Thursday, 19 January 2023
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
122. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the status of the future use of a location (details supplied), following his visit to Drogheda in 2022 and his Department’s constructive engagement on the matter; if he will provide details of Louth County Council’s plan to develop the site to become a public realm for tourism and events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1345/23]
I was delighted to have had the opportunity to visit Drogheda and the impressive barbican of St Laurence’s Gate, which is an iconic part of Drogheda’s medieval architecture.
I am aware that Louth County Council's County Development includes an ambition to upgrade the public realm in the vicinity of St Laurence’s Gate in Drogheda. No further details or scheme have been made available to my Office and so it would be more appropriate for the local authority to update the Deputy on its own plans in this respect and the Office of Public Works will be happy to engage with the local authority in due course if such plans advance.
OPW's statutory mandate relates to the conservation and protection of National Monuments entrusted to State care. In this regard, the Deputy will be aware from previous correspondence and parliamentary questions on this matter that the Office of Public Works commissioned an investigation by a structural engineer in 2017. This report was shared with local public representatives and underscored that any proposal to open St Laurence’s Gate to general public access would require a substantial project to ensure the conservation and protection of the Monument, as well as ensure visitor safety. On the latter point, I would reiterate my concerns on the need to design an effective and safe visitor management solution, given the physical limitations of the Monument itself and its proximity to busy streets with vehicle traffic.
For these reasons, the Office of Public Works has decided against opening St Laurence’s Gate to general public access, but has facilitated limited, controlled access in recent years during community events such as the All-Ireland Fleadh, Heritage Week and the Drogheda Arts Festival. On such occasions, access was ticketed and strictly reserved to advance bookings. The Office of Public Works will continue to engage positively with local stakeholders to ensure occasional access for visitors as part of specific festivals or community events in Drogheda.
The Office of Public Works continues to discharge its statutory duty by providing ongoing maintenance at St Laurence’s Gate. Any proposal to enhance the visitor experience at the Monument, however, will require both a wider public realm vision and detailed consideration as to the type of day-to-day operations that could be provided there.
As a strong advocate for St Laurence’s Gate and indeed the overall heritage of Drogheda, I know the Deputy will continue to ensure this matter continues to receive due attention and I would like to reassure the deputy that I and my Officials will continue to engage constructively on this matter.