Local Sinn Féin election candidate Leanne Saurin is asking that the Office of Public Works (OPW) give Melifont Abbey and other Heritage sites the same consideration that it gives to other popular sites nearby.
M/s Saurin said “It is normal practice throughout the world that when a tourist pays into a heritage site a percentage of that fee is invested in other heritage sites within a 5 to 10 km radius. We live in the Boyne Valley, and both Newgrange and Knowth are utilised to the maximum and quite rightly so. Tours are often booked out and with the sites being within an hour of Dublin there appears to be a constant conveyor belt of tourists to the sites. Unfortunately local volunteers in the area are often left to pick up the slack as there doesn’t appear to be any surplus to invest from the OPW.
“Tourism is vital to the local economy so this just isn’t good enough.
“Mellifont Abbey has been the location of some of the most pivotal moments in our shared history on this island. It’s nearly a thousand years old and yet it is neglected for 270 days of the year when it is kept under lock and key. It is inconceivable that a museum would be shut for 270 days of the year while we are attempting to promote tourism in our county.”
The Drogheda Rural candidate has questioned the OPW commitment to Melifont Abbey as an attraction.
“Why is the toilet facilities locked for 270 days of the year? I have regularly seen visitors try to access the toilet facilities only to be faced with a locked door. Nearby, Monasterboice facilities are open 364 days of the year thanks to local volunteers, could something similar not happen at Melifont Abbey?”
The parking facilities at Melifont Abbey have also been criticised by M/s Saurin. “The OPW reduced the 1.75 acre car park to just 0.75 acres, erected gates and proceeded to lock them for 270 days of the year. This has caused problems for vehicles who find themselves boxed in by other vehicles simply because of the lack of space. Coaches especially are finding it difficult as there is an insufficient turning radius and many find themselves having to reverse down a 400 yards long, narrow laneway.”
“I find it contradictory”, continues M/s Saurin, “that the OPW has spent vast amounts of public money on improving ‘visitor access’ i.e. wheel chair/buggy paths only to reduce ‘visitor access’ by having the Abbey closed and the car park reduced to that size.”
Leanne Saurin has written to the Minister, Kevin Moran. “I proposed that the opening season be extended or alternatively the site be staffed and at the very least that facilities be opened at weekends to accommodate tourists and visitors to the site. Hundreds of thousands of visitors are only a stone’s throw away at Bru na Boinne. Surely we could meet them half way? Apart from anything else it would increase employment opportunities for the area. We live in a beautiful part of the country and we all want to see our county thrive and reach its full potential but we have to open up and promote our sites to encourage tourism.”
Drogheda rural election candidate Leanne Saurin has written to Louth County Council urging them to take action over concerns for pedestrians’ safety on the old Slane road in Mell.
Saurin, who is standing for Sinn Féin in the area said “following a number of representations from residents from the Tullybrook estate I have written to Louth County Council asking if there are any plans to extend the footpath from Boyne Meadows to the Tullybrook estate?”
M/s Saurin said “I’m reasonably confident no such plans exist. Therefore I am calling on the council to carry out a safety audit and implement something tangible as soon as possible. Presently, the footpath stops suddenly and pedestrians have to step out on to the road to walk 50 or 60 yards before re-joining a section of path leading into Tullybrook.”
M/s Saurin explained that the situation is further exacerbated by a lack of adequate street lighting and “this is putting people at unnecessary risk not to mention parents walking their children to school on dark winter mornings.”
M/s Saurin concluded by reminding the Council that this path should be in place before phase two of the Tullybrook is completed. People in the area deserve basic decent infrastructure.
Under the Louth County Development Plan 2015-2021 Development Zone 6 aims to preserve and protect the heritage and cultural environment of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Brú na Bóinne, Monasterboice and the Battle of the Boyne.
However, local election candidate Leanne Saurin has been contacted by a number of residents, land owners and those eligible under local needs expressing their concern at the extent of Zone 6.
The Sinn Fein candidate said “While I’m not disputing the need to preserve and protect the heritage sites in the area I am, however, contesting the extent of the zone. It is preventing families who have lived in the area their entire lives from building a house of their own. It also blocks famers pursuing agricultural developments such as extensions on their farms.”
M/s Saurin said “I know of families and friends who have resided in Tullyallen, Sheepgrange and Hill of Rath to name but a few, all their lives and who now find themselves being refused planning permission on the grounds of local needs because of the Zone 6 plan. As a result the impact on families in rural parishes is one where children are forced to leave an area they have lived in all their lives and quite often elderly parents are left without family support. Again while the preservation of our heritage sites is of the utmost importance, in many cases the area covered under these zones are quite extensive and the protected structures are not visible from large sections of the zone. Therefore there would be no visual impact on the heritage sites themselves by one off rural dwellings.
“This control zone was introduced into the Louth Development Plan 2015-2021 and that plan is due to be opened again for review and consultation in the near future and I will be seeking a reduction on the extent of the Zone area which will benefit local families while at the same time protecting these precious heritage sites. I will be encouraging the local communities to do likewise.”