Councillor Jack Murray has welcomed confirmation that the Office of Public Works will meet Donegal County Council to discuss Grianán of Aileach.
The Sinn Féin councillor says he has long pushed for the Office of Public Works (OPW), which controls the national monument, to work with local stakeholders and Donegal County Council to develop a strategy to promote the spectacular fort which was once the seat of the high kings of Ireland.
A meeting between local stakeholders, the council and the OPW was held in 2017 and in 2021 the OPW published a detailed conservation management plan.
In response to a parliamentary question from his party colleague Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Minister Pascal Donohue said that a meeting to discuss the implementation of the management plan will be arranged with Donegal County Council “as soon as is practicable”.
“Though this process has been inexcusably drawn out, I nonetheless look forward to the opportunity to once again set out the case for greater promotion of Grianán of Aileach,” Cllr Murray said.
“We must, of course, protect the integrity of this secluded ancient site, but I believe we must see greatly enhanced informational signage, toilet facilities and a tour guide to assist visitors and keep an eye on the structure.
“We also need to review the opening hours of the gate for access to the site and improve the roads nearby.” Short opening hours have long been criticised at Grianán. Even in June when the evenings are long and tourists arrive in large numbers, the access road to site is closed before 7pm, much to the frustration of visitors.
“For too long, it has been left to local businesses, like An Grianán Hotel, to do the heavy lifting and tell the story of this ancient place,” Cllr Murray continued. “Local businesses and community groups now need the full support of all statutory agencies to promote Grianán.
“Our community is extremely proud to have such a special place on our doorstep. But we want to see it reach its full potential.”
In its 2020 conservation management plan, the OPW listed five measures of critical importance. The first of which was meeting Donegal County Council and establishing an implementation group to oversee and regularly update the conservation management plan.
Other critical measures include the closing of the barrier on the access road overnight and in inclement weather, clarifying the ownership of the existing car park, having the council pass and enforce new byelaws to regular trading at the site and establishing good relations with the local community.
Three years on, the first step towards putting those ‘critical measures’ in place will finally commence “as soon as is practicable.”