9 September 2004 Edition

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Mid-Ulster SF to open innovative new centre

Sinn Féin in Mid-Ulster is set to open its new headquarters building in Gulladuff, County Derry this coming Sunday 12 September. Sinn Féin MP and Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness will be the main speaker. The new purpose built centre will be built on the site of the famous old Gulladuff Hall which was first acquired from the local Lavey GAC by John Davey. Davey, a Sinn Féin councillor who played a central role in the development of republicanism in the South Derry area, was shot dead by a pro-British death squad in 1989.

Ian Milne and Sinn Féin councillor Seán McPeake, who both played an important role in making "an aspiration become reality", told An Phoblacht: "We decided that we wanted the new centre to serve the whole Mid-Ulster constituency and because of our geographical links with South West Antrim we envisage republicans from there using the centre also."

Milne says republicans in the area want it be be community based and not just a centre for Sinn Féin.

"The building is equipped with offices, a conference room, a function hall which seats 225 and already we have had inquiries from a local women's group about using the hall. We want the community to see it as somewhere for them to go and as much for their use as Sinn Féin's. Upstairs we have put in a room to be used as a museum and cultural and heritage centre. In fact the wood for the floor was saved from the old hall and I suppose you could say anyone using the hall will be following in the footsteps of many veteran republicans who went before them.

"This building is here for Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter", Milne emphasised.

The centre will be a focal point for a constituency that stretches right across South Derry to The Glenshane Pass and south into Tyrone as far as Dungannon.

One of the most striking features of the new Gulladuff centre is the Garden of Remembrance.

"Throughout the year republicans hold graveside ceremonies at cemeteries across the area but we felt when we were designing the centre we would incorporate a Garden of Remembrance.

"We want to have one main commemoration for all our fallen friends and comrades and we think this is a fitting tribute to them. A lot of time and effort was put into the Garden and local people are grateful for the way Peter Bateson took the project in hand and made the success it is", says Seán McPeake.

Milne said that the building project has been on going for 18 months. "It took a lot of work and effort to raise the money and some more money needs to be raised. So any donations will be gladly accepted", said the Bellaghy man.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1