On 17th May 2022, Frank Feighan T.D., Minister of State for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy visited three Healthy Ireland funded projects in Westmeath to see how this funding has made a difference to groups in the communities they serve. First to host the Minister was the recently completed Swim Buoy Marker project in Lough Lene, Collinstown. Present on the day to greet the Minister was Leas-Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council, Cllr Bill Collentine, Johnny Guirke TD, Senator Paul Daly, Cllr Frank McDermott, Cllr Paddy Hill, , Mark Keaveney, Director of Services Westmeath County Council, Hugh Farrell, LCDC Chair, Tony Wheat, Westmeath Sports Partnership Facilitator and Pat Fennell form Meath Masters Swim Club. Meath Masters Swim Club were responsible for making the concept of Swim Marker Buoys being installed on Lough Lene a reality through funding secured through Healthy Ireland. There were also representatives from Westmeath County Council, the Health Services Executive, Meath Masters Swim Club, Healthy Westmeath, and Swim Ireland in attendance.
Pat Fennell from Meath Masters Swim Club then spoke about the origins of the project which began nearly 10 years ago when Meath Masters Swim Club began to train and ran a swim race at Lough Lene. At the time the lake was not as well known outside the locality but throughout the years more and more competitors came from Dublin and Leinster in general and marvelled at the water quality and setting. The lake also became popular for kids races in conjunction with the adults races as it is a very family friendly location.
Meath Masters Swim Club and many other swimming and triathlon clubs consider Lough Lene to be one of the finest freshwater swimming lakes in Ireland due to its safe access, gradually sloping hard sand from the shore, facilities onshore such as ample free parking, toilets and grass picnic areas and pristine clear water. Meath Masters Swim Club were delighted to acknowledge the assistance of Westmeath County Council, Westmeath Sports Partnership and Mullingar Municipal District office in assisting them to bring this project to fruition. Minister Feighan in his remarks thanked the Elected Representatives, Council Management, and staff for inviting him to Lough Lene to officially launch the Swim Marker Buoys. He remarked on the crystal-clear waters of the lake and the excellent facilities available to bathers. The Minister also referenced the importance of physical activity initiatives and complemented Westmeath Sports Partnership coming on board to fund the project.
Next up on the Minister’s itinerary was a trip to Grange Resource Centre in Mullingar to hear about two Healthy Ireland Funded projects delivered by Youth Work Ireland Midlands. On hand to greet the Minister at Grange Resource Centre was Geraldine Lacey, CEO Youth Work Ireland Midlands and Catherine McEntee, Mullingar Youth Project Coordinator and Leas Cathaoirleach Cllr Bill Collentine. Also in attendance at Grange Resource Centre were members of the Youth Work Ireland Midlands Board and staff, Longford Westmeath Education and Training Board and the Health Services Executive.
Geraldine Lacey introduced the two projects HERE4U and the Youth Community Mental Health & Well Being Project that the Minister was there to hear about. HERE4U is a listening service delivered across the County as a priority for young people experiencing unprecedented mental health and wellbeing challenges. The Youth Community Mental Health & Well-Being Project like HERE4U was also a County wide programme which was slightly broader than many of the more targeted measures that Youth Work Ireland Midlands deliver. Carrie Lynch, programme facilitator for the Youth Community & Well Being Action gave a detailed presentation about how the project was a wrap-around Programme available to young people aged 16-24 to teach life and societal skills. Some of the activities that took place when restrictions were lifted were day trips to teach resilience and problem-solving skills and to incorporate learning through fun activities.
Carrie Lynch also referenced a hospitality training course delivered in partnership with Westmeath Community Development which was a great success. Some testimonials from the Young People involved and how the programme benefitted their lives were read aloud also. 45 youths engaged with the service and this excellent programme gave opportunities to these young people to explore areas of interest to them.
Following that Eileen McArdle, the HERE4U programme facilitator, spoke with great passion on the HERE4U listening service and the benefits it had for youths experiencing difficulties in their lives and needing a nonjudgmental listening ear to talk to. HERE4U funded through Healthy Ireland was a ‘one to one’ service that took place online and in person when restricted were lifted. During the 2020/2021 academic year 65 young people in the Athlone, Mullingar and Rochfortbridge areas engaged with the service with 240 sessions provided. The importance of these types of services were highlighted by both Geraldine Lacey and Eileen McArdle. In acknowledging the great work undertaken by Youth Work Ireland Midlands in relation to the two actions, Minister Feighan, mentioned the difficulties that the services would have experienced for the past two years but thanked Youth Work Ireland Midlands for being there for young people in a time of unprecedented need. The Minister was very grateful to all the groups for inviting him to visit their projects and mentioned that this was a particularly positive aspect of his brief as Minister.
Content Last Updated/Reviewed: 20/05/2022