The National Enterprise Town Awards: Clones

We are profiling all the towns to enter this year’s National Enterprise Town Awards. Today we are looking at Clones in Monaghan.

Clones is the oldest town in Monaghan and is situated on the border with Northern Ireland. Two-thirds of the parish of Clones is in Co Fermanagh. According to the 2016 census Clones urban and rural has a combined population of 2,467.

The town is battling a population decline and unemployment with a strong community spirit. Despite these challenges, the town has a lot to celebrate. It has a wealth of heritage and culture and a community spirit that is second to none.

Clones town is home to four national monuments, The Celtic Cross, The Round Tower, The Wee Abbey and St Tiarnach’s Sarcophagus. The town which was founded in the 5th Century and has had a very chequered history, surviving Norman and Anglican invasions from the 12th to 15th centuries. During the Great Famine, Clones was one of the worst hit areas in the country with the town losing almost half its population to hunger. The newly developed famine graveyard has become a place of solitude and pilgrimage and a famine commemoration is held on this site every year.

At the turn of the 20th century Clones thrived and became known as a market town. Unfortunately, due to partition in the 1920s and with the subsequent closure of the canal and railway, the economy of Clones suffered drastically. With the outbreak of the Troubles in the 1960s and with the subsequent closure of the border roads, Clones found itself cut off from its natural hinterland of Fermanagh. The once vibrant market town became a town dereliction and high levels of unemployment.

Clones is making a U-turn

Clones has a very active community sector with many organisations in the town. The Clones Town Team set up in 2017 represents all these groups. The Team developed a town plan 2018-2020 and under this plan proposals included the development of a marina on the old Canal, a plaza at the entrance to St Tiarnach’s GAA Park, a business hub on Fermanagh Street and the further development of the Clones Heritage trail.

Funding for these projects of €1.1m has now been secured under the Rural Regeneration Fund. Currently the town team are developing a new website and are undertaking the development of an Interactive Heritage Tour. Tenders are also being sought for the Clones 2040 Plan, a heritage and economic plan for Clones which will be the foundation for all future funding applications regarding heritage and economic growth in the town.

Through the work of the team and the local municipal district, funding of €5m has been secured to demolish eight properties within the town resulting in 21 new social housing units. A new lace museum at the Canal Stores opened in May 2019, a famine museum has also recently opened at the Casandra Hand Centre, the Clones Arts Studios are due to be opened shortly all these projects are as a result of the community working with the local authority and the various state agencies.

The Peace Link funded through the Special EU Programmes Body is probably the greatest example of the community spirit in the town. This plan developed at community level with various interest groups has provided the town with a state-of-the-art sports complex at a cost of approximately €8m. The facility is used by all communities both north and south and focuses on building relationships through sport.

Clones Town FC, the oldest soccer club in Ireland, has a newly developed state-of-the art pitch and dressing rooms. This was funded through Sports Capital Programme and the FAI. The local GAA in conjunction with the Town Team and the MD have developed a masterplan for the future development of St Tiarnachs Park.

The town team has actively worked with Monaghan Enterprise and in conjunction with them a report ‘Choose Clones’ has been developed. This report focuses on business in Northern Ireland that may wish to relocate in the event of a hard Brexit . The report was carried out by Students of Dundalk IT.

Despite the political and economic uncertainty caused by Brexit, the community of Clones is writing a new chapter for the town and its people with a self-belief and determination to break with the past and regenerate the town for a vibrant future to come.

Pictured above is Clones Market Hall. Image via Wikimedia Commons

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 19 August, 2019