Minister Simon Harris welcomes the official opening by An tÚachtaráin, Mr. Michael D. Higgins, of the new Kilmainham Gaol Museum Visitor Centre
Simon Harris, Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works, today (30 March 2016) welcomed a new era for the Kilmainham Gaol Museum with the opening of its new Visitor Centre in the former Courthouse building.
"The opening of this wonderful centre by President Higgins will, I am confident, be such an important addition to the Kilmainham Gaol site as both a Visitor attraction and as a place where people can come to reflect on Ireland's past" the Minister said. "The Government recognised the significance of Kilmainham Gaol in the context of the 1916 story and provided the necessary funding for the refurbishment work to be done through my Office, the Office of Public Works. Kilmainham therefore takes its place among the other iconic locations which are recognised as the "Permanent Reminders" included in the official 2016 Programme."
The project was made possible only with the collaboration of the Courts Service who, immediately when asked by OPW in 2013, made the former Court building available. "The Board of the Court Service and the Chief Justice Mrs. Denham in particular, have been of immense help in making this project happen" said the Minister.
The Chief Justice echoed the Minister's comments, saying “The Courts Service was delighted to learn of this project and to have the opportunity to support the development of this important heritage centre - now including the former Courthouse - where visitors will be able to see and learn of important events in our history, and of Irish Patriots”.
The new building will allow OPW, who manage the Gaol site, to offer a much improved level of service to the approximately 330,000 visitors who come to the site every year. The existing entrance to the Gaol is extremely constricted and does not facilitate the smooth management of visitors in large volumes. The newly-adapted former Courthouse building will have a range of facilities such as a Café and Bookshop and a range of Interpretative displays on the history of the Courthouse building and the Gaol next door. One of the key improvements being offered is the introduction of advance Online Booking. Visitors will be able to book and pay for admission tickets in advance and will therefore be able to better organise their visit to the site. As a special introductory offer to mark the occasion, the OPW Heritage Service are offering the first 5,000 online booked admissions to the site free, following the opening of the building to the public on 31 March 2016, during the months of April and May.
"I hope visitors will enjoy what we have provided in the new building" the Minister said. "It is not a part of the National Monument, being outside the Gaol walls. However, it is itself a historic listed building dating from 1820 and has a long and rich history in its own right which people can absorb and appreciate in the new displays we have created for visitors."
The introduction of the new facility will allow the OPW to manage the volume of visitors at Kilmainham Gaol and the hope is that, with the opening up of more areas within the Gaol, the overall admission can be progressively increased up to 500,000 per year.
Notes to Editors:
Full information available at www.kilmainhamgaolmuseum.ie
• Kilmainham Gaol is a National Monument site in the care of the OPW and is one of the most popular and heavily-visited tourist sites in Ireland;
• Kilmainham is one of Ireland’s most significant historic sites and a unique physical expression of the country’s and capital’s penal and political heritage. It dates from 1796, is one of the largest unoccupied gaols in Europe, and is designated as a National Monument. Since 1986, the building has been under the operational management and control of the Office of Public Works (OPW), which is responsible for its preservation and protection and its operation as a heritage and historic amenity and successful visitor attraction;
• OPW's role at Kilmainham is to maintain the site and present it to the public through a dedicated Guide Service, explaining its approx 220 year history and its role in some of the key events in the formation of the State;
• The Gaol site opens to the public on a fulltime basis 362 days per year;
• A full range of modern visitor facilities are being provided in the refurbished Courthouse building including:
• Bookshop / Giftshop
• Online Ticket Booking facility
• Modern historical Interpretation / Exhibition
• Toilet facilities
• New physical link to the Gaol
• The central Courtroom space will be fully retained and will be available for events such as theatrical performance, Book launches and film displays.
The Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme, led by Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, T.D., is a year-long programme of activity to commemorate the events of the 1916 Rising, to reflect on our achievements over the last 100 years and to look towards Ireland’s future. Full details of the Ireland 2016 programme is available at www.ireland.ie @ireland #ireland2016