Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Help make the most of Meath’s best heritage sites

Fine Gael Meath East TD, Regina Doherty, has today (Monday) encouraged people across Co. Meath to help promote and enhance historic sites in their local area. The Office of Public Works (OPW) wants to get community groups more involved to make sure that we are getting the most of the fantastic array of world class heritage sites across the country.

“I am urging community groups and organisations in Meath to make their views known on how we can develop tourism locally by using our national monuments and sites. The Minister of State at the OPW, Brian Hayes TD, wants to have at least 25 partnerships in place nationally between the OPW and local organisations by this summer.

“This is a new departure for the OPW; up to now there has been no major volunteer effort in how we present our heritage. It also builds on the success of the recent Free Days initiative, which grants free access to heritage sites on the first Wednesday of every month. It has been a huge success in Meath, with a 142% increase in visitor numbers to the Battle of the Boyne site on free days.

“We have a host of great heritage sites in Meath, including the Hill of Tara, the Battle of the Boyne site and Newgrange, and I’m sure there are plenty of great ideas locally on how these sites, and other historical amenities and monuments, can be better promoted.

“Ahead of the busy summer season, it’s vital that we are doing all we can to attract as many people as possible to these sites. Visitors from at home and abroad who come to see heritage also tend to spend some time in the local town or village, and may even choose to stay nearby, providing a much-needed revenue stream for local businesses.

“The reality is that we don’t have any extra money to extend opening hours at heritage sites or increase the guide service on offer. But through this partnership approach being led by Minister Hayes, community groups can help to address shortcomings by coming up with innovative ideas. Local input will also help to instil a sense of confidence and ownership in heritage sites, and could form part of the overall tourism strategy for a local town or village.

“Tourism is a key driver of the local economy in Meath; recent figures show that Ireland’s tourism market recovered significantly last year, and now is the time to build on this progress. I’m urging community and heritage groups in Meath to make their views known, and help us boost our tourism potential even further. You can email the OPW at communities@opw.ie or call 046 9426106 or 046 9426061. A national conference will take place in April and the OPW will provide training and support for the groups selected to be part of the pilot in 2012.”

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