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Fermanagh and Omagh

Geopark Launches “Mapping the Geopark by Poem” Initiative

How do you engage the public when you need to stay in your own 5km or 10 mile zone?

Technology, once again, is creating innovative ways to reach out and involve the public. In the case of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark, COVID-19 restrictions have created conditions for an inventive outreach strategy by embracing a project that combines literature, landscape, and digital technology. On UNESCO World Poetry Day this 21 March, the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark is excited to announce the creation of a digital Geological Survey Ireland funded Geopark Poetry Map, inspired by the geoheritage sites across the Geopark, will be mapped poem by poem.

Martina O’Neill, Development Officer, Partnership and Engagement with the Global Geopark, was approached by Dowra based poet and Geopark Ambassador Bee Smith last autumn with an idea of creating a Geopark Poetry Map on their website.  Bee Smith says, “The idea got very positive feedback from the Geopark office staff. I had been awarded an Artist Development award from Cavan County Council Arts Office, but because of lockdown had to abandon my original project. Catriona O’Reilly, Cavan County Arts Office, was very supportive of the idea and let me run with it. And it just grew and grew”. Smith will be curating the project with the support of the Cavan Arts Office.

Catriona O’Reilly comments, “The moment of inspiration for the Geopark Poetry Map was described by curator Bee Smith as a ‘lightbulb moment’. This landscape so rich in cultural history is a fitting home for an interactive poetic map. From Cathal Buí Mac Ghiolla Gunna writing in the 1700’s up to the present day writing of Bee Smith and Seamus O hÚltacháin this landscape has woven its poetic spell and the time is right to share the magic, the draíocht with the world”.

Poems Focussing On Individual Geopark Sites

The Geopark Officers and Bee Smith produced a funding proposal to Geological Survey Ireland’s Geoheritage Fund that was successful in late 2020. The project is commissioning five established poets and writers to create poems focussing on individual geopark sites across Fermanagh and Cavan, as well as seeking contributions from new and emerging poets and involving local schools.

The Geopark’s Poetry Map will include recordings of the poems by professional actors. This addition to the project is being made possible from support from Cavan’s Ramor Theatre and provides some employment for actors while theatres have been dark because of lockdown restrictions.

Martina O’Neill, Development Officer – Partnership and Engagement with the Global Geopark states, “Our Geopark contains some of the finest landscapes on the island of Ireland all which have been shaped by natural and cultural influences over thousands of years. We are truly delighted to work with our Geopark Ambassadors, like Bee, and our local schools and wider communities to help showcase our wonderful landscapes and bring their fascinating stories to life in unique and creative ways”.

The poems will celebrate Geoheritage of each site, which encompasses features of geology that have had a direct impact on these heritage sites. It combines the interaction and interplay between history, science, and humans in a living and continuously evolving landscape.

Excited To See The New Work Commissioned

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Arts Manager, Bryony May, said, “We are delighted to be involved with this project which celebrates both the arts and our beautiful landscape. In particular, we are excited to see the new work commissioned. We know that the pupils of primary schools will thoroughly enjoy visiting and writing about various sites in the Geopark, and we look forward to seeing their work on the map”.

The Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark has over seventy sites of significance spread over west Fermanagh and west Cavan. It celebrates twenty years as a European Global Geopark this year and in 2008 became the first cross-border Geopark in the world and being jointly managed by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Cavan County Council. In 2015 the Geopark was awarded UNESCO status when Global Geoparks became an official programme in UNESCO and consequently is equal to World Heritage Sites and Man and Biosphere Reserves.

Do you write poetry? Have you visited any of the Geopark sites?

Do you have a poem inspired by any of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark sites? If you would like to submit a poem to appear on the Geopark’s Poetry Map, please contact Bee Smith at to receive full guidelines.

Fermanagh and Omagh

£400,000 Investment in Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital

Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital
Health Minister Robin Swann with (left) Deputy Sister Kerry Mellon and (right) Sister Phyllis Fitzsimons during a visit to ASHA Centre for Addiction in Omagh. Photo Credit: Michael Cooper

Health Minister Robin Swann has visited mental health and addictions units at Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital in Omagh to meet staff and to see the recent capital improvements to the Hospital.

Minister Swann said: “As with my visits to other similar units across Northern Ireland, in recent times, I am continually struck by the amazing dedication and professionalism of the staff working in both addictions and mental health services. Particularly during the especially challenging times presented by the ongoing pandemic their resilience has been outstanding.”

Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital provides inpatient acute mental health care, psychiatric intensive care and addictions inpatient care. The hospital also provides a six-bedded crisis house, which has been transformed to provide hospital in-patient services to meet the increasing need associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The facilities, some of which date back to the 1930’s are in need of investment, with the long term plan for a new 6,700m2 new-build facility to be located adjacent to the Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex. The new centre will replace existing outdated facilities and provide modern, fit-for-purpose accommodation in the Southern Sector of the Trust.

Minister Swann reiterated that: “I consider a new mental health unit in Omagh to be a very important and deserving priority for my Department. That is why last September I resubmitted a bid for funding to commence the new unit as part of a four year capital budget information gathering exercise. Without additional resources and a multi-year budget settlement my Department is unable to commence any significant new investments that will continue beyond this financial year.

“I remain determined to keep pressing for the necessary funding for this important project but in the interim I can confirm my Department will provide a further £400,000 to invest in Tyrone and Fermanagh Hospital to improve patient safety and experience. The investment will have a direct impact on patients and will improve outcomes and bringing the total invested in AMH facilities in Omagh over the last two years to almost £1.5million.”

Commenting on the Minister’s visit, Western Health and Social Care Trust Director of Adult Mental Health & Disability Services, Karen O’Brien, said: “We are delighted to welcome the Minister to Omagh today to visit our Complex Detoxification Unit in the Asha Centre and our Elm, Lime and Integrated Psychiatric Intensive Care Units (PICU).

“On behalf of the Western Trust I would like to thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule to come and view, first hand, our extensive acute mental health facilities in Omagh and to acknowledge the work and commitment of our staff towards the provision of mental health and social care services across the Western Trust.

“I would also like to thank the Minister for his continued support and for his clear and continuing commitment towards those in need of mental health care, which is demonstrated through his support of proposals for a new mental health unit in Omagh.”

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Derry City & Strabane

Local Councils Plan A Giant Visitor Experience For The Sperrins

The Isak Heartstone Sculpture, Breckenridge, Colorado USA by Thomas Dambo, who is part of the artist led design and construction consultancy team appointed to undertake the sculpture development and installation works along with McGurk Architects.

Members of the public are invited to have their say on the proposed Sperrin Sculpture Trail that is being rolled out by Derry City & Strabane District Council in partnership with Fermanagh & Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council.

The Sperrin Sculpture Trail is being delivered through the Rural Tourism Scheme as part of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 with support from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA). It aims to install an iconic and unique art piece within each of the three Council areas in an effort to drive and encourage rural tourism and support investment in local natural and built heritage.

The locations within the Sperrins on which the artworks will be installed are near Cranagh (Derry City & Strabane District Council area); at Mullaghcarn (Fermanagh & Omagh District Council area) and at Davagh Forest (Mid Ulster District Council area).The estimated cost of project delivery is £1,887,000 of which £1,325,000 has been secured from DAERA’s Rural Tourism Scheme and match funding of £562,000 agreed by the partner Councils.

Early this year, an artist led design and construction consultancy team was appointed to undertake the sculpture development and installation works. This team consists of internationally acclaimed and Copenhagen based artist Thomas Dambo, and Sperrins based McGurk Architects.  

The proposed design concept for the trail – Giants of The Sperrins- is an exciting one and is currently being refined. It seeks to showcase the epic stories associated with the Sperrins, the inspirational nature of the landscape, and the giant spirit and welcome of the people. Extensive engagement with partners, stakeholders and elected members across all three of the Councils has taken place to date, with the aim of promoting and seeking support for this unique visitor experience. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and wider public engagement is now being organised.

Rural Tourism Scheme

Agriculture Minister, Edwin Poots said, “The Rural Tourism Scheme was established in order to invest in natural and built heritage projects that can act as key drivers for encouraging rural tourism and out-of-state visitors.  We believe that investing in tourism projects in rural areas, will enable not only linkages to be made to other local attractions, but also the development of ‘tourism corridors’, which will encourage and increase visitor footfall from tourism hotspots into the great rural outdoors. 

Welcoming the progress to date on the project, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Brian Tierney acknowledged the partnership approach in securing funding and agreeing a collaborative approach to deliver a unique tourism experience to showcase the Sperrins. He said: “This is a hugely positive initiative that not only will deliver a tourism experience that will showcase a local area of outstanding natural beauty but it will actively encourage locals and visitors alike to take part in a mix of excellent slow and activity based adventures in one of the most picturesque and historic locations on the island of Ireland.”

“The Sperrins Sculpture Trail project is a significant Rural Tourism Scheme that is bringing much needed investment and focus on the  natural and built heritage in that area so they in turn can be utilised and promoted to encourage visitors to our rural heartlands  whilst preserving the natural assets for our rural communities.”

Encouraging the public to take part in the wider public engagement event, Mayor Tierney said it was important that everyone has their say on the plans.

“In addition to this flagship tourism project attracting investment and tourism, it is a significant capital infrastructural project that will create employment and opportunities for the region. It is vitally important that everyone gets involved in this public engagement event and gives their views.”

Adding Yet Another Reason to Visit

Concurring, the Chair of Mid Ulster District Council and partner council, Councillor Cathal Mallaghan said  

“Creating a sculpture trail through the Sperrins is adding yet another reason to visit one of our most beautiful and unexplored landscapes and this is a great opportunity for local people in particular to see how plans have developed and some of the initial design ideas”.

The Chair of Fermanagh & Omagh District Council Council, Councillor Diana Armstrong said

“This is a powerful project that can lead to a truly unique sculpture trail, linking three extraordinary sites across the Sperrins.  The sculptures have the potential to encourage visitors to come and explore this stunning landscape and be a source of pride for those that live in the area. The information sessions present a great opportunity for members of the public to get involved and give their views on this unique project.”

The public information and engagement session is scheduled to take place via the online platform of webex at 7pm on Thursday 10th of June. To register your interest in receiving an online invite to the event please contact Philip McShane, Rural Tourism Officer, Derry City & Strabane District Council by emailing

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