On Wednesday 6th September 2017 Minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief visited Nenagh following an invitation issued to him by Cllr. Hughie McGrath to visit Nenagh Castle.
The purpose of the invitation was to put the further development of Nenagh Castle on the agenda at national level and to start discussions with a view to securing agreement and funding for this. Nenagh Castle is one of the key heritage attractions of Nenagh and its circular keep is an imposing landmark within the town. It is included on the itinerary for Ireland’s Ancient East. During his visit, Minister Moran climbed the 101 spiral steps to the top of the keep and experienced the spectacular view over the landscape. From this vantage point five counties can be seen on a clear day. He was very impressed at the facility and interested in hearing about the future plans, acknowledging the role that such facilities play in attracting visitors to rural Ireland. He also visited the Nenagh Heritage & Genealogy Centre where he was given a tour of the Gatehouse and Governor’s House by Genealogist, Nora O’ Meara, who regaled him with the story of the Cormack Brothers and other fascinating historical gems.
Others present on the occasion, in addition to the Minister and his entourage, were Deputy Alan Kelly; Deputy Jackie Cahill; Councillors Hughie McGrath, Mattie Ryan, Fiona Bonfield and Ger Darcy; Stephen Slattery (who was chairman of the Nenagh Marketing & Development Committee at the time that previous works were undertaken); Marcus O’ Connor, Director of Services, Nenagh Municipal District and Rosemary Joyce, District Administrator.
Significant refurbishment works were previously undertaken by the Office of Public Works particularly in relation to the masonry conservation of the keep, both internally and externally. Works also included the installation of stairs to the upper levels and refurbishment at ground level to facilitate visitor access. These works were completed in 2012 and Nenagh Castle was officially opened by President Michael D O’ Higgins on 6th June 2012.
Landscaping works to the grounds were undertaken by Nenagh Town Council who also provided a car park at O’ Rahilly Street and purchased properties in Pearse Street which were acquired with a view to providing access to the Castle. These properties were transferred to the Office of Public Works. This part of the original proposals did not proceed and there were also other works included in the original concept such as the provision of a ground level boardwalk to link the keep to an entrance via the car park and the construction of a Visitor Centre. Currently Tipperary County Council is in the process of developing a medieval garden on a site adjacent to the Castle (known as Gill’s Garden). In total over €1 million has been invested by Nenagh Town Council/Tipperary County Council in capital projects associated with the Castle and its surroundings. In addition to this, the Council also fund the Tour Guide service which is provided in conjunction with the North Tipperary Genealogy & Heritage Service. The Castle grounds are regularly used to hold various events, including the very successful Nenagh Castlefest earlier this year. The Castle too is also the backdrop for many occasions and last year Nenagh & District Chamber of Commerce arranged for Santa to have a base in the Castle. Other regular users include the Dromineer Literary Festival. Annually between 13,000 and 14,000 visitors call to the Castle, entry to which is completely free. Tour Guide, Kevin Whelan, proves a font of knowledge for visitors in relation to the Castle’s history down through the ages.
At the opening in 2012 the President said “The castle now becomes part of a close knit cultural hub in Nenagh town, proudly taking its place alongside Nenagh Arts Centre, Nenagh Courthouse, Nenagh Jail and some of your beautiful churches”. The further development of this historic quarter of Nenagh is something that will be of major benefit to the town and it is hoped that this can be advanced in conjunction with the proposals for 2020 when ‘Nenagh 800’ will be celebrated.