Cork councillor slams OPW for lack of public engagement on restoration projects

Cllr William O’Leary cited the example of Conna Castle, which was closed to the public in 2015 and for which there is no timeframe for re-opening

Cllr William O’Leary (FF) cited the silence from the Office of Public Works on a time frame for the reopening of Conna Castle (above), which has been closed to the public since 2015, as an example of how the OPW consistently refuses to engage with public representatives and local communities on restoration projects.

Bill BrowneCorkman

The Office of Public Works (OPW) has been slammed for what a Cork County Councillor has said was its consistent refusal to engage with public representatives and communities about progress on important heritage related restoration projects.

Citing the ongoing closure of Conna Castle as a point in case, Cllr William O’Leary (FF) said the refusal by the OPW to give a time-frame for the reopening of the castle, which was closed to the public in 2015 for restoration and safety works, was simply not good enough.

“The OPW will tell us that the grounds around the castle are open to the public, but that is missing the point. For the past eight years the local community has been asking when will the castle reopen to the public,” said Cllr O’Leary.

“They have taken every avenue possible to get some a reopening date or at least an update on the progress of the restoration works. However, the OPW refuses to engage with either them or local public representatives on the issue,” he added.

Cllr O’Leary said the lack of a response from the OPW was extremely disappointing given the fact that the castle could, and should, be a major tourist attraction with the potential to bring extra revenue into the local community.

“We have seen this in the 1980s when the castle grounds played host to concerts, with Meatloaf even playing there on one occasion. The ideal scenario would be to get it back to that level,” said Cllr O’Leary.

“However, at this stage we would settle for a progress update from the OPW on the restoration works and if they intend to even reopen the castle to the public,” he added.

Cllr O’Leary said the lack of engagement between the OPW and local communities was not just confined to Conna Castle.

“I have made enquiries about other projects and again the lack of engagement from the OPW has been very disappointing. There is something amiss when a State agency does not even bother to reply to queries from councillors representing a statutory body,” said Cllr O’Leary.

“I could not be stronger in my criticism of the OPW for their lack of engagement with communities and local public representatives across the board. We don’t always expect good answers to our queries, but we do expect some form of answer. This is an issue that has to be addressed. All we are looking for from them here is a bit of respect,” he added.