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Civic Reception for Matt Farrell

Address by Cllr Mick Cahill, Cathaoirleach Longford County Council
Civic Reception for Matt Farrell, Edgeworthstown,
Áras an Chontae, 22nd June 2017

Matt Farrell is well-known in the region as a strong community organiser for Edgeworthstown. His efforts to develop and promote the town through the Edgeworthstown District Development Association go back many years. The EDDA has helped develop top-class amenities The Green amenity space and the Old School House, and the future community library which will be built in partnership with Longford County Council on the Main Street.

Matt has been a stalwart of the annual Edgeworth Literary Festival and is part of the Literary Trail Committee, which has developed a unique visitor attraction in Edgeworthstown, based on its connection to one of Ireland's most interesting families, who included writers, inventors, scientists, astronomers, economists, and even the priest who ministered the Last Rites to the last king of France! They also highlight the town's connections to other literary giants, such as Oliver Goldsmith and Oscar Wilde. The trail is drawing visitors not just from Ireland, but from Europe, North America and as far away as Australia!

The fact that these projects have been so successful, is a testament to the far-sightedness and dedication that you and your team have invested. In 2015, the EDDA won the first Special Category prize at the national Pride of Place Awards for the trail, due in no small part to you, Matt, as the judges were really impressed by your natural warmth and genuine love you had for Edgeworthstown, it's history and people.

You are a great example of community activism here in Longford, and proof of what can be achieved through dedication and collaboration. When visitors come to Edgeworthstown, it's is often Matt himself who guides them, and they go away singing his praises and speaking positively about Longford and Ireland. Matt, you are a fantastic ambassador for the county, promoting Edgeworthstown and Longford outside the county. Even royalty isn't immune, as Charles, Prince of Wales found out during his recent visit to Ireland!

Speaking as a member of Longford County Council, I am proud to say that the Council has had a long and fruitful relationship with Matt, in particular working closely with our Community & Enterprise Section, the Library, Heritage and Archives Service and the Planning Section.

In my time as Cathaoirleach of Longford County Council, I have seen first-hand the hard work and devotion our community groups put into their areas, and I truly believe that Longford is lucky that we have so many community heroes that do so much to improve the county. But I also think it is safe to say Matt, that your achievements are exceptional, not just in delivering important amenities and drawing people to Edgeworthstown, but in making visitors feel part of the community for the time they spend here. That personal connection is what makes Longford special, and possibly unique in Ireland.

In February of this year, I had the privilege of seeing Matt honoured at national level, when he became Ireland's second Heritage Hero. This award was granted by The Heritage Council, organised through their National Heritage Week programme, and was presented by Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Culture.

What is special about this award is that the candidates are nominated by the public. This gave the people of Edgeworthstown an opportunity to say just how much your work has benefitted them and the town. The ceremony also gave you, Matt, an opportunity to say likewise how much the town meant to you, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house when you finished your speech! Your humility, caring nature and love for Edgeworthstown and the county shone through, and proved why you are an inspiration to many communities in Longford.

Matt, I know that your family, in particular your wife Rita, daughters Carolyn and Laura, and grandson Jamie who supported his grandfather at the Heritage Awards - are incredibly proud of you and your achievements, as are the people of Edgeworthstown and your former colleagues at Paul & Vincent, where you recently retired from. All of Longford should feel very proud of Matt's achievements and that he is one of us.

On my own behalf, and on behalf of the members of Longford County Council, I wish you every success in developing and expanding the Edgeworth Literary Trail and Edgeworthstown District Development Association. I hope all of you will have a very enjoyable evening here in Áras an Chontae.