Sherlock raises Doneraile’s status with new OPW Minister

Deputy Seán Sherlock has raised the status of Doneraile National Park directly with the new Minister for the Office of Public Works, Seán Canney, and questioned whether the new Minister will adopt a new strategy for heritage sites or to maintain the status quo. “The Minister said in his speech that he would fulfil the existing level of service and there would be no policy change,” said Deputy Sherlock at the Oireachtas Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Committee this week. “I want to flesh this out. Does he mean the status quo will obtain from 2015 to 2016 and there will be no new departures in terms of policy implementation, particularly for the management of heritage?”

“I note that the Minister of State referred to heritage services. He mentioned very specific sites and talked about co-operating with Fáilte Ireland on initiatives such as Ireland’s Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way. A pot of approximately €65 million has been made available for capital projects by Fáilte Ireland. How will that money be disbursed? Will it be disbursed outside the keynote sites that are normally referred to in terms of tourist attractions? He referred specifically to Kilmainham Gaol, Glendalough, Clonmacnoise and Killarney National Park. There are other sites that I would advocate, such as Doneraile Wildlife Park in Cork, which has approx-imately 450,000 visitors per annum. Will there be a change in policy that would allow such sites to be marketed along with either the Wild Atlantic Way or Ireland’s Ancient East? I want to get a sense from him of how he views heritage sites, tourism potential and job creation in rural areas. There are sites that are a little off the beaten track but they are no less important than the big keynote sites.”

Responding to Deputy Sherlock, Minister Canney admitted that the marketing of heritage sites “is not what it should be and we seem to have kept them a secret, especially sites not located on the main thoroughfares.

“Tourists are dragged around the east and west coasts and down the south to visit attractions but they are unaware that there are fine sites in the midlands. The core policy of the OPW is the care, maintenance and preservation of the sites. The marketing of the sites is carried out in collaboration with Fáilte Ireland. I hope that in future there will be more collaboration.”