Kilcullen reinvents itself. Again. And again.

KILCULLEN: 10 May 2001: by Brian Byrne. There's a certain amount of deja vu about it. Certainly for people who have lived through the various reincarnations of Kilcullen over the past 30 years or so. And even further for those who have childhood memories, or passed-on memories of earlier times when Kilcullen reacted to having its back against the wall.

Cllr Timmy Conway and Roy Thompson at the launch of Kilcullen Community Action.
The official launch last night of Kilcullen Community Action brought back memories to this writer, who was one way or another involved in some of these 'reinventions' of Kilcullen over the years, of a community intent on remaining a community. Despite the fact that its population will triple in the next three years if the current Government Celtic Tiger policy of Kildare becoming part of a four-counties Greater Dublin succeeds.

It has happened before. In the 50s, when the town was a backwater on the way to the south, my publican father Jim Byrne began a process that put Kilcullen on the European and world maps because of his interests, in amateur boxing first, and later achieving the relocation of Dan Donnelly's Arm to the county where it made most sense ... and making the most of that opportunity.

(We'll do that story properly again sometime.)

Later, the Kilcullen Development Association, the brainchild of Kilcullen man Paddy Nugent, raised funds to provide advance factories to industry before the IDA ever thought of the concept, and after that developed the idea of 'affordable housing' three decades before it became a political balloon cruising on the hot air of councillers and 'tiddies'.

Then there was Kilcullen Community Council and its various innovations which were copied throughout the country. Again, another story or stories which deserve their own independent recollections. And we'll do those too. Promise. Particularly the input of Jim Collins.

Tess O'Rourke and Jim Collins looking at the Colour Plan for Kilcullen.
There have been ebbs and flows in the community fortunes since. But just now, it's in full flow. Forcefully so. And we're going to hear and read a lot more about Kilcullen over the next few years which I would place a substantial bet on - and I'm not a gambling man - will make their own national and international headlines.

So what happened last night? Well, briefly, there are people in Kilcullen who want the village to continue with the concept of community by which it has always lived. And so the Tidy Towns Committee and other groups and individuals morphed (hey, isn't it a better word than 'transmorgrified'?) into what is the spiritual successor of the Community Council that brought the inimitable 'Capers' to local and national prominence.

But it is 21st century, So it is dealing with the development of the village against a background of what Kilcullen sees as an extraordinary granting of planning permissions without the provision of infrastructures. The sub-committee led by Esther Kiely has already met with the county manager and is shortly meeting with developers to make sure that parking, footpaths, and recreation and park areas are provided as the village grows to a town.

Local Cross and Passion College student Paul Kennedy (pictured on right with Sinead Forde, also a C&P student) is heading a move to bring true recycling to a community that has rather felt itself becoming the 'dump capital' of Leinster, and as a result a recylcing centre is to be set up alongside the Kilcullen Library.

Singer/songwriter Roy Thompson, whose day job is Duchasing our heritage, has devised a five-year plan to assess and then enhance the wildlife habitats around Kilcullen, involving the increasing numbers of young people in the town through direct interaction with the schools.

Meanwhile, a 2,000-year-old source of water in Kilcullen has been restored over the past few months. The 'Spout' is much more than a recently-renamed pub in the town, and after a 20-year absence, is now available to provide water 'better than what comes out of your tap' according to 'Mr Valley' Jim Collins. And he has the tests to back up his claim.

Landscaping and litter are also major issues being addressed. Where but in Kilcullen could you get 80 people to come out last Monday to clean up the town after the Bank Holiday. They were aged from four to a number of years which it is not politically correct to specify, but now it seems those people will have to be rostered for further weekly duties because not enough litter can be generated to keep them all busy! (Listen, don't try. OK?)

Seriously, though, there is big room for improvement. Not least at lunchtimes when local students take their nourishment. Local businesses have been approached towards cutting down on wrappings, and wheelie bins have been provided near schools.

And there's a new colour scheme for the town centre. If you want to paint your place, there's now an official suggestion. Talk to Jim Collins again.

And there's much more. But this writer has a plane to catch later this morning and time is shortening fast. Still, the story, at least the beginning, had to be told. There will be other chapters.

But the headline is enough for the moment. Kilcullen is happening. Again.