Josepha Madigan, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, today welcomed the formal opening of the Fort Protector Conservation Project in Portlaoise marking the start of the annual Old Fort Festival.
The project was funded under the Historic Towns Initiative, a joint venture between the Department and The Heritage Council.
Welcoming the official opening of the project, Minister Madigan said
This project is an exemplar of what can be achieved through the Historic Towns Initiative. ‘It is a catalyst for towns around the country to spark life into the forgotten, to revive and regenerate the past, bringing it to life.
Portlaoise is one of six towns to participate in the Historic Towns Initiative 2018 scheme and along with Kells, County Meath, Kilmallock, County Limerick, Ballinrobe, County Mayo, Carrick on Suir, County Tipperary, and Youghal, County Cork received a share of €1 million in funding.
The scheme is aimed at supporting heritage-led regeneration in our historic towns and continues in 2019 with 6 further towns receiving support, following a competitive process where local authorities were invited to propose projects in one historic town in their area. The towns being funded in 2019 are Kilrush, County Clare, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ballina, County Mayo, Navan, County Meath, Boyle, County Roscommon and Nenagh, County Tipperary.
The internationally recognised practice of heritage-led regeneration shows that heritage can be used to create a desirable place where people can live, work, play, visit and do business. Heritage-led regeneration brings economic benefits to enable our historic towns to prosper through increased visitor numbers and decreased numbers of vacant buildings and commercial premises.
The Fort Protector was constructed in the mid-1500s and was built by Francis Bryan, the then Marshall of Ireland and named after Edward Seymour, first Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector of the Realm. The Fort lends its name to the town – Fort of Laois. The Old Fort Festival is now in its fourth year and has proven to be a huge boost to Portlaoise as it grows year on year. In 2018, 22,000 people attended over the three days of the festival and organisers hope this year will be bigger again.