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*Cllr Gerry Flynn is questioned by Rachael English. Photograph: Joe Buckley

Shannon is in need of a focal point according to RTÉ broadcaster, Rachael English.

Rachael who grew up in the town, attended St Conaires National School and St Patricks Comprehensive was home to chair a public meeting on the future of The Venue, a proposed community, civic, cultural and interpretative centre. During the meeting, Gerry Murphy of EI Electronics dubbed Rachael “one of Shannon’s best exports” along with TV journalist Aishling O’Loughlin and Inter Milan’s Ryan Nolan.

“I was delighted by how many people were here, it was a great turnout and it was a great turnout of people who were clearly very passionate about the subject, the town and their concerns that there have been a lot of plans and a lot of talk and they feel perhaps there is something missing. When I was growing up here, it really was a great place to grow up and at the time we didn’t feel that we were missing out in any way but there isn’t a lot in the town now that wasn’t there in the 1980s and there are very few places that you could say that about. I was just interested to hear what people had to say and clearly people are very worked up about it,” she told The Clare Echo following the gathering.

Recalling her youth, Rachael felt little has changed between then and now in the county’s second largest town. “It wasn’t that different in terms of what was available. There was a certain amount of plans and it’s easy for people to say ‘oh well there was no planning put into it because of the lack of a main street’ but the fact is when I was a growing up, as a child I lived in Finian Park, there was a playground in Finian Park, there was a playground in Aidan Park and a playground in Tola Park. At that time it was a very very young population here but I feel like for all the good things that have happened that maybe somebody in the crowd mentioned and I was struck by it that in the last 10 years or there’s a feeling that Shannon has needed to move on and it hasn’t.”

Having listened to the points raised by those in attendance, the presenter of Ireland’s most listened to radio show, Morning Ireland agreed that the Government would determined whether the project lives or dies. “When it comes to it you’re talking about a reasonable sum of money not the largest sum of money ever, more money is wasted all the time than this project would cost. I suppose that if you’re talking about a sum of this magnitude there does need to be a central Government involvement that that is where the money is going to come from in the end”.

“You do need a focal point and I think other towns of a similar size tend to have something at their heart. Somebody made the point to me earlier that if you were to try and represent Shannon in a photograph it would be very hard to do because what do you do, show a picture of the estuary, the airport well neither of those are the town so what do you show to represent the town and I thought that was a good point,” she added.

As the meeting began, Rachael outlined “Ballina, Longford, Gorey and Athy are all towns of a similar size and they all have something that Shannon doesn’t”. Explaining the reasons for such a comparison, she said,“I just decided I would look it up to see were people being unreasonable, were they looking for things that other towns of a similar size don’t have”.

“When I spent a little while looking this up and found towns of broadly a similar population size between 9 and 11,000, most of them seem to have something that Shannon doesn’t have, be that a cinema or there’s a theatre in Longford, quite a few Municipal Buildings in a place like Athy, Ballina has an Arts Centre, Shannon which is a broadly similar size doesn’t have anything similar,” she told The Clare Echo.

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