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Is The Purchase By Government Of The Thurles ‘Black Castle’ Justified?

At Kilshane House, Co. Tipperary recently, attended by over 200 guests from the Multi-National and Indigenous Sectors, Enterprise Ireland, the IDA, as well as high profile figures drawn from the world of Sport and Entertainment were LR; Tipperary Co. Council Chairperson Siobhan Ambrose, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mitchell O’Connor with the very able Tipperary County Council Chief Executive (CE) Joseph MacGrath.

Here in Co. Tipperary we respectfully ask the questions:
(1) Is Thurles Co. Tipperary ‘THE PLACE, ‘THE TIME’ for to encourage the government to “join other leading organisations”, to couple with our “rich culture of heritage?
(2) “Is a purchase, by Government, of the ‘Black Castle’ here in Thurles justified, given our present economic situation nationally?
(3) Should the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, M/s Heather Humphreys or Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation M/s Mitchell O’Connor be asked, by our local politicians, to bring this ‘Black Castle’ purchase matter before Cabinet, recommending its purchase?

History of the Black Castle
For those not familiar with the historic Black Castle in Thurles, do please read on; remembering that same building has now come up for sale as part of a commercial lot, having been previously in private ownership.

The sale of the Black Castle, which is located on the west side of Liberty Square, presents an ideal opportunity for the present government to now, through the Office of Public Works (OPW) who maintain the State’s property portfolio, bring this historic castle into public ownership.

The castle was once the home of Elizabeth Poyntz, formerly of Acton Court, Iron Acton, Gloucestershire, England,[A]  known as Lady Viscountess Thurles, following her marriage to Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles, in 1608. Thomas Butler was son of Walter Butler “Walter of the Rosaries,” latter probably the first of the Butler family to take up residence in Thurles Castle.[B]   Viscount Thurles was summoned from Tipperary, to England in 1619 to answer charges of treason, but the ship, conveying him, was wrecked off the coast of Wales, in an area known as The Skerries and he was drowned on 15th December 1619. His wife Elizabeth Butler (Poyntz), the celebrated Lady Thurles was now a widow and the lone parent of three sons and four daughters.

After the death of Viscount Thurles, Lady Thurles, married again, about 1620, Captain George Mathew of Radyr and Llandaff in Glamorganshire, Wales, by whom Lady Thurles had a further two sons and a daughter.

Captain George Mathew died at Tenby in Wales in 1636. A period portrait, oil on canvas, of Lady Viscountess Thurles is in the possession of the Tipperary County Library, situated in the Source building, Cathedral Street, Thurles.

Memorial Plaque marking the burial place of Elizabeth Butler in St. Mary’s Church Thurles. Note Elizabeth Butler (Poyntz) was also progenitor (ancestor) to Honora “Nano” Nagle (1718-1784) the “Lady with the Lantern”, founder of the “Presentation Sisters” and a pioneer of Catholic education in Ireland. The Presentation Sisters here in Thurles this year celebrate 200 years of being resident in the town (1817-2017). Nano Nagle was declared venerable in the Roman Catholic Church on 31st October 2013 by Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio).

Elizabeth and Thomas Butler (Lord & Lady Thurles), through their first son James FitzThomas Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond, is a direct progenitor (ancestor) to Charles Prince of Wales, who is the eldest child and heir apparent of the present Queen Elizabeth II.

The late Princess Diana is also connected to the history of the castle and through the daughter of Lord and Lady Thurles, (Mary Butler), and her ancestors the Hamiltons, descendants of whom married into the Spencer family. Indeed the late Princess Diana was the 12th cousin, twice removed, of Lady Viscountess Thurles.

Despite a visit from Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarian army during the period 1658 to 1660, Lady Thurles and her children resided in the castle for a great deal of her life. Following her death in 1673 she was buried, at her own earlier request, in Thurles, inside the earlier pre 1820 ‘Little Chapel of St.Mary’, now St. Mary’s C of I Church. A commemorative polished limestone plaque, within the church building, recalls this historic period.

Does Rural Ireland Receive its Fair Share of Government Funding?

Here in the Thurles half of our Templemore / Thurles Municipal District of Tipperary, our appointed fiscal executives at both Municipal District and County Council level, correctly and carefully count the cost of administration, prioritising our spend.  Thurles after all is part of a forgotten rural Ireland; which the present Fine Gael government fully agree has been totally neglected for at least the past 15 years.

According to our recent 2016 Census returns, between 2011 and 2016 the Thurles Urban Electoral Division population actually dropped by 115 persons (From 6,929 to 6,814), while Thurles Rural Electoral Division increased only by 14 persons (From 2,300 to 2,314 – a miserable .61% increase). Of course the figures posted in these 2016 Census returns are not in fact actually true; instead these figures reflect the numbers of persons forced to migrate or emigrate elsewhere in order to find work; with all employment prospects in the town completely absent.

On April 27th last, we posted details of Fáilte Ireland’s recently announced €11.5m funding, to be invested in the refurbishment of ten key OPW sites in Dublin, within Ireland’s Ancient East Region. I pointed out that within a 33 miles radios of Dublin’s popular O’Connell street, went the majority of funding; yes over €8m in total. This included €3m towards a new museum and viewing platform in ‘The Record Tower,’ at Dublin Castle; €300,000 towards a Phoenix Park tourism and amenity study.  While twenty-five miles’ away the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre got €2.58m; and thirty three miles away Newgrange got €1m with Knowth a further €1.4m.

In April 2016 some €170 million was put aside to redevelop the historic 1916 Boland’s Mill site in Dublin’s docklands, including the construction of a 15-storey apartment block, by Dublin City Council.

In March 2015 the Government agreed to a proposal from the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht M/s Heather Humphreys to purchase the site at 14 to 17 Moore Street from Nama, latter bought by the State for €4million.

An extra €2 million in 2015, we are informed, was transferred from Arts to secure funding for the wages of staff operating free tourist admissions to National Cultural Institutions, which included the National Museum of Ireland, the Natural History museum on Dublin’s Merrion Street, Archaeology on Kildare Street and the National Library of Ireland. These are the buildings which house the proceeds of pilfering from the Tipperary  section of Ireland’s Ancient East trail; purloined over the years to benefit a Dublin only economy.  I refer of course to the housing of the “Derrynaflan Chalice Hoard”; The “Book of Dimma”; the eighth century religious manuscript known as the “Faddan More Psalter”; the “Two-Mile-Borris Viking Hoard”; The “Clonmel 81 piece Gold Coin Hoard”, etc., etc., etc.

We are informed that a capital provision of €22 million was also allocated in 2015 to a number of flagship projects, including the development of a permanent exhibition space and interpretative centre at the GPO in O’Connell Street; the renovation of Kilmainham Courthouse in Dublin to enhance the visitor experience at Kilmainham Gaol; the provision of a permanent visitor facility at Cathal Brugha Barracks for the Military Service Pensions Archive; renovation works at Richmond Barracks; the development of a Tenement Museum in Dublin; and the restoration of the Kevin Barry rooms in the National Concert Hall.

We won’t talk about the money spent on 1916 projects held in O’Connell Street, highlighting Easter week itself.

Back down the last 17 years it was €5m for “The Monument of Light” or “Spire of Light” erected in O’Connell Street, better known by witty Dubliners as the ‘The Erection at the Intersection’, ‘The Spike’, ‘The Stiletto in the Ghetto’, ‘The Poker next to Croker’ or ‘The Stiffy in the Liffey’.  At the time of its erection this ‘Spire of Light’ was described as “self-cleaning”, but Dublin’s city council have since conceded that its maintenance will now cost the bones of €220,000 per year, and the price increasing annually.

Some €775 million was handed out to build the Red and Green Luas lines in Dublin. Not to mention the recent extension of the Luas Green line to create an interchange with the Red line; another €368 million.

€1.5 million for the Millennium Bridge, over the River Liffey in Dublin.

€1.5 million for the obscene River Liffey Board-walk running 200 yards from O’Connell Bridge to Capel Street Bridge.

€500,000 for the Millennium Clock christened “The Time in the Slime”, which for a time (pardon the pun) was mechanically linked to a Postcard Printing Machine on O’Connell Bridge. Same was supposed to print out the exact time for bystanders. Alas same only worked briefly, before breaking down and was later scrapped completely.

In view of the above we again ask the 3 questions:-
(1) Is Thurles Co. Tipperary ‘THE PLACE, ‘THE TIME’ for to encourage the government to “join other leading organisations”, to couple with our “rich culture of heritage?
(2) “Is a purchase, by Government, of the ‘Black Castle’ here in Thurles justified given our present economic situation nationally?
(3) Should the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, M/s Heather Humphreys or Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation M/s Mitchell O’Connor be asked, by our local politicians, to bring this ‘Black Castle’ purchase matter before Cabinet, recommending its purchase?

Would a couple of million spent on the purchase and restoration of the Thurles Black Castle be asking a great deal, given our present rural neglect and our abandonment by all governments in relation to our employment problems.

[A] [ Acton Court in Gloucestershire has in recent years been restored to its former glory by the English Heritage, Council. To emphasise the social standing of the Poyntz family, on Saturday August 21st, 1535, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn both visited and stayed with the Poyntz household at Acton Court.]

[B] [The Butler Chalice which was made in 1620 for Walter Butler the rightful 11th Earl of Ormond and his wife Ellane, still exists in private collection in the Thurles area. In 1620, the year the chalice was made, the family were in deep trouble. The previous year their son, Thomas Butler, Viscount Thurles, who owned Thurles and lived in the Castle at the top of the Square, had been drowned, as explained above. Since 1617 Walter himself was in the notorious Fleet Prison in London for refusing to kowtow to King James I, who had deprived him of the Ormond title and estates, and given them to one of his cronies, Sir Richard Preston (1st Earl of Desmond in Munster) and his wife.

Walter remained in jail until 1625, when he got the title and part of the Estates back from the next king, Charles I. The rest of the estates were only gotten back in 1629 and 1630; when Walter’s grandson, James Butler (later 1st Duke of Ormond) effectively purchased the 14-year-old Preston heiress from her guardians and married her.]

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