Published Date: 17 October 2008
By Staff reporter

An appeal has been made to open up a network of secret passages under Derry’s historic walls.

The fabled tunnels are said to have been used by Irish Chieftain, Owen Roe O’Neill to negotiate with the Parliamentarians during the `forgotten’ siege of Derry in 1649.

Now, centuries after the passages were sealed, there have been calls to open them up as a major tourism draw to the city.

Former Navy Commander Peter Campbell, of The Honourable The Irish Society – who can trace his family history to the architect of Derry’s walls in the 1620s (Peter Benson) – has appealed for the passages to be promoted as part of the city’s rich heritage.

“What I do think is we ought to open them up because everyone loves a secret passage. I think it would be terrific have it opened up – it would have great tourist potential.”

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency’s Built Heritage department, which has guardianship of the walls, confirmed that there were many reports of “siege tunnels”.

However, she explained that many are in “private ownership and in variable condition”, making it “difficult” to open them to the public.

However, the NIEA is currently looking at making one tunnel more publicly accessible – the Sally-port which runs through the walls in the area of St. Columb’s Cathedral.

“NIEA and Derry City Council have recently been giving consideration as to how this important part of the history of the walls can be made more accessible for the public and would hope to address this issue in the near future.”

The full article contains 271 words and appears in Journal Friday DER Edition newspaper.

I reckon it would be quite interesting for visitors to the City to see these tunnels, or at least as much as physically possible, in the same way the underground carverns and tunnels are open to the public in Edinburgh. As far as ownership is concerned that hasn’t stopped government agencies taking over or buying the land or property and there is legislation in place to faciltate that.

It really comes down to money. I don’t think that money, or lack of it, should prevent at least some sizeable amounts of these important historical passageways from being available as a tourist attraction. I also think that the money could be recuperated over time and may, with good management, become a good investment.

I suspect the NIEA just can’t be arsed.