By Ray O’Hanlon
A County Clare-born businessman wants to put the Irish back into the Catskills — all 32 counties of it.
New Jersey-based Dennis Meehan is planning to unveil his plans next week for an Irish theme village in the capital of the Irish Catskills, East Durham.
The plan, drawn up in conjunction with Greene County Development, envisions a village not unlike the Bunratty Village and Folk Park in Clare.
Details of the plan will be revealed on Monday, Nov. 23, at the Shamrock House in East Durham.
Bunratty’s director, Tom Sheedy, will attend the event, Meehan told the Echo.
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If it comes to fruition, the Catskills venture could be a boost to the East Durham area, which has seen the glories of former years fade in recent ones.
Meehan, who runs Commercial Vehicles Consultants Inc. in HoHoKus, N.J., said he has put three years work into the plan and that the time has come to put it into effect.
He said that unlike the Tara Circle venture, money would only be sought once land and planning permission had been secured.
He said that a possible location for the village was on the grounds of the Irish American Cultural Center in East Durham.
The plan itself is both detailed and ambitious. And it involves not just fund-raising in the U.S. but also in Ireland where each of the 32 counties will be asked to take a stake in the venture.
The plan calls for 32 individual structures, each one representing an Irish county. The structures, in traditional cottage form, will be laid out roughly in the shape of a map of Ireland.
In addition to the individual county houses, a number of other structures will make up a "main street" that will be part of a "road" leading from the Cork end of the site to the Belfast end.
Additional features listed in the "Irish Village-USA Concept" will be walls of fame dedicated to successful Irish and Irish Americans and to those who fought in America’s wars. A memorial to the victims of the Great Hunger is also listed.
The entire village would be intended to reflect Ireland in the 18th, 19th and 20th century with every effort made to ensure authenticity.
"We won’t be having leprechauns or green beer or anything like that," Meehan said.
Meehan said that no funding is being currently sought but when it came to raising money the effort would spread far and wide.
It would include contributions from each Irish county and county association in the U.S., individual and corporate sponsorship, various fund-raising campaigns and grants. Operating costs of the village would be covered by paying visitors and businesses located on the site.
Meehan said that Bunratty was the most visited tourist attraction in Ireland, largely due to bus tours. He hoped that the East Durham village would also thrive as a result of such tours. Promotion of Ireland itself would be part of the village plan and he hoped that the village would, in turn, be promoted in Irish tourist destinations such as Bunratty.
He said the planned village, located about 120 miles from the New York metropolitan area, was ideally located for visitors from the northeastern U.S. and Canada, many of them Irish American.
According to Meehan, the project has already obtained non-profit 501.3c status.