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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 June, 2005, 08:55 GMT 09:55 UK
High hopes for NI tourist centre
Artefacts have been found at Navan Fort dating back more than 2,000 years
Artefacts found at Navan Fort date back more than 2,000 years
A tourist attraction at one of Ireland's most historic sites is being officially reopened four years after a lack of funding led to its closure.

The Navan Centre at Navan Fort, County Armagh, closed in June 2001 when more than 5m of public funding ran out.

However, the decision by Armagh City and District Council to buy the site has secured its future.

The council is upbeat that a number of new developments to the site will attract more visitors.

Shane Meehan from Armagh City and District Council said: "With the changes in tourism trends and our marketing efforts we are confident it will be a success this time."

The centre's closure was blamed on a financial crisis caused by poor visitor numbers.

One of the big changes to the upgraded centre is the Living History programme, where actors play the part of characters from 2,000 years ago.

Navan Fort visitor centre
Visitor centre closed when funding ran out

Programme co-ordinator Robert Foreshaw said it should keep visitors returning in a way they did not before.

"It's a proven fact throughout the world that living history brings people back to centres," he said.

"The idea is that they will be able to see a different interpretation which gives them a new experience every time they come back."

The council is opening the Navan Centre and Palace Stables Heritage Centre on a seasonal basis and it plans to open St Patrick's Trian Visitor Complex all year round.

Mr Meehan added: "In that way we have been able to open the (Navan) centre and acquire it with absolutely no cost to the ratepayer."

Celtic site

A special ceremony is taking place on Thursday to mark the centre's official re-opening.

One hundred guests will see the beginnings of work on a recreation of a Celtic settlement, they will be treated to a banquet and have a greeting from King Conor of UIster.

The council have previously said they want to target schoolchildren and students to the centre which is built into the hillside, so that it looks similar to the ancient Celtic Navan Fort.

Artefacts have been found at Navan Fort dating back more than 2,000 years and it is considered to be one of Europe's most important Celtic sites.

Mr Meehan said there were more tourists coming into Northern Ireland than four years ago.

"So things are looking good for Armagh," he said.




SEE ALSO:
Rescue plan for Navan centre
29 Nov 01 |  Northern Ireland
Tourist centre closure criticised
06 Jun 01 |  Northern Ireland
Fears over Navan visitor centre
24 May 01 |  Northern Ireland


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