After a year of extensive works, the Carnegie Free Library in Swords has been officially reopened, marking a key advancement in the extensive Swords Cultural Quarter project currently underway by Fingal County Council.
The building, originally established in 1908 and recognised as a Protected Structure, will now function as a dynamic centre for community and arts-related activities. It features a new two-story extension which will enhance accessibility and services. It comes as part of the broader development of the Swords Cultural Quarter.
The significant renovation of the site, located on North Street, was made possible thanks to a grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The Southern Regional Assembly helped secure €1.5m under the Southern and Eastern Regional Operational Programme for the Swords Castle Cultural and Civic Quarter Project. This grant, together with match funding from Fingal County Council has facilitated much of the conservation and improvement works carried out at Swords Castle and North Street over the past seven years.
Mayor of Fingal, Cllr Adrian Henchy, expressed great enthusiasm for the project, saying: “The Carnegie Free Library is a cherished landmark that has stood as a beacon of knowledge and culture in Swords since its inception in 1908. Now as a beautifully refurbished space, we are not just reopening a building but we are investing in the intellectual and artistic future of our community.”
The comprehensive refurbishment, which took about a year to complete, aims to provide versatile workspaces and a creative hub for diverse community and arts events, including rehearsals and performances.
AnnMarie Farrelly, Chief Executive of Fingal County Council, also commented on the project's significance. “This wonderful new space reflects our commitment to fostering a flourishing environment where arts, culture, and heritage intermingle. It is also a positive progression in the Swords Cultural Quarter development which will include the delivery of a new County library, an arts & performance centre, and 49 new homes along North Street and Seatown Road,” she said.
Helping to open the Carnegie, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien said: “Fingal continues to be at the forefront of innovation and delivery. What we have here with the Carnegie Free Library is the restoration of a wonderful community space right in the heart of the County Town. It is a magnificent building which remains so important to the community of Swords and which many will have known back when it was also home to the Swords Boxing Club. It’s great to see it not only renovated but rejuvenated, and I can’t think of anything better than for this to be an art centre and creative space for the people of Fingal.”
The Carnegie refurbishment work is a great example of how local authorities can leverage ERDF grants to support the adaptive reuse of heritage buildings and breathe new life into buildings and town centres. The project received planning approval from the Council in September 2021, with works carried out by the primary contractor for the project, Kelbuild Ltd.