Thursday, 7 February 2019
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
Currently, the round tower in Kells, County Meath, is not accessible to the public. Last year, however, the Office of Public Works, OPW, started a project to facilitate visitors. Some early work has been done to clear the tower of decades of accumulated bird debris and to carry out building surveys. These surveys will facilitate the development of a design solution that it is hoped, once it has been approved by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, will result in the provision of a safe access for visitors to the tower.
I welcome the Minister of State's answer. I will try to flesh out a little more detail. The Kells round tower is one of the most important monuments in the country. People in Kells have felt historically, and justifiably, that Newgrange, which is a world heritage site, has got most of the attention but there is considerable potential to have our heritage on show from the side of the street or from the grounds of a church-owned monastery and that the public would be able to have access to it.
When would the Minister of State expect design solutions to be put in place and when would he expect those then to go to the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and for there to be public access? Is there a plan to fund public access as well? Obviously, one can have the design solution, which is welcome and important and must happen, but then one needs the ongoing expenditure and money it will cost to allow the public in to see this monument.
As for my role in heritage, the Deputy will be aware that on my first appointment, I let children and persons with disabilities and their carers into the heritage sites for free. I am very much committed to heritage.
This is a site I have visited. This is a site on which the Minister of State, Deputy English, has me wound up to make something happen and we made something happen towards the end of last year. We are now progressing that. However, there are engagements. Deputy Thomas Byrne knows the tower better than do I. The safety of the public is most important. Given that the work has now started, we will see it come to conclusion. We must work with the other Minister to achieve a successful outcome for the people and the heritage of this country.
I strongly encourage the two Departments to work together with the Kells and district tourism network, the Kells municipal district council, Meath County Council and the local community. People will welcome this. They are delighted that something is happening in this regard and certainly would like to see that come to fruition. There is much effort in Kells at present to promote the town and to bring people together and this will help enormously. Obviously, we are impatient, while welcoming everything the Minister of State said today.
I appreciate that and I thank the Deputy. I met the heritage group and I am aware of what it is trying to do. I like to work with such groups that have shown the enthusiasm to make things happen, and that is what I intend to do. We are working with the other Department to make it happen.