The first phase of funding in the new ‘Ireland’s Ancient East’ initiative, somewhat unfortunately, in the contest of the Wild Atlantic Way controversy, bypassed Waterford.
However, according to a Fáilte Ireland spokesperson: “The (initial) funding announced follows a Fáilte Ireland call out for submissions from interested parties across the region and a subsequent assessment which applied criteria relating to the aims and objectives of Ireland’s Ancient East.
“However, it should be noted that this is only the first phase of announcements and Fáilte Ireland are currently assessing a number of further applications (including candidates from Waterford) from the original call. Fáilte Ireland will be announcing further funding for other projects before the end of the year where it is expected that Waterford will feature.”
Despite this assurance, it appears that the success of the Wild Atlantic Way is not yet even close to being replicated in the Ancient East: the name itself is undoubtedly a harder sell than the Wild Atlantic Way.
Tourists come to Ireland for the wild scenery, so one can see why the ‘WAW’ has become such a high-profile ocean trail for tourists. History and antiquity may be somewhat down any tourist’s ‘to do’ list when it comes to Ireland.
However, for Irish Americans or British with Irish roots, there may be more of a draw given their own wish to track down and learn more about their Celtic origins.
Monastic sites such as Clonmacnoise on the banks of the Shannon or burial chambers such as Newgrange are already top international attractions. The geographic diversity of the ‘Ancient East’ given that so much of it is so inland, is a factor in the harder selling of this particular initiative.
While St Canice’s in Kilkenny and the Hook Lighthouse gained €80,000 each from the initial funding pot of €1.8 million, thoughts have turned to what might make it on the list in Waterford, along with Carrick-on-Suir.
Tramore’s Metal Man has tremendous potential within the Ancient East, given the history of shipwrecks off Tramore and the stunning geographical location. As we exclusively reported, Waterford City & County Council is considering a Compulsory Purchase Order of the site, which would greatly accelerate the scope for development.
Mount Melleray in West Waterford and Christ Church in Waterford city are two great historical sites of religious significance and they may be considered come the second round of funding.
The bell tower of the 14th Century Franciscan Abbey in Carrickbeg now forms part of St Molleran’s Parish Church, while Ireland’s only surviving Tudor Manor, Ormond Castle, across the river in Carrick Mór, is currently being renovated by the OPW.
The copper mine at Tankardstown in Bonmahon is situated within an area of great tourism potential and the tremendous strides that have been made locally clearly merit the support of Fáilte Ireland.
Waterford city has had many improvements and the continuing investment in the Viking Quarter is thankfully bearing fruit. The Courtyard alongside the Greyfriars Gallery and nearby site of old French Church are now looking really well, as is the award-winning Chairman’s Arch.
Fáilte Ireland say they are consulting with communities to build up the ‘Ancient East’ brand. They have much work to do on this front and we wish them well in this endeavour.