Wednesday, 15 November 2023
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
My matter relates to Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre in Keenagh, County Longford and the monastic site on Inchclearaun in Lough Ree. Corlea Trackway is a 2,000 year old Iron Age highway, which was uncovered in the bogs in south Longford. It has been developed into visitor site, managed by the OPW. Visitor numbers are quite low because it is not being promoted well enough. The range of features on the site that people can visit needs to be expanded. This is why I am bringing the issue here today regarding the monastic stones at Inchclearaun. To give a bit of background, this is an island on Lough Ree where mighty Queen Maebh of Connacht lived and died. A monastic site was founded on the island by St. Diarmaid in 540 AD. He was the teacher of St. Ciarán in Clonmacnoise. The place has a lot of history.
In the 1980s, some of the monastic stones were stolen from the site and taken to America. Looking back at the RTÉ archives, we can see where the FBI was involved in an investigation when the stones were put up for sale to Boston College for IR£5 million in 1990. The FBI mounted a sting operation and the culprit was apprehended. The stones were brought back to Ireland to much fanfare. It was on the national news and the then Minister of State for Defence, Vincent Brady, received them at Shannon Airport. At the time, the plan was to put the stones on display to the general public. These priceless artefacts are sitting in storage in Athenry and have not been seen since. We want to see them brought back to be displayed in Longford. I acknowledge there are criteria for maintaining them under certain conditions and safety considerations but we have an OPW site in our county. We would like to see the stones brought back and put on display as promised. I strongly believe in maintaining our history. We need people to see it. Having the stones in a box in Athenry is not correct. I want the OPW to start making moves to have the stones put on public display securely and safely somewhere in their home county of Longford.