Fine Gael’s Deputy Nicky McFadden has highlighted the need for Athlone Castle to be open to visitors in time for the next tourist season.
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday, Deputy McFadden informed Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, Jimmy Deenihan, that businesses in Athlone are anxious that refurbishment works on the castle will commence as soon as possible.
“Because Athlone Castle is a national monument owned by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Minister’s consent is required for any planned works that might impact on the castle itself. This is an issue which has been going on for almost a year and a half and one that is having serious implications on the potential of Athlone as a tourist destination,” said Deputy McFadden.
“Minister Deenihan informed me that as soon as an archaeological assessment is carried out and sent to his department it will be dealt with immediately. The Minister also agreed that the project should proceed as quickly as possible and that it will be a valuable addition to Athlone’s arts and heritage portfolio.”
She added that the Minister is anxious that great care be taken to ensure the integrity of the structure is properly safeguarded for future generations.
“I expressed my concern to Minister Deenihan that the likelihood of further delays to the re-opening of the castle would have a negative effect on the business and tourism potential of the town and we should be doing all we can to attract tourists.
“Minister Deenihan believes the castle will become a valuable attraction for tourism in the Midlands, for promoting Athlone’s heritage, and a wonderful amenity for the people of the town,” said Deputy McFadden.
“The castle is an important part of the tourism package offered by Athlone and attracting tourists to the castle will result in more visitors to the town’s restaurants, shops, and river-based activities.”