A cross-border heritage group has called for significant investment in expanding the visitor centre at the Battle of the Boyne site to create a new all-Ireland military history museum.
The 18th century Oldbridge House in the Boyne Valley, Co Meath – the site of the most famous battle ever fought on Irish soil – has been renovated in recent years and turned into an interpretive centre.
But Brian Hanratty of the group, the Battle for the Boyne, believes there is an opportunity to expand on the 500-acre site and make it a top drawer tourist destination.
He added: “Since the Irish government acquired the battle site in the millennium year, a modest interpretative centre was developed, but most of the site is simply leased to local farmers.
“So there is huge potential to expand on both the story of the largest and most famous battle fought on Irish soil, as well as Ireland’s military history and legends throughout the ages – and do it in a sensitive manner.
“As the site of a major battle, it would be entirely appropriate for the location to become ‘The National Museum of Ireland – Military History and Battle of the Boyne Interpretative Centre,’ featuring open-air exhibits as well as indoor exhibits.
“It is the perfect location to crystallise through displays the many milestones being commemorated in the current decade of centenaries – including the Ulster Covenant in 1912; the 1916 Rising and the foundation of the National Army in 1922,” Mr Hanratty added.
“It’s not good enough to commemorate these on their centenary, we need a permanent reminder of them.”
He also cited the National Memorial Arboretum in the UK Midlands, which extends to 150 acres and is a year-round national site of remembrance.
“Such a space would comfortably fit into just a part of the Oldbridge site,” said Mr Hanratty.
Mr Hanratty said battlefield tourism is a significant tourism segment in many countries, with WWI commemorations bringing 2.6 million visitors to Flanders, Belgium between 2014 and 2018.
“Imagine what an enhanced role for Oldbridge could leverage for the area as well as building on the understanding of the shared heritage and history of this small island,” he said.
“With nearby historic locations like Drogheda, Trim, and Tara having their own unique military history, the adjacent privately owned Irish Military War Museum in Collon and Francis Ledwidge’s home at Slane, the Boyne Valley is a natural centre for military history and the potential to attract tourists interested in battlefield tourism.”
Highlighting that the site is easily accessible to both Dublin and Belfast, Mr Hanratty added: “As heritage sites go, access to Oldbridge and the other heritage sites in the Boyne Valley is unrivalled.
“Given that in 2017, Co Dublin earned 38 times more revenue from tourism and visitors than Louth and Meath combined, it also makes good business sense as well to create the epicentre for military history on the island of Ireland at the site of the island’s most famous battle, which is so accessible to all.”