Government adds 4,900-acre parkland to Wicklow Mountains National Park
Ireland will boast one of Europe's largest national parks after the government bought a huge parcel of mountain land outside Dublin.
In a deal with the state's toxic assets agency, Nama - set up to deal with the property crash - almost 5,000 acres in an area known as the Featherbeds will come into public ownership.
The lands - above the Glenasmole Reservoir, which serves the capital - will be added to the Wicklow Mountains National Park, expanding the popular hiking and wildlife attraction to 22,000 hectares.
Nama had reportedly been asking 2.5 million euro for the land.
Announcing the purchase, Regional Economic Development Minister Michael Ring did not disclose the price paid but claimed Nama acted in the national interest.
"The Featherbeds are an important area for nature conservation and for public amenity," he said.
"Their acquisition by the state is a sign of our enduring commitment to preserve our natural heritage for future generations of citizens and visitors alike to enjoy."
The Green Party last week presented a petition to the government signed by more than 20,000 people calling for the lands to be retained in public ownership.
Eamon Ryan, Green Party leader, said the sale was great news.
"This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to protect a large area of the Dublin Mountains for the hundreds of thousands of walkers and nature lovers who value the uplands as one of the great things about our capital city, and we're glad that sense has prevailed," he said.
"Nothing will change immediately with respect to the site, in terms of land access etc, but we now have certainty, and a real opportunity to develop this area into one of the finest attractions in the country."
The National Parks and Wildlife Service will work with Dublin Mountains Partnership to manage the new 4,900-acre parkland.
The Wicklow Mountains National Park attracts more than a million visitors every year.