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Name The New Thurles Town Park!

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Picture shows the foundations for the well advanced pedestrian bridge, over the river Suir, joining the new and as yet unnamed Thurles town park, latter to be seen in the background.

Major decisions came before both our national parliament and our local Templemore – Thurles Municipal District legislature this week.

Nationally our Dublin orientated Fine Gael / Labour government, after no real debate, rushed through a decision to sell-off  possibly our only remaining Irish owned piece of family silver, namely Air Lingus, without the permission of the owners, the Irish people.

Here locally our Sinn Fein and Non Party Councillors, representing the Templemore – Thurles Municipal District, were calling for our new Thurles Town Park to be named after the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation. Thankfully, from a local decision making perspective, none of the proposers knew the names of the signatories written on this important document and probably just as well; as the name ‘MacDonagh MacDiarmada Plunkett Clarke Pearse Ceannt Connolly Park’, would have contained more letters than the existing village known as Llanfairpwllgwyngyl (pronounced: ɬanˌvairpuɬˈɡwɨ̞nɡɨ̞ɬ) situated on the island of Anglesey off the north-west coast of Wales.

Earlier of course they had discussed whether or not it should be named after one of themselves. However it was agreed that since none of them had, as yet, either died for their country or indeed (with the exception of Thurles Councillor Seamus Hanafan it must be said) had succeeded in achieving any one, real, single, positive contribution to this same Templemore – Thurles Municipal District since elected; same should be placed in temporary abeyance for perhaps a more opportune occasion into the future.

From a Fine Gael perspective it was felt that perhaps this New Park should be named after the now EU deported Minister Phil Hogan, due to the fact that same park is situated in close proximity to water and the fact also that his UISCE Eireann (Irish Water) company is currently being popularised by Alan Kelly, latter a Tipperary Labour Minister in government.

All Joking Aside
OK, joke over folks as it would appear that Thurles people and their elected representatives have very short memories. As my Grandmother, God bless her, used to say; “Eaten bread is soon forgotten”, meaning that great deeds are often forgotten by beneficiaries, once same have been delivered.

Cast your minds back to the decade prior to 2008 and to a man who left a massive positive imprint on Thurles his adopted town. Yes I refer to the late, great Wilbert Houben, affectionately known to us all here in Thurles as the “The Dutch Man”.

Next let’s ask ourselves who designed and contributed greatly to the building of ‘Pheasant Island’? Ask ourselves who built, without any remuneration, the limestone lined river bank, the fish friendly weir in the River Suir and who was it that introduced the now resident and pleasing duck population into the River Suir. Let’s ask ourselves who was one of the first people to suggest the purchase of land from St Patrick’s College with the aim of providing a Thurles Town Park? Who was it that fought so vocally to encourage our then Town Council to refrain from allowing sewage to flow unabated into the river Suir?

Not surprisingly you will find the answer to all of the above questions was Wilbert Houben.

As a community activist, Wilbert’s contribution to voluntary community groups in Thurles was endless; e.g. Thurles Lions Club, the once successful Thurles Tidy Towns Committee, Thurles Gun Club, the current Cabragh Wet Lands project, the once Thurles John Player Tops entertainment group and St. Mary’s Restoration Committee, just to name but a few.

Wilbert’s endless environmental knowledge, his personality, his generosity were only ever superseded by his gifted pair of hands which could, so perfectly, design and manufacture anything from “a needle to an anchor”, as any local farmer, small business or factory in Tipperary, to this very day can strongly attest.

Thurles poet Mr Gerry Cullen best summed up our feelings back in 2008, in his wonderful poem which he penned following Wilbert’s unexpected and sudden passing.

Tranen Voor Wilbert. (Tears for Wilbert.)
There’s terror on the Wetlands, the mighty guardian’s gone.
The Mink will get the edge again, and nature’s war is on.
The shadows chase the Moor-hen, and Magpies wait and see,
No form along the walkways, no Eco-referee.
Now winter’s at its darkest, and spirits weighted low,
And minds are left in why-land, where answers never go.
But spring will come in ripples with light all fresh and new,
Then clouds above the wildness will rain the tears for you.

Of course there is an alternative name we could call our new town park. Perhaps Sinn Fein would see this proposed name as being in the interests of unemployment, good neighbourliness, foreign direct investment, tourism, symbolic normalisation and even further clarification that the Good Friday Agreement is being put into full effect. Let’s call this park the “Queen Elizabeth 11 Park” and invite Her Majesty to officially do the honours, sure even the elusive President Michael D. Higgins would attend. This would be an immense boost for Tipperary tourism and would highlight to the world the fact that Her Majesty is a native of Thurles.

After all let us not forget that we currently have a fine residential area known as Windsor Grove, so how is that not ‘national symbolic normalisation’ being demonstrated by a forgotten Irish rural town.

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