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Friday, 29th September 2023

Government purchases 500 acre Dowth Hall Estate to create new National Park

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Dowth Hall and its surrounding 500 acres which are to form the new Boyne Valley (Brú na Bóinne) National Park which is expected to provide a major boost to tourism in the region.

In what is without doubt a hugely significant development for Drogheda and the Boyne Valley region, one that is expected to give a big boost to tourism in the area, it was confirmed today that the Government has bought the 223 Hectares (552 acres) Dowth Hall estate with the intention of turning it into a new National Park.  

Calling it a “once-in-a-generation opportunity”, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O'Brien confirmed the State’s purchase which also includes nearby Netterville Manor which is one of the finest examples of Victorian Country Manors in Ireland.

This historic purchase, announced by Minister O'Brien in Dowth this morning together with the Minister of State with responsibility for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan TD, paves the way for Ireland’s newest National Park which is to be called the Boyne Valley (Brú na Bóinne) National Park.

The heritage of Dowth spans from early prehistory through to the medieval period, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries right up to the modern era. The diverse range of historical periods reflected in its archaeology and built heritage, along with its natural beauty and biodiversity makes Dowth a unique site within the list of UNESCO World Heritage Properties. 

As well as their position within the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage sites, the Dowth lands are important places for nature. They host a wide range of habitats, including species-rich grasslands, native woodlands and mature hedgerows.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service, the National Monuments Service and the Office of Public Works will now work to deliver a Masterplan for the property that allows for the protection, presentation and management of this area of the Boyne Valley for the people of Ireland.

Speaking at Dowth Hall this morning, Minister O’Brien said that he expected the new National Park to be welcoming its first visitors within the next three to four years.

‘Here in this one place we have over 5000 years of recorded history.  In our care, it will significantly enhance our management of the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage landscape” he said.

Minister Darragh O'Brien thanks Owen Brennan of Devenish for the preservation work at Dowth Hall.

“We will conserve and protect Dowth’s heritage in line with our obligations to UNESCO and we will enhance responsible tourism, ensuring it becomes a standout destination. This purchase opens up possibilities for us to develop heritage partnerships, protect remarkable heritage and make it accessible. It is simply an outstanding opportunity for an outstanding place”.

Minister of State with responsibility for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD added:

“We look forward to sustaining and growing this legacy to ensure that farming, nature and the cultural heritage of this ancient landscape can continue in harmony, as they have done since our ancestors first settled in the Boyne Valley over 5,500 years ago. We are committed to nurturing Dowth as a key pillar of Ireland’s remarkable heritage that we can all admire, be proud of and enjoy.”

Niall O Donnchu, Director General of National Parks and Wildlife Service said: “This is a remarkable opportunity for Ireland’s heritage to play a lead role in the regional economy and in place-making for the east of the country. 

Pictured at the announcement of the purchase of the Dowth Hall Estate for Ireland's seventh National Park are (from  left): Owen Brennan and Alice Stanton of Devenish Nutrition, Ministers Darragh O'Brien and Malcolm Noonan, Nialll O'Donnchú, Director General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Ciara Carberry Director of the NPWS. Photo: Andy Spearman. 

This new National Park is a special place where history, heritage, nature and culture collide. We will work with stakeholders in developing a Masterplan that will deliver on its full potential for locals, visitors and generations to come."

Dowth has been managed by Devenish Nutrition over the last decade to preserve its cultural heritage and biodiversity. Owen Brennan, Executive Chairman of Devenish, welcomed what he described as “a new and exciting chapter for Dowth and the Boyne Valley.”

Labour TD Ged Nash described the State’s purchase of the Dowth Hall and estate as “a momentous day” for the locality.

“I’ve been promoting the idea of the purchase by the State of this historically and archeologically rich site, comprising 30% of the Brú na Bóinne site for some time” he said.

Local politiciana and other dignitories at this morning's ceremony at Dowth Hall.

“The Boyne Valley will now have an official National Park, the first of its kind in 25 years and only the second on the east coast.

“It is a magical place in every sense of the word with outstanding universal value and the possibilities for responsible tourism, sustainable job creation, restoration and conservation and education are endless.

“I look forward to seeing the evolution of the plan for the site and we are privileged now, in Drogheda, to have land in public ownership spanning Drogheda through Oldbridge beyond to Dowth.”

Meath Councillor and long-time member of the Louth Meath Education and Training Board (LMETB), Wayne Harding, said that under the current Chief Executive Martin O‘Brien the strides the organisation has made are “absolutely breathtaking.”

He added that he was pleased to note the acknowledgment and praise by Minister Noonan of the role played by Mr. O'Brien in supporting his officials throughout the acquisition phase.

LMETB Chief Executive Martin O‘Brien (left), pictured with Ministers Darragh O'Brien and Malcolm Noonan at Dowth Hall today. Photo: Andy Spearman.

“Today is a massive endorsement of the ground breaking research of the Devenish team at Dowth. Their research into the mixing of different types of grass species has been proven to increase the filtration of water running off the land and entering our water courses.

“The announcement today primarily puts this research at the centre of the government’s actions to tackle climate change and with it puts the Lands at Dowth centre stage as well.

“I visited the lands at Dowth as Cathaoirleach of Meath County Council in 2019 when it became a member of the global Lighthouse farms. I also accompanied then Taoiseach Michael Martin to Dowth as municipal district Chairperson last year.

“These visits have allowed me to appreciate the obvious passion Eoin Brennan, his wife Professor Alice Stanton and their team have for their research programme. 

“Since the Lands went on the market earlier this year I with the assistance of Minister Thomas Byrne have lobbied all the Ministers of each government department that has now become involved in the project. This is a great day for the area, for the Boyne Valley and for the country."

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