ARDEE Castle is the oldest fortified town building in Ireland and it is finally moving towards its full tourism potential.
Mr Brian Walsh, head of the County Museum in Dundalk, told Ardee Town Council he is determined to turn the castle into one of the finest museums in the region and a place the people of Ardee and tourists can all enjoy.
Fionnula May, an architect with Fingal County Council also told the council they were in a win-win situation: the best way to preserve an ancient building is to make use of it, and the best way to turn it into a building that can be accessed by all, is to do so on a phased basis.
In the current economic climate that also makes a lot of sense.
She said the building has three public spaces: a restaurant, the courtroom, and the top floor.
The top floor cannot be made accessible to all.
There is a lift to the courtroom, and on the ground floor a ramp would need to be installed at the steps to enable access to everyone.
This would not require a great deal of work.
The restaurant could be converted to the museum space.
“The great advantage,” she said, “is that the castle is in the heart of the town. It is tailor-made for tourism.”
Cllr Jim Tenanty welcomed the architect’s report.
“It is a good step forward,” he said. “You have solved the accessibility problem. We should now get an estimate and the sooner we get going on the project the better.”
Other councillors agreed that this was a positive move.
They said huge sums had been spent improving the castle in the 90s but very little thought went into it with the result that the building could not be used for health and safety reasons.
That problem was now being solved and the use to which the building would be put, was also being planned out properly.
Mr Walsh wants to see the castle turned the castle into a major arts, cultural and historical centre, and make it a major local and tourist attraction in the centre of Ardee.
Mr Brian Walsh, curator of the award-winning County Museum in Dundalk, wants the castle’s living museum to cover concerts, lectures and dramatic presentations of local historical events.
The museum in Dundalk has thousands of items, most of which are in storage at any given time, and many of these valuable pieces could now be put on display in Ardee.
The castle museum would be linked to a heritage trail which in turn would be linked to Monasterboice and Newgrange and Bru na Boinne.
An online service will also be set up.
The project team was to be set up to get the whole thing rolling. It would include Ned Kelly, Keeper of Antiquities at the National Museum, Anita Barrett and Martin Clarke from the County Museum, Angela Dullaghan, Conservation Officer Louth County Council.
Cllr Fintan Malone would represent Ardee Town Council.