14 December 2017
High Cross

Public Will Be Able To Visit Durrow High Cross

Public access has been secured to Durrow High Cross, St Columba's Church and the ancient monastic site.

Minister of State at the Department of Public Enterprise and Reform, Brian Hayes, officially reopened the newly restored and conserved monastic site at a reception on Monday afternoon last.

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The rather low key opening is seen as the first step in securing full public access tothe site. P.J. Lynam, chairman of the High Cross Committee, said that a proper car parking area, a visitor centre with toilet facilities and the realigning of the N52 Tullamore to Kilbeggan road, needed to be completed before full public access to the site coule be secured.

He and other members of the High Cross committee, including chairperson Helen Bracken, had a private meeting  with Minister Hayes on Monday.

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Describing the meeting as positive, Mr Lynam said that Monday's opening was the first stage in securing full access to the site.

Michael Byrne, Secretary of Offaly Historical  and Archaeological Society stressed that the current opening must be seen as rather low-key and largely for locals as the tourism board will not market the site in the way that we would want until such time as adequate access facilities are available.

Speaking' at the official opening, Minister Brian Hayes said that Durrow is one of Ireland's most important early Christian irnonasteries and is considered to be of international importance.

"I am pleased to be here today to open what is one of the Ireland's most important and significant historic and cultural landmarks.
Since Durrow Abbey Estate came into State ownership in 2003, the Office of Public Works has been carrying out conservation and preservation works in keeping with the Durrow Abbey Conservation Plan that we launched in 2005. Today I am delighted to be able to reopen the Abbey and High Cross to the public, and look forward to the continuation of conservatictn works and the expansion of facilities here at Durrow Abbey Estate."

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He added: "The Office of Public Works has already carried out significant restoration and conservation work on site. The conservation of St, Columba's Church is complete and the High Cross has been moved inside from its former position in the graveyard. This ensures that it will be preserved and presented for future generations. The interior of the church and its box pews have been expertly restored by OPW National Monuments. Repairs to the graveyard wall are complete and the restoration of the Gate Lodge as a Visitor Centre has commenced."

The minister concluded. "Limited public access to the site can now be facilitated. There are still challenges facing us here at this site, challenges such as access to the Abbey and road alignment in the area, but it is my hope that we can work in conjunction with our colleagues in the Local Authority and the National Roads Authority to make this site as satisfying and rewarding a visitor experience as possible. We will continue to seek funding to drive this process forward, and I congratulate all involved in carrying out the works undertaken to date."

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Local Fine Gael Dail Deputy, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, praised the work of the local High Cross committee who had diligently campaigned over many years to gain public access to the site.

Her sentiments were echoed by the Chairman of Offaly Co. Council, Cllr. Danny Owens, who also praised the work of former Taoseach Brian Cowen and Minister Tom Parlon.

Meanwhile, in a lengthy statement released to the Tullamore Tribune on Tuesday, Michael Byrne said that the full potential of the Durrow site had yet to be realised and hopefully what is now being considered is a joined up incremental approach as the tourism board will not market the site in the way that we would want until such time as adequate access facilities are available.

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