September 30th, 2023
It was a stunning morning in Meath yesterday as we gathered at the historic Dowth Hall for possibly one of the most significant announcements of my tenure as Minister for Heritage. The State has now agreed the purchase of Dowth Hall and demesne - a significant acquisition in it's own right - but we have also announced the establishment of Ireland's seventh National Park, and the first new National Park in 25 years.
This incredible site tells the story of Irish heritage over millennia, layering prehistoric archaeology, 18th Century architecture and rich natural heritage into one unique visitor experience. That rare combination means the archeological, and built and natural heritage value of the brand new Boyne Valley Brú na Bóinne World Heritage National Park will quite simply be beyond compare.
The State's acquisition of Dowth Hall and demesne - 500 acres of land singularly rich in both cultural and natural heritage - offered us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to preserve and enhance this unique landscape for the benefit of the Irish people. We could not let that opportunity pass us by. The new national park will two significant buildings, Dowth Hall, an eighteenth-century country house, and Netterville Manor, a Victorian manor house, and the lands will cover approximately one third of the total area of the UNESCO World Heritage Property of Brú na Bóinne. Now, through the stewardship of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and its partners, the future conservation and presentation of this special place will be ensured for generations to come.
Here in this remarkable landscape, on the banks of the Boyne, monuments of international importance sit proudly within a demesne that is teeming with biodiversity and heritage value - a testament to the sensitive management of these lands over the last decade under the custodianship of Devenish Nutrition.
They have upheld a farming tradition that has shaped the Boyne Valley since our ancestors settled here, over 5,000 years ago, and for the last decade Devinish have worked this land while testing and nurturing sustainable farming models here. It is our intention to continue that legacy with the development of a research farm on site. This will enable us to demonstrate nature-friendly agricultural practices to a wide audience, supporting education and knowledge sharing, and innovating for biodiversity in a farming landscape by trialing new methods to ensure that farming and nature continue to thrive here, side by side.
A landscape we've always looked to to tell us about our past is going to play a pivotal role in guiding us towards the future of farming, and I have no doubt that Dowth will soon become a shining example of our rich heritage that people from near and far will come to admire and enjoy.