Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Questions (159, 160, 161)

Pearse Doherty

Question:

159. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the conservation management plan for Grianán of Aileach, County Donegal that the OPW had said it would commission in February 2017. [44385/19]

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Pearse Doherty

Question:

160. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the OPW can recruit a tour guide for Grianán of Aileach in view of the fact it is the most visited site in County Donegal. [44386/19]

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Pearse Doherty

Question:

161. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if there has been collaboration between the OPW, Fáilte Ireland and Donegal Tourism in promoting Grianán of Aileach as a tourist destination; and if so, the details of such work. [44387/19]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 to 161, inclusive, together.

The Grianán an Aileach National Monument in Co. Donegal is open to visitors daily throughout the year (opening times vary seasonally). A public carpark, owned by Donegal Co. Council, is available during opening hours and this gives visitors direct access to a universally accessible boardwalk leading to the Monument itself a short distance away. Basic interpretation is provided in the form of information panels located conveniently at the site. OPW employs a local caretaker / keyholder to manage the opening and closing of the carpark and maintains visitor data electronically at the site. The data available indicates that 90,435 visitors were recorded in 2018. This level of usage by the public suggests that there is considerable interest in An Grianán as an attraction and it is popular with both domestic and foreign visitors. However, it is also clear that the volume of footfall and the unregulated and unsupervised nature of the traffic presents significant conservation risks at the site. Currently, OPW staff are being called on regularly during the summer period in particular to repair physical damage done to the Monument and to clean the site from the after effects of antisocial behaviour.

Understanding that the site exhibits considerable tourism potential, OPW has raised with Fáilte Ireland and the Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht the possibility of some level of visitor infrastructure being provided which would enhance the experience and provide a control mechanism that would assist in the sustainable management of visitors. OPW has also met with interested parties locally, including Donegal Co. Council and Fáilte Ireland and has suggested that collaboration between the various public agencies that focusses particularly on those that own potential development land near the Monument should be explored.

In order to assist with the process of identifying possible ways to improving provision for visitors to the site, OPW early in 2019 commissioned a specialist consultant to develop a Conservation and Management Plan for Grianán an Aileach and this work is currently underway. The OPW has, in the context of the discussions held with public partners, left open the question of the future management and staffing of the site. Without suitable infrastructure currently, there is no suitable location to house staff and to provide a Guide service would not be feasible in advance of any facilities being built and a decision made as to who should operate the facility.