tuam Courthouse

Recently a majority of Tuam Electoral Area councillors backed a motion to remove Protected Structure Status (RPS) from a number of buildings, including Tuam Courthouse. This is a most unwelcome development and we call on the councillors who supported this motion to heed the advice of their own Heritage Officer and return this public building to the protection of RPS list.

The built heritage of Tuam town imparts a distinctive character to the urban centre, which few towns can match. By continual erosion of Tuam’s distinctiveness and heritage, there will be no sign of this town’s immensely important past left. Tuam Courthouse is a noteworthy Georgian building dating from c.1830, making it a contemporary building of Tuam Cathedral. Indeed its judicial proceedings have formed a major part of the output of the Tuam Herald since its foundation. Another interesting feature is the old jail yard walls still stand beside the old Tuam Stars complex, a feature that is easy to miss at the moment.

One reason places like Westport and Birr do well in Tidy Towns and as tourist destinations is their historic buildings are integrated and preserved in modern vibrant towns. One councillor believes that regeneration is more important than ‘pipe dreams and sticking to old ways’. Perhaps the “old ways” of destruction are the problem. The Old Tuam Society vehemently rejects the notion that adequate protection is being afforded to the town’s significant built heritage.

We call on Tuam Area Councillors to reverse this hasty decision and back the preservation of Tuam Courthouse, especially its facade. We believe that a modern public building incorporating the many fine architectural features of this distinctive building can be put in place. Should OPW plans not include a new courthouse at this site, we would point out that Oughterard Courthouse was funded as a community resource centre to the tune of €500,000 by the Dept. of Environment, Community and Local Government earlier this year in recognition of that building’s past and its future potential.

A great disservice is being done to Tuam’s history by compounding years of neglect with undue haste in calling for this building to be razed. The Old Tuam Society welcomes and supports development and renewal for our town, but this should occur with a new vision and sensitivity to the heritage of our great town, not knocking it down at the first opportunity. By all means renew the building, but do so in a manner that is sympathetic to a historic town.
Signed,
The Committee of the Old Tuam Society



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