News that a feasibility study is to be undertaken on the future use of the Moydrum radio transmitter site has been hailed as a significant step forward this week.
The Athlone Marconi Centre Heritage Group, who have been driving efforts to establish a radio museum on-site since it closed some years ago, has welcomed the move after securing a grant from Westmeath Community Development and contributions from Athlone Town Council and RTE to carry out the report.
The feasibility study is expected to examine several possible uses for the site in the years ahead covering tourism, heritage and educational ventures. Some possible projects mooted for the site include it becoming the main base for the RTE TV and radio archive, the possibility of developing radio/TV broadcast facilities to teach students, a radio museum, a venture to highlight the nearby Moydrum Castle and as a base to celebrate famed local tenor John McCormack.
Chairperson Ciaran Mullooly, speaking on behalf of the Athlone Marconi Centre Heritage group, explained that the highly experienced tourism company, TTC Consultants, have been appointed to undertake the feasibility study at the site and it is expected to ready by Christmas.
He added it will investigate the viability of opening a visitor attraction at the Moydrum station, which has major historical significance, given that it was from here that the first radio transmission on Raidió Teilifís Éireann was made in the 1930s.
Mr Mullooly confirmed that extensive consultation will form part of that process - with residents, AIT, RTE and other radio enthuasists spoken to chart the possible future proposals for the Moydrum site. A public meeting will form part of this process before any plans are drawn up.
Cllr Alan Shaw, also a member of the Athlone Marconi Centre Heritage Group, welcomed what he described as a hugely significant development for the project this week.
“It means that one of the most experienced firms of tourism consultants in the country is going to plot and test the feasibility of a major new visitor attraction in Athlone - something that will further enhance the package that is available at Athlone Castle and the Luan Gallery.”
Cllr Shaw added that RTE is co-operating with the Athlone Marconi Centre Heritage Group in proceeding with this feasibility study in the joint interests of promoting an educational, tourism and heritage centre at this important site.
Following, a motion raised by Cllr Shaw in June 2012, during his term as Mayor, Athlone Town Council agreed to support the feasibility study.
“This support is deeply appreciated by the Marconi Heritage Group. Following this, the then Mayor attended a meeting at the Moydrum Transmitter Station between the Chairman of RTÉ, Tom Savage and a number of local interested parties. RTÉ agreed to facilitate a feasibility study to determine if the facility is suitable and how such a museum might operate. This work was instrumental in getting us to where we are today”, Cllr Shaw added.
It is a unique site and in time, this site, if preserved will become the only one of its kind in Europe, he maintained. Modern satellite communications means that transmitting stations like Moydrum will never again be constructed.
Athlone was the site of the first high power transmitting station in the Irish Republic. The site and its equipment deserve to be preserved as part of our national and technological heritage, Cllr Shaw concluded.
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