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Fears for future of Turlough museum

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Fears for future of Turlough museum


Board talks reveal financial concerns for national attraction

Edwin McGreal, Neill O’Neill, Áine Ryan

Fears for the future of the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life at Turlough Park, outside Castlebar, were discussed at a board meeting last Friday The Mayo News can exclusively reveal. The museum, one of the jewels in the crown of Mayo tourism, is believed to be under threat of partial or full closure due to a funding shortfall.
This shortfall was discussed in detail on Friday last by the Board of the National Museum of Ireland.
A source close to the board told The Mayo News that reductions in national government funding for the National Museum has put them under serious financial pressure and one of the options discussed was the closure of the facility at Turlough Park.
However, when contacted by The Mayo News, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring, said he could never see the downgrading or closure of the museum taking place.
“This is an important piece of infrastructure for Castlebar, for Mayo and the region, particularly for the tourism sector and I don’t believe this will happen,” he stated.
“These can only be rumours, unless somebody comes out and tells me otherwise but this is the first I’ve heard of it.
“We are as entitled to have a museum in Mayo as anywhere else, why single out Mayo? If visitors were paying to enter the museum and they were losing numbers it would be a different story but the museum forms part of an overall national budget and there is a large number of people passing through the doors of Turlough House.
“There can be no truth in this, it is a different situation to the downgrading and closure of garda stations and courthouses, this is a major tourist attraction and strategic piece of infrastructure for the west of Ireland, and it has to be protected.”
It is free to visit Turlough Park and while visitor numbers there have been consistently high, the fact that these numbers are lower than visitor numbers of the National Museum’s facilities at Kildare Street, Merrion Street and Collins Barracks in Dublin, is believed to have put Turlough Park to the fore for potential cutbacks.

Good relationship
Chief Executive of Mayo County Council, Peter Hynes, was Project Manager for the development when the council first purchased the Turlough Estate. He told The Mayo News that Mayo County Council have always had a productive relationship with the National Museum of Country Life and their Board.
“This is the first I have heard of this, but I was not party to the meeting in question. However, we had a separate and productive meeting with executives from the National Museum as recently as last week and continue to look forward with them towards projects such as Feile na Tuaithe 2015, among others. We see a bright future for the National Museum of Country Life at Turlough House.”

Background
The only national museum outside the capital city, the Museum of Country Life owes its genesis in Mayo to ‘a visionary move’ by Mayo County Council, which bought the derelict stately house and 36 acres in 1991, and then invested £3 million in its renovation.
The Country Life branch of the National Museum was opened at Turlough Park in September, 2001.
Originally the site of a medieval de Burgo castle, Turlough House was built in 1865 and owned by the Fitzgerald family of Waterford. It was designed by the celebrated Victorian architects, Woodward and Deane, who also designed the National Museum in Kildare Street.
Its tree-lined avenue weaves and winds towards manicured gardens and rolling green terraces. Despite their 19th-century formality, the terraces soften the grey, Gothic facade of the house. They lead to the still waters of the turlough, and its subterranean secrets, while also perfectly framing the extension – a modern four-storeyed, curved stone-clad gallery, designed by Office of Public Works architects.