• Cyril McAree

Minister O’Donovan announces free admission to OPW visitor Heritage sites

Mr. Patrick O’ Donovan T.D., Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW) today announced that admission charges to certain OPW Heritage sites are being waived as part of the Government’s July Stimulus Plan in an effort to encourage domestic tourism and support the tourism economy.

The measure will take effect from Monday next, 27th July and will remain in force until the end of the year.  This measure is being implemented as a support to the domestic Irish tourism economy and to provide a greater appeal to Irish people to stay at home and take staycations and short breaks within Ireland particularly over the next 6 months.

 “From my previous experience as Minister for Tourism, I am aware that the Visitor sites in the care of the OPW are highly prized by Irish people” the Minister said today.  “Many of us visited places like Glendalough and the Rock of Cashel on school tours and they are a big part of  our childhood for a lot of us.  I’m convinced that the fondness and pride Irish people harbour for our national Heritage sites is a result of our collective childhood memories.  That’s why I think that this initiative I am introducing today as part of the Government’s July Stimulus will appeal to people who are looking for a different holiday experience that has something for everyone.”

OPW manages 70 visitor sites around the country including some of the most iconic historic locations like the Rock of Cashel, Dún Aonghasa and Castletown House.  These sites play a very significant part of the cultural and heritage tourism offering and last year attracted a total of over 9.3m visitors, many of them foreign tourists.  Research by Fáilte Ireland indicates that significant numbers of domestic visitors also cited history and culture destinations as one of their motivating factors for visiting places in Ireland***.  The Minister has acted to capitalise on this by making the majority of these places more accessible for those on a budget who are looking for an enjoyable way to spend their 2020 holidays.

The economy has suffered a huge shock because of Covid-19” the Minister said “and this is particularly the case in the Tourism sector where so many people depend on a strong visitor economy to provide them with jobs****.  Government have identified the need to act quickly and decisively in support of the tourism sector and the OPW Heritage sites will play a part in that by making it attractive cost-wise for individuals and families to visit and for Tour Operators who wish to bring organised groups.

A small number of the busiest sites will not be offered with free admission as there are concerns that they might be overwhelmed with large numbers of visitors and create a significant Covid-19 risk.

Ten locations in all will maintain an admission charge”, John Mc Mahon, the OPW’s Heritage Commissioner said today “and at three of these locations we are actually admitting people at half price.  These are very popular and busy sites in the normal course and we feel that declaring them free admission will create a possibility that many more people will come to them than they can safely handle.

Like all other public venues, OPW’s Heritage sites have been closed to the public since March but, with the progressive reopening of the economy announced in recent weeks by Government, sites are beginning to open their doors again.  Though Covid-19 restrictions will of course be in place with limits on numbers and access to certain closed and confined spaces not available*, OPW still hopes to offer visitors an enjoyable and memorable experience in some of the most important historic buildings and sites in Ireland with admission charges lifted for the remainder of the year**.

The Minister concluded “As a society, we have all endured a huge amount in the past few months and I’m hoping with this measure to remind people of what’s on their doorstep here in Ireland and encourage them to help Ireland’s tourism industry to make it through 2020 and come back with a real bang in 2021.  Hopefully people will be able to discover something new or maybe they’ll be able to relive a childhood experience with their own families, but I’d encourage everyone to get out there and see what Ireland has to offer.”

A full list of the OPW sites and their charging regimes is available at OPW Heritage Sites or check www.heritageireland.ie for additional information on each site including opening times, booking requirements, contact details, etc.  We advise that you check with the individual heritage sites for openings, booking policy, etc., prior to travelling, as restrictions will be in place at many sites*.

Photography from the launch will be available from Naoise Culhane Photography naoise@naoiseculhane.com or contact Barry Nangle at 087 1470617

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