The Office of Public Works cares for and operates some of Ireland’s most important historic buildings and properties which, each year, are at the heart of the community’s celebrations of Christmas. This year Christmas will be like no other but OPW is committed to ensuring that buildings and properties which traditionally presented a range of events at Christmas will continue to do so at a reduced scale and in line with the prevailing public health guidelines and Government restrictions as they might apply at the time.
OPW visitor sites have always been seen as not themselves primary generators of income, but as anchor attractions that draw people into local areas around the country, enabling private sector businesses to service the tourists they bring and driving secondary spending locally. This has always been a strong attribute of the Heritage visitor portfolio and the OPW sites around the country will I think continue to participate to drive and support local tourism enterprise in this way for the 2020 Christmas season.
Of course, all activity at heritage sites will have to undertaken in line with public health guidelines and Government restrictions relating to Covid 19. OPW is currently examining the roadmap for living with Covid19 which the Government published last week. In particular, officials are examining the thresholds in relation to indoor and outdoor events with a view to planning what Christmas programmes might be possible at the various levels in the roadmap.
I am pleased to advise that at Dublin Castle for example, ‘Christmas at the Castle’, which was a highly successful event in Dublin City last year will likely proceed albeit at a reduced scale. This event is devised in collaboration with Dublin City Council. It will feature as part of Failte Ireland’s ‘Winter in Dublin’ campaign to encourage Irish citizens to visit Dublin City in the run up to Christmas if possible and within the context of the prevailing public health guidelines.
A reduced programme of outdoor Christmas events will be presented at Farmleigh House, the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre and the National Botanic Gardens. At Kilkenny Castle, the team is examining what, if any, indoor events can proceed and will be working closely with Kilkenny County Council to ensure a Christmas programme at the Castle supports the local tourism economy over the season.
A number of OPW Heritage sites remain open to the public for people to visit during the Winter season and a range of our usual tours and self-guide opportunities at sites will continue to be available. OPW publishes very detailed information in relation to the operation of all heritage sites, including details of all events, on heritageireland.ie. Full details of all sites which are open in December and indeed all events taking place over the Christmas season will be published in due course online both here and on site-specific web pages and social media channels.