The Castle in the heart of Ballymote has reopened to the public after over four years of closure.
Former County Councillor and Ballymote resident Keith Henry, is a history teacher and he had been lobbying since 2018 to get it open when he raised it at Council meetings and wrote to the OPW at the time.
“Various Ministers and politicians came, got their picture and went again but nothing happened,” he explains.
“This is the only standing Norman castle of its kind in the whole of Connacht and was built in the 14th Century. It changed hands many times and even has a role to play in the ill-fated Battle of Kinsale 1601.
"If only those walls could talk! Having it closed to the public denied locals and visitors the opportunity to visually and physically involve themselves in our history” Henry said.
“In my opinion this Castle and grounds have huge potential to be used for festivals/events and perhaps even a medieval interpretative centre that could benefit the town in terms of tourism and education.
"If it were in were in Kerry or Cork where the bulk of tourists visit would it have remained closed as long?” Henry questioned.
The Castle is now open daily from 10am to 5pm for people to enjoy. Keith explains that he recently shared a picture he came across by Ireland from Air online which stirred up a huge interest in the Castle.
“The picture reached over 6,300 people from far and near. It’s a fantastic shot and all credit to the photographer, many locals didn’t even recognise the Castle from the air.”
The Ballymote Area Development Group have played a major part in the reopening and Keith who is Treasurer of the group explains how, “Our group of workers which is under the excellent supervision of John Cooke, outlined we would be willing to act as key holders for the Castle in order to get it open”.
“So after after all the promises made it took some good old community pressure and co operation to get it open and I really hope people enjoy the experience it gives.
"Hopefully in years to come we can further utilise this fantastic historical resource we have,” Henry concluded.