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The Sliabh Beagh hotel.
rural ireland

What is the 'community-owned' hotel model being considered for Roscrea, and how would it work?

Locals in a Co Monaghan border village that set up a community-owned hotel say it saved the area after years of emigration and the Troubles.


THE GOVERNMENT IS considering purchasing a disused venue in Roscrea so locals can establish a “community-owned hotel”, after protesters there said that losing their only open hotel was a factor in their opposition to asylum seekers moving into the area. 

Some at the protest, which saw scuffles break out on the day that women and children seeking asylum were entering Racket Hall hotel, told The Journal that Roscrea depended on the hotel for local functions, events, and to attract tourists. 

If the Government plans to establish a community-owned hotel in the area go ahead, it could see the start of a new model of venue ownership that could help regenerate rural Irish towns and villages. 

But what is a community-owned hotel, and would it actually work? 

The ownership model has worked for one determined group of locals in Knockatallon village, Co Monaghan. The Sliabh Beagh hotel is run by a voluntary board of directors from the local community, and all of its revenue goes towards paying staff wages, and funding community programmes. 

The venue gets its namesake from the expanse of mountainous land that straddles the border of Co Monaghan and Co Fermanagh. 

Nestled at the foot of this hilly area, the hotel is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and it owes its success in part to its isolated location – it’s perfect for hikers and nature lovers alike. 

It opened in 2000 after the parish priest, Canon Gilsenan, called a public meeting to discuss the fate of a parish hall built in the 1950s that had fallen into a state of disrepair. 

Mary Mullen, who is now the chairperson of the voluntary board of directors that oversee the hotel, said the priest was suggesting renting out the venue as an industrial unit. 

“From that meeting a committee was set up to discuss how we could retain the building and bring it back into use for the benefit of the community, I suspect that was always his intention,” Mary, who is now in her 60s, explained. 

mary mullen Mary Mullen and her husband.

The committee decided to set up a hotel based on advice from Fáilte Ireland and other organisations.

Funding was sourced from various funds, including those launched to aid reconciliation and redevelopment in the North.

In the infancy of the peace process, the people of Knockatallon tapped into the widespread desire to regenerate not just Belfast and Derry but also villages and towns that had felt the impact of the Troubles. 

In 2000 Knockatallon’s population was in a state of disrepair not too dissimilar from their parish hall. 

“We were surrounded by closed border roads over the course of the Troubles. There was one road in and out of the area and the other roads led into Northern Ireland. We also had an ageing population, because people weren’t staying once they grew up, there was nothing for them to do,” Mary said. 

She said the area has been turned around, as the hotel has seen local groups thrive, other businesses pop up, and a new stream of tourists visiting the remote area. 

“This isn’t just a hotel for tourists, we put on a lot of events for locals and enable community programmes, and a lot of our business comes from weddings, and visitors whose families emigrated away in previous generations, who still have a connection to this area.

“We have a meal service for the elderly, where 100 people on our register get a subsidised meal every week. We have astro turf pitches which are used by local sports clubs, ” Mary said. 

WhatsApp Image 2024-01-17 at 22.10.59 The hotel's wedding venue.

Mary said one of the biggest successes of the project has been the regeneration of the village. 

“We will be open 24 years soon. When we first did our research on our area, we realised that we had roughly 100 derelict or vacant houses, and since then, those houses have all been replaced. Back in the 90s there were no young people settling in the area – there are now. New houses are being built around here,” she said. 

BnBs, a taxi service, and Sliabh Beagh Adventures which offers walking tours, archery, and bike hire have all been established in the locality in the last 24 years. 

sliabh beagh adventures Sliabh Beagh Adventures offers bike hire and cycling tour services.

There’s no doubt that this hotel has benefited Knockatallon, but Mary is not convinced that other community-owned venues would be a guaranteed success if they were to be set up in part by the Government. 

“For anything like this to be a success, it has to come from the community itself. Someone can’t come into an area and tell you what you should have, and develop it for you and make it a success. People in the area need to have a commitment to it and interest in it long-term.” she said. 

Mary added that communities who put the work in, however, will find it “rewarding”. 

“There is an immense sense of achievement. We’ve won awards, we’ve involved everyone, we have young people settling in our area again. An area that was dying has come back to life,” she said. 

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