Reaching for the skies!

Observatory mooted for county  Paul Hickey  The County Manager, Mr. John Tiernan, has written to Roscommon County Enterprise Board on behalf of Roscommon County Council seeking funding for a feasibility study that would ascertain the viability of a multi-million euro observatory and planetarium at one of two historically significant Roscommon sites. Roscommon Castle and Ballintubber Castle are the two sites that are set to be considered for the flagship tourism development. The development of the observatory is envisaged in the new County Development Plan that is currently being drafted by Roscommon County Council. The project is the brainchild of Cllr. Tony Waldron (FF) who believes that an observatory and planetarium would attract tourists and visitors to the county. There are currently just three operating observatories in Ireland – at Armagh, Schull (Cork) and Dunsink (Dublin). An observatory is a location for observing terrestrial and celestial events. A planetarium is a theatre for presenting educational and entertaining shows about astronomy and the night sky, or for training in celestial navigation. Speaking to Roscommon People last Tuesday Cllr. Waldron emphasised the potential that the project has for local tourism and for education. Major tourist attraction ‘I am very anxious to organise the development of an observatory or planetarium in County Roscommon. This would be a major tourist attraction to have in our county. It would attract school and third level groups as well as general tourists,’ he said. Cllr. Waldron is arguing that the observatory should be built on the grounds of one of the two castles in order to maximise its own commercial utility as well as to complement either castle’s tourism attractiveness. ‘Locating it at Roscommon Castle or at Ballintubber Castle would link it with existing tourism infrastructure. This type of proximity is essential in today’s tourism market,’ said the Fianna Fáil Councillor. Ballintubber Castle was built in the 13th century and was home to the O’Conor clan. It is the earliest example of an Irish stone castle.  Roscommon Castle was built in 1268. It is understood that Roscommon County Council’s executive is emphatically supporting Cllr. Waldron’s proposal. Observatories and planetariums are very sensitive to light pollution. It is expected that Roscommon County Enterprise Board will respond to Mr. Tiernan in the coming weeks.