“Hands off our community site” was the resounding message from the Camlough Community Association over the weekend as residents gathered to protest the sale of land initially earmarked for a new community centre.
At an open air meeting, held at the site on Sunday, August 13, it was reiterated to the hundreds in attendance that the community was opposed to the sale of the land, which was being pursued, despite the field being left for a new community centre at the behest of the late owner.
The 10-acre field on the Quarter Road in Camlough was left to the parish of Lower Killeavy by the late Mrs Betsy Doyle, who passed away in 2004, at the age of 83. She said in her will that the plot was to be given to the village to build a community centre.
However, since Mrs Doyle’s passing, there has been a long-running battle to make her last request a reality, including a civil case.
Community activist Pat McGinn opened the meeting saying: “None of us who stand here today are interested in dividing our community… We have no interest in badmouthing anyone or any institution. The only agenda we have is to fulfil the wishes of the late Mrs Doyle.”
Mrs Doyle had said she wished for the community centre to be named after her son, John, who died from a brain haemorrhage in 1997.
John’s then-fiancée, Liz Madden, took to the podium after Pat. She explained how she came to run the Doyle business in 2000 and how the late Mrs Doyle left her with strict instructions that John’s name was to “stay above the door”.
Visibly emotional during her address, Liz stated: “The truth will come out in the end and we as a community will find out who is behind the proposed selling of the Doyle land. From the horse’s mouth, I know that Betsy Doyle left the 10-acre to the Camlough community, to build a community centre and name it after John.”
The next speaker was Declan Murphy, the Chairman of the Camlough Community Association who gave a history of the case and the long battle for the site from 2006, when he became involved, to the present day.
He spoke to keep the public abreast of developments and to dispel myths surrounding the land.
He said: “One of the myths that I have to bust here today is that this land is already bought. This land is not already bought, there is a deposit down. Anybody that knows anything about buying a site, you can put your deposit down but the seller or the buyer can pull out at anytime. Until that contract is fully completed that land is not bought.
“Even if it was bought, we have a freehold interest in it. While the trustees mightn’t sort that out for us, or anybody else, the courts will.”
Continued Declan: “Bottom line folks is this is going to be a fight. We had a fight before, whenever they tried to build 82 houses on it. We were successful that time, we will fight it again.
“We have an obligation here to fulfil the wishes of Betsy Doyle. We have an obligation which we have given the people of Camlough many, many years ago… We will go to court if we have to go to court if people don’t come to their senses and we will build a community centre on that land behind you.”
Speaking to Armagh I following the meeting, Declan said that the atmosphere was one of “anger and determination” and that the meeting was “crucial” in order to keep the community aware of the facts.
“As far as we’re concerned, we have enough beyond any shadow of a doubt to say that that is our land. With this spanner in the works we’re just going to have to possibly go back to get that reinforced in the courts.
He added: “We met with our solicitor last night and we discussed things over with regards to where we stand legally and we are going to be meeting the community again next week. It won’t be a big public meeting, it’ll be for people that just want to become active.”