Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Questions (233)

Gerald Nash

Question:

233. Deputy Gerald Nash asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the Office of Public Works will consider further enhancing the tourism and heritage experience at Old Mellifont Abbey, County Louth by ensuring that there is a full-time complement of guides on-site, bringing it in line with other locations in the area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14796/14]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

Old Mellifont Abbey, which is a National Monument in State Ownership, is maintained by the National Monuments Service of the Office of Public Works. This National Monument is currently the subject of a significant project designed to improve elements of its presentation and to provide greater access for those with limited mobility. The presentation works involve provision of new and improved signage on site and the access works relate to the provision of new and extended universal access via pathways and a boardwalk on site. The carpark at the site is also being extensively improved and resurfaced.

This project had been planned since early last year but given that it involves practically all of the site and having regard to adverse weather for the past several months, it was not feasible to commence until now. The works will take about 8 weeks to complete commencing immediately after Easter. Thereafter the site will reopen to the public as normal with Guided services available for the remainder of the season up to the 24th September.

The OPW National Monument Service is anxious to promote and market the National Monument sites in its care and, in this regard, Mellifont Abbey is a key location on the Boyne Valley Drive launched in 2012 to promote and facilitate tourism in the region. The works being undertaken at Mellifont are a direct response to the Boyne Valley Drive initiative and recognise the importance of the site to the route. The aim of the project is to ensure that visitors to the site, and particularly those very many people who visit when Guides are absent, can enjoy and access the site more fully. The provision of a fulltime Guide Service is a significant, and costly, step. The resources available to the OPW for the delivery of Guide services remain under significant pressure and there are therefore no long term plans to extend the Guide service at Old Mellifont Abbey beyond the current seasonal offering.