Minister Patrick O’ Donovan announces opening of Limerick heritage site to the public for the first time

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THE Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW), Patrick O’Donovan, T.D., has announced the opening this week of the Desmond Castle in Askeaton to the public – the first time that visitors have been able to access the site and view the ongoing conservation works at the historic Monument, the earliest parts of which date from the 12th century.

“Askeaton Castle is a magnificent and historic structure right in the middle of the town” the Minister said “and the Office of Public Works have been working there for several seasons, gradually conserving significant parts of the structures on the site and making sure that they are preserved for generations to come.

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“I am delighted to announce that starting this week, the public will now be able to access the site for the first time and in the company of an extremely knowledgeable OPW Guide, view the wonderful heritage of Askeaton and listen to stories of the past.” he said.

The OPW conservation works have been in progress since approx. 2008 and have involved the painstaking retrieval of significant parts of the buildings on the site, saving elements that were at risk of structural failure and carefully reinstating significant parts of the Castle, the earliest parts of which were built by William de Burgo in 1199.

Work continues at the site and the OPW has provided public access walkways into the heart of the historic site so that visitors can safely walk into the complex and experience the Castle at close range.

The public will, as well as having a guided tour around those parts of the site which have already been conserved, be able to see conservation work continuing on other structures, such as the famous Hellfire Club, built in the middle of the site and yet to be conserved.

Visitors will be able to see the skilled stonemasons and workers of the OPW perform this work and see them apply their craft at close range, adding considerably to their visit and their appreciation of the work being done at Askeaton.  Askeaton Civic Trust Tourist Office have assisted over the years in promoting these wonderful buildings and telling its extensive history.

“The Desmond Castle is obviously the centrepiece of the site” the Minister said, “but the public will also be able to enter into the Banqueting Hall built by the 7th Earl of Desmond in 1440 and will be able to see the infamous Hellfire Club – still in a fragile state – being conserved by the skilled OPW team at the site.

“This is the first time that we have placed visitors so close to an ongoing conservation project as it is actually happening and I very much hope that visitors and tourists will appreciate the unique value of what they are seeing here.

“The theme in Heritage Week 2020, which has just concluded, was Education and I very much hope that this will form a major contribution to our citizens’ understanding of what OPW is doing in this area.” he added.

The Minister also expressed the strong desire that locals from the Askeaton area will come to visit the site and see what is happening there.

“There has been a great deal of curiosity in the town about what has been happening behind the walls of Askeaton Castle over the years” the Minister said “and I’m sure the local community will be thrilled at what has been achieved so far to conserve and present this wonderful site”.