2010 Irish Walled Towns Conference
On September 30th the annual Irish Walled Towns Network (IWTN) conference and AGM took place in the Heritage Council’s offices in Church Lane, Kilkenny. The conference focused on the archaeology, conservation and heritage tourism potential of country's medieval town walls. There was a strong Kilkenny flavour to the day with the City's Mayor, Cllr. Martin Brett opening the event. Borough councilors Joe Reidy and Betty Manning also chaired two of the sessions. The IWTN is part of the Heritage Council. Its role is to unite and co-ordinate the strategic efforts of local authorities involved in the management, conservation and enhancement of the historic walled towns in Ireland, both North and South. At present there are 21 towns in the network.
Brian Tyrrell, Senior Executive Officer of Kilkenny Borough Council spoke about the ongoing IWTN supported work to create a pocket park around Talbot's Tower. He also spoke of the importance of the city's medieval heritage to its tourism industry. During the ‘Archaeology’ session, Cóilín Ó’Drisceoil of Kilkenny Archaeology discussed the excavations at Talbot’s Tower and elsewhere along the walls. Máire Ní Loingsigh talked about the issues encountered during excavations of the tidal affected areas of Medieval Cork. Innovation was the byword during the ‘Conservation’ session with both James Howley and Christopher Southgate telling about how they imaginably addressed significant structural problems. In Athenry, James halted the possible collapse of a tower by creating a steel frame which also acts as a viewing platform. Christopher Southgate discussed the town walls in Waterford and the grouting methodology he was developing.
As befits the country’s current economic situation, ‘heritage tourism’ was a major theme. The delegates heard about how for far too long medieval town walls have been seen as an impediment to development when in actuality, the opposite is true. Both Maeve McKeever from Fáilte Ireland and Aileen Ahern from the Youghal Socio-Economic Development Group talked about how medieval heritage can be used to attract high spending national and international visitors. In Youghal, thanks to the protection and promotion of its historic sites, tourism held up well against a national trend of significant decline. This year, €633,000 was granted by the IWTN to nine towns, including Kilkenny City, to protect the material fabric that people come to see. Complementing these conservation works are the medieval themed festivities of the Irish Walled Towns Day. This year, the sum of €91,200 from the Irish Walled Towns Day fund was given to 13 towns. A panel discussion on the benefits and problems concerning the Irish Walled Towns Day took place with representatives from Kilmallock, Carlingford and Cashel taking part. There was interesting contrast to be made between the three towns, the success of activities during the day, the level of local support, and the financial problems encountered. The day ended with the AGM.
For further information please contact Liam Mannix email@example.com