The owner of Kilkenny’s newest heritage site, Joe O’Connell, who revealed the secrets lying under his farm in the Kilkenny People has appealed to Kilkenny County Council to set up a tourism co-operative to help promote the site.
Mr O’Connell and his wife Maeve are the proud owners of Newtown Jerpoint which has been described as Kilkenny’s own Pompeii. The town in Kilkenny which once returned two MP’s to England wasn’t abandoned due to volcano like its Italian equivalent but due to two outbreaks of plague.
Ian Doyle from the Heritage Council told the Councillors of the significance of the find on Mr O’Connell’s land. Mr Doyle described the abandoned site as a huge resource for the county. He said that the Heritage council were taking a different approach with the O’Connell’s - instead of telling what to do they are planning on supporting them in developing tourism on the site.
Mr O’Connell asked the council to help him with signs to get the tourists into the site, but more than promoting his own site he was eager to promote all of Kilkenny. “We need to form a co-operative where the principle is to pass the tourists on from one attraction to the next. We need co-operation,” he said.
Mr O’Connell received widespread support from councillors who agreed with the need to form a tourism co-operative. Cllr Manning (Fine Gael) said that she sees buses coming and going on Castle road everyday. She said that the more that we can offer people the longer they will stay. Cllr Manning said that if signs were required to attract tourists to the site then they would do their best to get them.
Cllr Jane Galway also agreed she said “I agree this project has huge potential. The key to making it a success is marketing and promotion.”
Cllr Malcolm Noonan (Green) said that he had long felt that there was a need for an integrated tourism strategy. “Economic strategy should focus on heritage. We need a strategic approach to tourism. I’ve long since thought there was a lack of joined up thinking in tourism,” he said.
Cllr Martin Brett (Fine Gael) felt that education might be the key. He said that there were many people working in hotels who were unaware of the heritage around them