Historic Irish heritage sites are being repurposed by the Irish government as for-profit enterprises in what has been described by Irish Minister Brian Hayes as a 'novel scheme.'
According to press reports the Irish Office of Public Works will offer controversial leases to private firms on some of the country’s most popular historical sites.
The list of properties includes the famed Dublin and Kilkenny Castles, Derrynane House (once home to Irish patriot Daniel O'Connell) and the Doneraile Wildlife Park in Cork.
According to TheJournal.ie leases of up to ten years will be given to interested businesses for commercial ventures.
Anticipating public unease, Hayes stressed that the businesses that receive leases will have to be 'in keeping with the heritage and with the recreational nature of some of our sites' so casinos and hotels are not being considered.
Speaking on RTE's "Morning Ireland" Hayes said:
'I don’t know how successful it’s going to be, I have to be very frank, but I was determined to do this and the Office of Public Works is leading the change within our own organization in terms of making sure we look at novel schemes like this.'
Hayes added that he had obtained an agreement from Irish Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin that any additional revenue generated by the plan will be earmarked for other heritage projects.
Hayes said the initiative would not just apply to 'the top ten Irish sites that everyone knows' but it would also encourage investment into other 'second-tier' sites and establish opportunities for job creation.
Applicants will reportedly be requested to outline how their proposals will raise the profile of heritage sites, generate increased footfall and generally be in keeping with the presentation of the site in question.
Hayes continued: 'Clearly capital funds are in short supply, so if the private sector sees an opportunity in working by way of license with the OPW, then everyone benefits.
'My Office will have an open mind with any proposal that is made. We need to find new ways of funding heritage, which is central to improving our offering to tourists. Using the amazing and varied heritage portfolio that the OPW has is good for jobs and good for business.'
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”