New Year's resolutions and hopes for 2018 around Sligo
What do you wish for 2018? It's a question we posed to several people in Sligo as the New Year dawned this week:
Cathaoirleach of Sligo County Council Cllr Seamus Kilgannon
"Sligo has the potential for major progress in 2018. While we have come through very difficult times both at local and national level, I think there are very real grounds for optimism as we plan for 2018.
"I firmly believe Sligo is well positioned to meet the challenges and capitalise on the opportunities, particularly in relation to the local economy. Sligo is the acknowledged centre for economic growth in the Northwest, and the key drivers of economic growth are enterprise and tourism.
"But another major priority for our Council is the development of our road network, and in this context the news that Sligo County Council will receive a major allocation for its 2018 Roads programme is to be welcomed. The upgrading of our transport infrastructure is hugely significant for Sligo and the Northwest, particularly in terms of enterprise and tourism.'
"To achieve progress we have to look beyond a strictly local context and work with our neighbouring counties to advocate effective regional development. There is an expected 40 per cent population growth target in the lifetime of the National Planning Framework (2040).
In order to ensure that positive outcomes arising from national growth can be shared by people throughout Ireland, the potential of all areas will need to be realised for sustainable development.
"If there is one over-riding factor that exemplifies Sligo's sense of purpose and direction, it is 'partnership', and this operates at many levels. In recent months, Sligo County Council has developed a number of strategic partnerships focused on fostering enterprise, generating jobs and attracting tourists.
We have joined with six other Local Authorities in supporting Ireland West Airport Knock, a key strategic , regional asset in terms of business and tourism.
"Sligo has much to gain from the active and dynamic engagement between Sligo County Council and the communities we serve, and this partnership augurs well for the future of our county.
"Looking ahead at a personal level, I hope to be more physically active in 2018, and my New Year resolution will be to fit in more walking and exercise into my daily schedule, and intend exploring some of our county's wonderful scenic walkways and trails.
"I wish your readers a happy (and healthy) 2018."
President of IT Sligo Brendan McCormack
"We've developed a 5-Year Strategic Plan to grow the college student numbers from 6,000 to 10,000, so we'll be working on that in 2018," said Brendan.
"We currently have about 1,500 students a year graduating so we're looking to increase that to 3,000. We're putting more graduates into the local economy to help the region grow.
"Our third goal is to achieve Technological University Status by five years time. From that backdrop of the five year plan, we'd certainly like to grow our student population in 2018. It's also good for the town," he told The Sligo Champion.
"We have 6,000 students at the moment, about 4,000 of those on campus so if we can grow our student population on campus that is also good for the town.
"On the online side, we do a lot of courses for companies for people who don't have the time to go back to college. We had 2,400 such students this year so there's big online demand for such courses.
"Regarding our goal of becoming a Technological University, we would like to grow and develop the goodwill and outspoken support for IT Sligo to become a Technological University from companies and employers and the business community in the North West.
"From a student point of view, a University qualification is a bigger brand for them. While our technological qualification is very highly regarded, a university qualification would have a better brand image and attract more companies to Sligo - the IDA tells us it would have a better brand for the region and bring economic benefits with it," he said.
Continuing his theme beyond education, Brendan said he would like to see more companies re-locating to Sligo in the New Year.
"Dublin is overcrowded, space is not available. There's a real opportunity to go after that business and persuade people to come to Sligo. There are many people who have moved back to the North West but the lowering population is one of our fundamental concerns - that's not going to help us grow the economy," he said.
He would also like IT Sligo to be part of the development of the National Planning Framework and "ensure Sligo gets its fair share as a Regional city."
"Sligo will be the only Regional city north of the Dublin - Galway line," he said. "We will continue to collaborate with the Regional Assembly and the Western Development Commission on that front," he added.
On a personal note, Brendan is recovering from a fall on 10 December in which he broke his leg.
"My other New Year's resolution is to recover and be able to walk again!" he said. "And to be able to lead IT Sligo and continue to be a very successful IT as it now and in the future."
Acting Director of the Model Emer McGarry
In the local arts scene, the Model Niland has an exciting line up of events programmed for the New Year.
Acting Director Emer McGarry told this newspaper that it "balances the best of exhibition opportunities for local artists and bringing the best of international art to the North West."
"We have a really exciting line up for 2018. If we had one resolution for the New Year it would be to welcome more and more first time visitors to the Model," she told The Sligo Champion.
"We welcome between 90,000-95,000 visitors a year, of which 60 per cent are local so we would love to grow that number and show people what we do at the Model," said Emer.
"We cater for all different levels of interest, from people who have never been inside the model to people who have a good level of expertise," she said.
"We want in 2018 to be an art gallery that people can be really, really proud of and feel at ease to visit," she said.
Personally, Emer had a good year of health changes in 2017 and "would like to keep that up". "Luckily the Model café serves a great array of healthy salads and soups to help on that front!" she added.