Disabled, carers to get free heritage site visits
People with disabilities and their carers are to get free admission to some of the country's top heritage sites from May.
The initiative will see attractions such as Arás an Uachtaráin, Newgrange, Clonmacnoise, the Céide Fields and Kilkenny Castle open their doors to disabled people for no charge.
It follows a decision last year to allow children under the age of 12 free access to venues under the control of the Office of Public Works.
In its first season of operation the 'Under 12s Go Free' scheme attracted 74,000 children.
Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran has secured funding to extend a similar provision for disabled visitors and their carers.
The minister said he wants a wider audience to engage with the "wonderful heritage sites" on our doorsteps.
The announcement comes at the start of the European Year of Cultural Heritage.
Mr Moran said: "The theme of the European Year of Cultural Heritage is 'Make a Connection'.
"This theme aims to deepen the connection between people and heritage and build a legacy of increased public engagement over time.
"I am delighted to announce this initiative so that we can make that connection with those of our visitors who suffer with an impairment.
"I hope this will mean they will be able to more easily visit some of Ireland's wonderful heritage sites and they will, like so many other people, get huge enjoyment from the experience."
Census figures show there are 643,131 people who identified as disabled in Ireland and 195,263 carers.
Mr Moran also confirmed that the OPW will be continue rolling out sign language tours for deaf and hard of hearing visitors this year.
Tours are being organised in a number of locations around the country right throughout the summer.