Firms to be given long leases on heritage sites
LONG-term leases on some of Dublin's most prestigious properties are to be handed out to private companies for the first time, the Herald can reveal.
The doors to corporate events will be opened at 17 separate sites including Phoenix Park and Iveagh Gardens in the capital.
In a major change in policy, the Office of Public Works (OPW) is to invite proposals to set up businesses on parts of the heritage sites and historical properties.
For the first time, leases of up to 10 years will be handed out to interested parties.
Such proposals were previously rejected by the State body on the grounds that the sites could only be used for heritage purposes or for temporary events such as concerts.
Fine Gael minister Brian Hayes told the Herald that the move to agree long-term leases is expected to lead to job creation and potentially significant revenue for the State.
"Clearly capital funds are in short supply, so if the private sector sees an opportunity in working by way of licence with the OPW, then everyone benefits," he said.
"My office will have an open mind with any proposal that is made.
"We need to find new ways of funding heritage, which is central to improving our offering to tourists.
"Using the amazing and varied heritage portfolio that the OPW has is good for jobs and good for business."
The junior finance minister, who has special responsibility for the State agency, said funds generated by the move will be ringfenced for other heritage projects.
OPW officials have drawn up a list of 17 properties that will be made available to the private sector.
The majority of the sites are in Dublin and include the Phoenix Park, the Iveagh Gardens, Dublin Castle and Rathfarnham Castle.
The list of properties available also includes the Blasket Islands, Kilkenny Castle, Derrynane House and the Doneraile Wildlife Park in Cork.
Companies will be considered for long-term licenses and leases on the sites after submitting an application with the OPW.
Minister Hayes said his official are particularly seeking proposals that will result in an "enhanced visitor experience" at OPW sites.