National Trust to renew tourism in Northern Ireland
When visitors come to the new heritage center they will encounter a world-class experience, McGrady says. At the moment all there is by way of welcome at the Causeway is a portacabin (prefabricated cabin). If you’re lucky, she says, you might get a cup of tea.
“That is not what we need to be saying about tourism in Northern Ireland,” says McGrady. “We’re going to play our part as a new face for tourism in Northern Ireland.”
McGrady, who is clearly passionate about the mission to fund and complete the new heritage center, knows that the will and eventually all of the funding will be achieved.
“That’s the primary reason I’ve come to the states to promote the center and the region. Obviously I don’t expect to just find the £2.5 million we need to complete the project here right away,” she says.
“But the Causeway is an international site and we would welcome international support for it. I really would welcome the Irish American connection to come through and say this is important to them too. It would be a hugely important vote of confidence in the new Northern Ireland.
“It’s a neutral space, after all, one of the very few in Northern Ireland were everyone can say they have some ownership over it.”
What have the responses been since McGrady brought the project to New York for consideration by the private sector and Irish American business leaders here?
“This is my second day. We’ve met with leaders in the Irish business community here and the response has been as expected – they see it as a great project for Northern Ireland,” she says.
“Some have complained of the ongoing recession. But I think there has been a good, strong response from those who are connected to Ireland who are saying that Northern Ireland has a big part to play in the future of the whole island. There’s a sense of it being brought back into the fold again.
“It almost wasn’t a subject to talk about for a while but now its back. It’s not just the peace agenda now. Suddenly people are seeing the new opportunities that exist for tourism. This project is really relevant in that context. So the response has been good.”