Ministerial sanction for purchase of Knockma site welcome


East Galway TD Paul Connaughton this week gave a warm welcome to the fact that the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, has given ministerial sanction for the purchase of a six-acre site on Knockma which will be used to complete a walking route on this most historic and archaeologically significant site.
Minster Humphreys confirmed to Deputy Connaughton on Thursday afternoon that she has sanctioned the purchase. An independent valuator will now be appointed and after his or her report is received, negotiations on the purchase of the site will get underway with the landowner.
‘This is a tremendous boost for walking tourism in the East Galway region as the Knockma site is hugely significant and the purchase of this portion of six acres of land on the summit of the hill will be the final piece in the jigsaw in terms of the completion of a wonderful amenity for walkers in the region. It will provide a wonderful opportunity to explore Tuam and surrounding regions for local, national and international tourists, particularly walking tourists, who wish to explore the history and mythology of Ireland, while also engaging with some of the most picturesque landscapes in East Galway.
‘Minister Heather Humphreys visited Knockma at my invitation in February of this year and was very impressed with the work done by the local committee. Following that visit an archaeological report was commissioned, which was another significant step in terms of advancing the project. Last month, on April 22nd, I again met the Minister in relation to this site and impressed on her the need for the state to purchase this historic site.
‘Great credit is due to the hard-working local committee who have worked diligently on this project for many years. Their endeavours have already borne much fruit in terms of the establishment of a wonderful route on Knockma, but the purchasing of this piece of land on the summit of Knockma will really bring this project on to another level and offer much greater access to visitors and will make visiting Knockma much more attractive.
‘The eastern side of the 170 metre hill has been in state ownership since the late 70s or early 1980s, while the western side is in private ownership. The existing walk on the eastern slope of Knockma was somewhat hampered as it was confined to one side of the hill, but should the privately owned portion of land on the western summit be purchased by the state, walkers would enjoy access to a much greater area and enjoy much better views.
‘The mythology associated with Knockma, will make it a most attractive destinations for walkers wishing to learn about Irish mythology. According to legend, Knockma is where Finnbheara, king of the Connacht fairies, holds court, and it is also reputed to be the burial place of Queen Maeve. Finnbheara is the legendary protector of horses and crops and had an annual battle with the fairies or Ulster where the prize for victory was good crops in the relevant province, while the crops of the vanquished failed.
‘Three cairns or burial mounds are to be found at the top of Knockma and the hill is also home to rare species of flowers more usually found in the Burren. From the summit of Knockma (also known as Castlehackett Hill), the view takes in the Hills of Clare to the South, Croagh Patrick to the North and Lough Corrib and the Hills of Connemara to the West.
‘In announcing the purchase of the site, the Minister made special reference to a group of prehistoric cairns of national significance on the site and also the fact that the land adjoins a nature reserve on the northern site which is already under the ownership of the Minister.
‘Apart from allowing the development of the local walkway infrastructure, the purchase of this portion of land will also allow the National Parks and Wildlife Service to put in place improved signage, especially in relation to the prehistoric cairns on the site, which will in turn greatly enhance the visitor experience at the site. ‘Ministerial sanction for the purchase of these six acres on the summit of Knockma is very welcome, but much work remains to be done, both by the independent valuator and in terms of negotiation with the landowner. However, this agreement in principle to purchase the land on behalf of the state is a step in the right direction and I will continue to work with all involved to ensure that this is brought to fruition.’