This week it is not a really “odd” topic, but some bad news. If you follow the daily Dublin Event Guide posts on Facebook, you already found out that the Free Wednesday, the one day a month when in the past all state owned and OPW (Office of Public Works)-managed heritage sites were free, did get hollowed out in a bad way for us in Dublin.
Last year the hugely popular Kilmainham Gaol was taken off the list: No more free visits to the Gaol. Because of the very much increased interest due to the 1916/2016 festivities and after a very expensive renovation I could see where they were coming from with that decision. But now Dublin Castle was ALSO taken off the list of free sites on the first Wednesday of the month and I can see that just being the start!!
My prediction is that other sites outside of Dublin will follow in the next few months.
The Free Wednesday (originally it was just called “First Wednesday”) was introduced by Brian Hayes, the junior minister in charge of the OPW, in 2011 to get more people to visit heritage sites. It had exactly that effect! So it worked! If you live in a place, most of us visit the sites less than if we go on holidays somewhere else, so it was mainly for Irish people to learn more about the country and cities around us. Sure, the visitors benefit from it as well, but I think that was an accepted consequence, not the main purpose of the introduction of the First/Free Wednesday.
Is it a coincidence that just a few days after a new junior minister takes over responsibility for the OPW the rules for the First Wednesday get changed? Kevin Moran (who oddly calls himself “Boxer” because he punched and knocked down another boy on a football field when he was 12) took over at the end of June and immediately the rules changed. Do I think that he CAUSED that change? No, probably not! Maybe the OPW management disliked the (politically motivated) First Wednesday for a long time and took the opportunity to railroad the new an inexperienced guy as soon as he arrived.
I think it is a wrong decision!
Just a few days before that not-at-all publicised decision to take Dublin Castle off the list (I only found out because I smelled a rat and rang Dublin Castle.) another decision was publicised WIDELY and without holding back: Children until the age of 12 will get free admission to OPW sites from now on. Before the age limit was 6 years of age. This is a good decision, but I’d say it costs MUCH less than the Free Wednesday and it consequently saves people who are interested in going to heritage sites much less as well.