Fears over castle ‘leasing’ deal to private interests

Green Party councillor Malcolm Noonan has criticised a move by the Government that could see private companies win long-term leases for commercial ventures in Kilkenny Castle, writes Sam Matthews.

Green Party councillor Malcolm Noonan has criticised a move by the Government that could see private companies win long-term leases for commercial ventures in Kilkenny Castle, writes Sam Matthews.

Last month, Minister Brian Haye outlined details of a new scheme, whereby the Office of Public Works (OPW) is to hand out leases to private firms on some of the country’s most popular heritage and historical sites. Licences and leases of up to ten years will be on offer to businesses for commercial ventures – and Kilkenny Castle is on the list.

The minister is inviting proposals from companies to provide ‘enhanced visitor experiences’ at these sites. Cllr Malcolm Noonan is worried about what that entails.

“While Minister Hayes and Government think that the limited employment potential justifies this move, the reality is that for many families who struggle to make ends meet, a picnic in an OPW park or facility is a low cost family treat without having to be bombarded by advertising or merchandise,” he said.

“In many cases small family-owned business have located near such facilities and their viability could also be threatened by this proposal.”

The Green Party councillor also criticised the lack of consultation surrounding the move and said the Government agenda seems to be driven by commercialisation and eventual privatisation of publicly-owned assets. He called for the decision to be reconsidered. Minister Hayes has said that such ventures will have to be in keeping with the heritage and the recreational nature of the sites.