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Wedding planner Franc is the ‘best host’ say Ukrainians in Rosscarbery convent

June 21st, 2022 10:30 PM

By Jackie Keogh

Kathryn Kingston, West Cork Development Partnership and community rep Fiona Calnan were at the meeting.

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THE talk on a Ukrainian WhatsApp group is that the former convent in Rosscarbery is the best place for refugees to stay.

A development worker who attended a ‘meet and greet’ event at the Celtic Ross Hotel in Rosscarbery last Thursday wasn’t joking when she said the 39 residents are telling everyone that Peter and Éadaoin Kelly are the best hosts.

Standing in front of a room full of local representatives, the celebrity wedding planner Peter Kelly (aka Franc) said that Covid had prevented them, as a couple, getting to know people in the village when they first bought the former convent building. But now that restrictions have been lifted, they are keen to meet local people and discuss ways that they, and the refugees, could forge links with the community.

Peter outlined how they arrived at the decision to turn their new home, a 130-year-old former convent, into a refuge for Ukrainians fleeing the war.

‘We had seen the footage and we thought we had such a big property it would be awful not to use it. It is a building that was always built by the people, for the people,’ said Peter.

‘We are here,’ said one local representative Fiona Calnan, ‘to meet the community to see how we can help and support the Ukrainian people who are staying locally.’

‘We are looking at simple things,’ she said, ‘like joining social clubs and getting the kids involved in sport, like rowing and football, and the camps that are going on in the area, and to help them in whatever way we can with language and communication.’

Kathryn Kingston of the West Cork Development Partnership outlined how the organisation has been offering support to the group in Rosscarbery, as well as other groups from Kinsale right through to Bantry.

‘Each little town and area has a group now,’ she said. ‘The very basics of support have been set up, such as the registration of medical cards, PPS numbers, and some links to employers, but now there’s a chance to link people in with the local community and to befriend people.’

The support being offered was submitted on a list containing the community representative’s name and contact number so that events could be arranged instead of people just dropping by the convent unannounced.

‘There will be times and places to meet, maybe like coffee mornings, walks on the beach and excursions,’ said Kathryn.

‘We were delighted,’ said Neil Grant, the general manager of the Celtic Ross Hotel, ‘to support the meeting, and the opportunity to bring our Ukrainian friends into our community and into the day-to-day life in Rosscarbery.

He said the hotel was lucky to be employing four Ukrainians.

‘They are integrating nicely,’ he said. ‘Hopefully, after this event we will come up with other ways to make them feel welcome.’

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