Thursday 23 November 2017

Famous prison tops league of heritage site earners

Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

OPPRESSION and suffering sell.

Kilmainham Gaol took in more money flogging Irish memorabilia last year than any other of the State's main tourist and historical sites run by the Office of Public Works (OPW).

In saying that, though, the total wasn't massive. Some €36,234.94, to be precise.

Last year, €230,000 was accumulated in sales at OPW sites, mostly through books and postcards. That was down about €5,000 on the previous year.

Kilmainham Gaol – the biggest unoccupied prison on this island – is billed as giving a panoramic insight into some of the most profound, disturbing and inspirational themes of modern Irish history.

Leaders of the rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916 were detained there, including Robert Emmet, Charles Stewart Parnell, and the leaders of the Easter Rising.

It is followed by Glendalough, which brought in €27,087 last year, Kilkenny Castle at €20,919 and Clonmacnoise at €16,008.

HISTORY

It begs the question: just how effectively are we marketing our history?

In response to a parliamentary question from Fine Gael TD John O'Mahony, junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes said the OPW operates 70 sites across the country, although the majority do not operate a separate retail outlet but sell "limited memorabilia" across the counter.

Two visitor sites, Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre in Co Meath and Dublin Castle have designated retail outlets, which operate on a franchise basis.

"As the majority of Office of Public Works visitor sites have limited space and facilities to operate a retail outlet, and our prime focus is on the preservation and presentation of the sites in question, there are no immediate plans for the development/expansion of this area," Mr Hayes said.

A study released last year found that Irish heritage sites are worth about €700m as tourist attractions.

The research also revealed that major historical sites and ancient monuments are sustaining tens of thousands of jobs and worth about a total of €1.5bn in total to the economy.

The report for the Heritage Council by economic consultants Ecorys and Fitzpatrick Associates found that heritage directly supports 25,000 jobs and indirectly 40,000.

It is estimated that, out of these, 17,000 construction jobs are sustained by work on heritage sites.

Irish Independent

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