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28 Jun 2022

A new era dawns for Tipperary Citizens Information services

A new era dawns for Tipperary Citizens Information services

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, centre, at the opening of the new Citizens Information Centre office in Nenagh

A new era has dawned for the Citizens Information service in north Tipperary with the opening of its new offices in Nenagh.

The offices in the former Xtravision store on Pearse Street were opened by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, and the ceremony was attended by Citizens Information Centre staff and volunteers as well as local councillors, Tipperary chief executive Joe MacGrath and local TDs Alan Kelly and Jackie Cahill, and Sen Garret Ahearn.

Minister McEntee paid tribute to the work of the service in Nenagh and complimented all those involved in delivering such a professional service to the citizens of the area.

“I am aware of the history of the service in the town and of its different locations before arrival here in Pearse Street and I want to wish the team here in Nenagh CIS every success in these new offices,” she said.

Minister McEntee thanked the staff and volunteers who had delivered the service in Nenagh for the past 47 years and wished well to the staff, with the assistance of volunteers, who will deliver the service into the future.

The Minister also thanked Citizens Information Service for the support for those who are fleeing the crisis in Ukraine.

“On behalf of the Government I want to thank the board and staff of North Munster CIS for providing advocacy and advice to those arriving in Ireland from Ukraine.

“You are providing a very valuable and vital service to those who are in the greatest need and are fleeing a war where unspeakable crimes are being carried out. We very much appreciate the service that you are providing,” she said.

The chair of North Munster Citizens Information Service, Martin Quinn, spoke about the fact that it was the National Community Development Organisation Muintir na Tíre that was responsible for the setting up of community information centres throughout the country, through the passing of a resolution in 1968 to set up information centres in Ireland modelled on the Citizens Advice bureaux in the UK.

“From the very beginning, values such as impartiality, independence and confidentiality as well as the ability to respond to local needs were the key determinants of the centres,'' said Mr Quinn who went on to call for the return of volunteers, in all roles, to the service.

“As a service, we lost all of our volunteers during the pandemic and now it is really important to bring the service back to a level where there is a sufficient complement of personnel to meet the growing demands of the service.

“I would, therefore, urge the management and board of CIB to accept the recommendations of the Volunteer Strategy Group on the re-introduction of volunteers so that we can bring the service up to a level where offices can resume a greater level of face to face and advocacy service and where we can provide the necessary training to both volunteers and CE participants, to enable them to continue to deliver a professional service to the citizens of the region,” he said.

Mr Quinn pointed out that this was vital in retaining existing services in Clonmel, Tipperary Town, Thurles, Roscrea, Waterford city, Shannon (Clare) and Newcastlewest (Limerick), which could be impacted due to lack of staffing resources.

Regional manager for north Munster Ciarán Casey reminded the attendance that the roots of Ireland’s citizens information services went back to Tipperary.

He also said that Nenagh was an important centre as it was one of three towns included in the Regional Spatial Strategy which forecasts that Nenagh was to grow in population by 30% before 2040.

Mr Casey said that when they took over the premises in 2019 it was an empty shell and now they were ready to move on to the next phase.

He also pointed out that in 2019, the staff had dealt with 17,750 queries.

“That is a huge amount of work being carried out by two staff backed up by a strong team of volunteers who are trained and committed to working in their community,” said Mr Casey.

He thanked the centre’s CES workers, who, he said, were all part of the team’s heartbeat.

Nicola Walshe, finance executive, Citizens Information Service, said that though the service had opened in 1975 in Nenagh, the need for an independent, confidential service that delivered on a broad spectrum of topics still remained.

Ms Walshe paid tribute to Mary Plunkett, former development manager, who has retired.

Darren Ryan, new development manager for Tipperary, was MC for the occasion and the blessing of the new premises was conducted by Fr Des Hillery.

Fr Des took as his blessing the piece of scripture: Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden light.

“That, I think, is the message from the Citizens information Centre, that the person who comes in, it’s to meet somebody and not the information that is shared,” he said.

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