Tramore’s Youth Café, described by local public representatives as being vital to the town’s social fabric, is to remain open despite the loss of government funding which has left it in dire financial straits.
That was the defiant outcome of a debate on the issue at a special meeting on Tuesday night of the Town Council, which was addressed by Mr Aidan McQuillan, Area Manager of Foroige, under the umbrella of which the Youth Café operates.
Also present was youth worker Jean Keaveney, who has pledged to continue on a voluntary basis with the Café, having lost her part-time post at the Main St centre due to the unavailability of money to pay her.
Mr McQuillan recalled that there had been a Youth and Family Support Project in Tramore since 1996. Then, as an addition in 2007, funding of €48,000 was provided through Pobal for the Youth Café, covering a period of two years. The centre provided a meeting place for young people to mix, with no alcohol, drugs or tobacco-use permitted. Its success could be measured by the fact that when open, about sixty young people used the Café at any given time and it had proved to be a major aid towards healthy social interaction. It was also an important source of back-up for some young people in need of support.
He said there were currently seven volunteers contributing to the running of the Café under the guidance of Ms Keaveney and so rewarding did they find their involvement that they remained committed to the project, irrespective of the funding situation.
With money due to run out next month, various efforts had been made to raise funding, but Mr McQuillan conceded that the task was very difficult in the existing climate. An application would be forwarded to Minister for Children Barry Andrews, but his understanding was that a decision had yet to be made on how best to spend €750,000 which had been set aside by government for Youth Cafes.
Regarding that money, Cllr Joe Conway said his understanding was that it was to be spent on a survey on how best Youth Cafes could operate – a useless exercise given that the answers could be found by simply visiting Tramore or other centres where they had proved a huge success. “The money is being wasted on re-inventing the wheel”, he complained.
Cllr Ann Marie Power said she was really disappointed over the loss of funding because the facility encapsulated everything that was good in Tramore. “It makes a major contribution to our social fabric and sets a standard in terms of its operation that could fruitfully be followed nationally”, she commented.
Mr McQuillan then delivered a welcome assurance that the Café would not close. “We are determined to continue the project on a volunteer-led basis if necessary”, he said, “while holding out the hope of a resumption of funding”.
Cllr Tom Raine proposed inviting the Minister to meet with the Council at the Café, or in Dublin as second preference. “We are being fobbed off with letters and that’s no use”, he remarked. Cllr Power seconded and that was agreed.