Sunday 16 June 2019

Local groups meet with Culture Minister over Luggala estate

Some of the shareholders who attended the meeting with Minister Josepha Madigan
Some of the shareholders who attended the meeting with Minister Josepha Madigan

Myles Buchanan

Discussions remain ongoing between the owners of Luggala Estate and Minister for Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan over the possibility of the State purchasing the prestigious estate.

Luggala consists of some 5,000 acres and has been offered with a price tag of €28 million. Minister of State Andrew Doyle arranged for a meeting this week between Minister Madigan and members of Wicklow Partnership, Wicklow Uplands Council and Mountaineering Ireland to discuss the future of the iconic estate. Also present were Deputy Pat Casey, a representative from the office of Minister for Health Simon Harris and Bryan Fennell, Rural Recreational Officer with County Wicklow Partnership.

Speaking after the meeting, Brian Dunne, Coordinator of Wicklow Uplands Council said: 'We are grateful to Minister Madigan for holding the meeting to discuss the importance of the Luggala estate, both as a centre of recreational activity and as an iconic film location. Wicklow Uplands Council continue to advocate that the Luggala estate be purchased by the state in order to preserve and protect its significant built and natural heritage features and also to secure public access for future generations'.

In October, up to 30 people attended a protest outside the entrance to Luggala Estate in opposition to the closure of a pedestrian gate each day at 5.30 p.m. Mr Dunne was heartened by Minister Madigan's commitment to retain access to the estate for walkers.

'We were greatly encouraged to discover that the issue of retaining recreational access to Luggala remains high on Minister Madigan's agenda. We were reassured that her department remained fully engaged with the process and that she clearly understood the value and potential of the upland estate,' said Mr Dunne.

Minister of State Andrew Doyle also found the meeting helpful.

'The different groups expressed their own concerns, with a common theme being that of future public access to Luggala for recreational purposes, for hill walkers and for tourists with further emphasis on its role as a filming destination with the Vikings filming for six years now in this iconic setting. Another contributor talked about Luggala's potential as a music concert venue,' he said.

Land adjacent to Luggala Estate was purchased in 2006 and enabled the joining up of two sections of Wicklow Mountains National Park. Minister Doyle also wants to see the Government engage with talks over the State purchase of Luggala.

'The estate with its surrounding lands has all the ingredients to become even more of a tourist, heritage and amenity destination and it is incumbent on the State to engage in the sale process, preserving this amenity and recognising it's strategic importance as part of our national and cultural heritage,' said Minister Doyle.

At October's meeting of Wicklow County Council, Cllr Jennifer Whitmore received unanimous support after she proposed writing to Minister Madigan urging her to purchase the site on behalf of the state, particularly due to Luggala's importance to the local film industry.

'To date, the impact of the sale of this site on the Wicklow film industry has not been considered, and it's good to see that it is now on the agenda,' said Cllr Whitmore. 'I have spoken to location managers and others in the Irish Film Board and the key point that was made by them all was that Luggala is the "jewel in the Crown" of the Irish film industry and it would be a risk to our growing film sector, if that site wasn't available to international studios.

'I'm glad to see that this public pressure is making a difference to the campaign to save Luggala and I hope that the Government makes the right decision and protects this strategically important site for current and future generations. The film industry is of enormous strategic and economic importance to Wicklow and I believe that we must do everything in our power to ensure that this site remains open and available for the industry and the public to access'.

Wicklow People