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Staycation families flock to our free museums

The country's free galleries and museums welcomed almost 23,000 extra visitors through their doors last year, new figures have shown.

With the number of Irish travelling abroad falling, more than three million people enjoyed wallet-friendly domestic attractions such as the National Library and National Concert Hall.

Minister for Tourism Martin Cullen said the roaring trade was partly down to a number of high-profile exhibitions.

"Our museums and galleries continued to provide interesting and educational opportunities to visitors from home and abroad in what was a difficult year," he said.


The most recent figures available show the number of Irish travelling overseas fell for the first time in 18 years in summer 2008 -- down 12pc on the same period the previous year.

Visits from abroad to Ireland were also down by more than a tenth in the first half of last year, with 400,000 less visitors between January and June.

But Mr Cullen said there was no sign of trips to cultural hotspots declining, especially with the reopening of the Natural History Museum in April.

A number of exhibitions, such as the Picturing New York photography viewing at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in Dublin and the National Library's Yeats show, proved popular last year.