The scene of a bloody battle between Catholics and Protestants should become an international tourist attraction, according to Galway-based Minister Eamon O Cuiv.
Speaking at the launch of Michael McNally’s book The Battle of Aughrim 1691, the Minister said the site was perfect to become an iconic tourist development west of the Shannon.
The vicious battle between Williamite forces and Jacobite troops in Co Galway on July 12 1691 saw 7,000 killed and today is still celebrated by the Orange Order as a decisive victory for Protestants.
Minister O Cuiv said, “Clearly, Aughrim is of strategic importance in our history, and it seems strange that it does not seem to have achieved the same recognition as other, less significant sites. We need to commemorate, understand and appreciate our past. I call for the development of Aughrim battle site as an iconic tourist attraction west of the Shannon.
“I firmly believe that the importance of the Battle of Aughrim should be reassessed in line with the excellent work on the Battle of the Boyne site. We need to open the debate on this with a view to a long-term plan, with involvement of all the relevant partners; as well as the historical expertise, we need the local leader company, the local authorities, and the appropriate State agencies to work together on this.
“Most of the cost involved would arise a long time into the future and would be spread over many years. Indeed, Culloden in Scotland is still being preserved and developed over 110 years after preservation began. Aughrim is comparable to Culloden in respect of national strategic importance and its place in the national psyche, although the death-toll at Aughrim was far higher.”
Minister O Cuiv, grandson of Eamon De Valera, added that up to 300,000 people - the same visitor numbers seen at Culloden - could possible be seen at Aughrim.
“Interest in military history is growing in Europe and further afield, and I believe that we have something very special here that could be an international attraction.”
The Minister also said that the site could be the focus of reconciliation.
“Nationalist Ireland and Ulster unionists need to find common causes so that people can work together on common tasks and get to know each other and build respect. This does not involve surrender by either side. Aughrim is a great cemetery; it contains the remains of the Irish who were left on the field for over a year, some of whom sank into the marsh. It also contains, at unknown sites, burial pits containing the remains of about 2,000 Williamites. A large number of these could well be the remains of the Ulster troops who were in the thick of the fighting. Involving Unionists in the planning and other work involved would increase contacts and normalise the 32 county sense of identity, and add to the tremendous good done already by the preservation of the Battle of the Boyne site.”