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Friday, 19 April, 2002, 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK
St Patrick's centre cash crisis
The year-old St Patrick's Centre may have to close
The year-old St Patrick's Centre may have to close
A popular County Down visitors' centre devoted to Ireland's patron saint Patrick is facing closure because of a lack of funding.

The managers of the St Patrick's Centre in Downpatrick, the town where the saint is reputed to be buried, have said it will have to close by the end of this month, if it does not receive financial help.

Since it opened just over a year ago more than 80,000 people have visited the multi-million pound centre.

But to stay open, the centre would need to attract more visitors or be allocated funding by the government in Northern Ireland.

Dr Tim Campbell:
Dr Tim Campbell: "Politicians need to invest in our heritage here"

The centre's director, Dr Tim Campbell, said none of the Stormont departments have been willing to offer funding.

But he said the centre has not had enough time to build up it visitor numbers.

In recent years, most of Northern Ireland's political leaders have travelled to Washington to take part in White House celebrations on Saint Patrick's Day 17 March.

Dr Campbell argued Northern Ireland's politicians need to invest more in using the saint's links with the province to promote tourism, rather than focusing on the celebrations held in other countries.


There is no point in going to America and wrapping Patrick's flag around you if you are not going to support Patrick at home

Dr Tim Campbell

He said: "I have had 650,000 emails and hits on my website from people who tell me they are dying to come and see the centre here.

"We are getting bookings, upon bookings. But I can't do this on my own.

"We have to work with the regional tourist authority, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and with the government departments.

"Everybody must take responsibility because there is no point in going to America and wrapping Patrick's flag around you if you are not going to support Patrick at home."

Last year the visitor centre at Navan Fort, one of Northern Ireland's most important ancient Celtic sites, was forced to close because of a lack of funding.

The centre had been popular with tourists and was also used as a resource for school children.

But it was unable to attract enough visitors to make enough money to stay open.

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 ON THIS STORY
Centre director Dr Tim Campbell:
"We are getting bookings, upon bookings. But I can't do this on my own"
See also:

06 Jun 01 | Northern Ireland
Tourist centre closure criticised
17 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
Thousands attend St Patrick's parades
13 Mar 02 | Northern Ireland
St Patrick's Day exodus under way
05 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
1m recovery plan for tourism
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