Denis Naughten TD has called on the Government to make Rinn Duin in Lecarrow the focal point of a new heritage and ecology plan for the catchment of Lough Ree.
“As well as Rinn Duin the county boasts other heritage sites on the islands of Lough Ree as well as locations such as Rathcroghan, in the heart of the county, which was the home of the Kings of Connacht and, at a later time, the home of the High Kings of Ireland.
“Tourism in this area also has far greater potential by tying in the ecology of Lough Ree and its catchment.”
Speaking in Lecarrow where he addressed Minister Jimmy Deenihan, Denis Naughten stated: “While bogs are a sensitive issue, and rightly so, there are many designated bogs within the catchment of Lough Ree which are already in State ownership and which could be developed in order to promote local eco and recreational tourism.
“I have already put a proposal to Minister Deenihan to establish a national wetlands park of 18,000 acres just north of Lough Ree which could be a major international draw for both eco and recreational tourism. It would also have an added benefit of being able to extend the flood plain of the River Shannon during the winter period to provide enhanced water storage between Lough Allen and Lough Ree, thereby alleviating the extent of winter flooding.
“Instead of viewing heritage and ecology as barriers to progress and having Lough Ree defined, as is presently the case, as a regional border by the State tourism promotion bodies, we should be looking to develop these assets to bring tourism into the midland counties.”
He continued: “To date the potential to market Roscommon as a ‘heritage county’ has not been capitalised upon. Last year close to 2.5m tourists visited historic houses and castles throughout Ireland, with mainland Europe being a key market for this sector of the industry.
“It is also important to note that 700,000 tourists participated in hiking and cross country walking; something that Roscommon has in abundance. Places like Rinn Duin with its looped walks are uniquely placed to combine both aspects of heritage and eco-tourism.
“We need to see the tourism industry developed more fully around the areas of culture, heritage and the environment in an effort to counteract the overall decline in the number of bed nights spent by overseas tourists in less developed counties like Roscommon.
“This type of tourism provides us with a unique opportunity for a 21st century Ireland, but it must be supported by Government. While it is not possible in the current economic climate for this to be a State operated programme, we can deliver on a clearly defined blueprint which would support in many ways, including grant aid, local groups such as St. John’s Parish Heritage Group.
“By taking such an approach not only can we support local initiatives but also facilitate such groups in accessing other funding streams that could facilitate the promotion and marketing of this unique natural resource to attract overseas visitors into the very heart of Ireland,” concluded Denis Naughten.