By Alan Finn
Nestled in the cosy south Sligo village of Banada lies a tranquil park built as a symbol of cross-border reconciliation.
The Banada peace gardens, opened in 1997 by Nobel Peace Prize winner John Hume, has continued to grow and develop over the last 19 years as it became the centrepiece which encapsulates the scenic beauty of the area.
The project was the brainchild of the Banada Development Association, of which Sean Owens was a member. He spoke to the Sligo Weekender this week about the gardens.
“The history of the garden goes back to 1996 when Austin Tuffy from Enniscrone took on the job. He did a lot of the preliminary work and then turned it over to us and a development agency and since then we have made a lot of changes there. In 1997 we dedicated part of it as a peace garden and it was the first of it’s kind in the country and it has been developing for nearly 20 years ever since.”
When your journey through this region of the county takes you into the village, it is impossible to miss the impressive park which has attracted locals and visitors alike who wish to take in the rich beauty and history, which features many interesting fixtures including a authentic 18th century famine pot.
“It is the biggest and the best of the gardens in Co. Sligo, with eight acres it is doing very well for itself and there are people there every day of the year, they come for walks in the summer and the winter and there is a great variation of wildlife within the park itself also. There is a lot of history there also, there is the fenian stone where they stood and swore the oath the keep the movement going and then across the bridge is the old graveyard and friary which has a lot of history and folklore attached to it.”
While the park is always developing, Sean admits that it is difficult to envisage what will happen next, but this community has proven with their mammoth efforts that they are not lacking in ideas.
“We never know what will be next. People ask us, but I honestly say that I don’t know. We were approached by Donal Tinney, who is in charge of the 1916 celebrations in Sligo, about doing something in that line and we said we would by building a garden of rememberance for those who died. It has taken four months to do, it was a fairly long haul but the work is done now and we are ready to have it opened.”