Ashford protest as locals gather outside castle walls

Natives restless over denial of access to grounds of historic castle

A number of Cong residents will organise a demonstration outside Ashford Castle at 5pm on Saturday in protest at what they allege is the obstruction of access to the castle grounds and amenities in the wake of the recent change of ownership of the property.

Thomas Ryan, the PRO of the group, said the grounds and amenities were enjoyed “without restriction” by generations of locals and visitors alike.

About 100 local people attended a meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss the issue, he outlined.

“The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the obstruction of access to the grounds and amenities of Ashford Castle which commenced shortly after the recent change of ownership of the property. The meeting resolved that a protest would take place at Ashford Castle on Saturday at 5pm.”

Mr Ryan said when Sir Ernest Guinness handed over the castle to the State in 1939 his wishes were that the people of Cong village would never be denied access [to the grounds and amenities].

The protest will involve local people walking from the gates of Ashford Castle and handing in a letter of protest, he said.

He declined to be drawn further on the subject but said he was hopeful the matter would be resolved because he believed it was in nobody’s interest not to sort out the issue.

At the time of going to press, the Dublin based public relations company representing Ashford Castle said they unable to contact the relevant owners for a response to this story.

Set on the northern shore of Lough Corrib amid 350 acres of beautiful gardens, it is owned by Galway businessman Gerry Barrett of Edward Holdings. It was bought by the property developer and hotelier, who also owns the g and Meyrick hotels in the city, last year for an estimated €50 million. The 85-bed five star hotel is renowned for a range of country sports including one of the largest equestrian centres in the country, fishing on Lough Corrib and River Cong, an exclusive nine-hole golf course and Ireland’s first school of falconry.

Travel and Leisure magazine named the 700-year-old castle - which is frequented by the rich and famous, including presidents and kings - as one of the top 20 European resorts for 2007. The hotel’s executive head chef, Stefan Matz, walked away with the coveted “Chef of the Year” title at Georgina Campbell’s Annual Awards in 2007.


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