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Council urged to take advantage of tourism site's weekly TV fame

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Spectacular: an aerial view of the Hill of the O’Neill

Spectacular: an aerial view of the Hill of the O’Neill

Spectacular: an aerial view of the Hill of the O’Neill

A council has been urged to capitalise on the unexpected fame which the weekly Stormont press briefing is bringing to one of its tourist sites.

Since January, Executive news conferences have shifted from Belfast to Dungannon.

The venue is the Hill of the O'Neill, which overlooks Market Square.

Viewers tuning in to the press briefings, usually held on Thursday afternoons by Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, have been greeted with sweeping views from high above the Co Tyrone town, including the towering spire of St Patrick's Church.

Now a Dungannon councillor is urging Mid-Ulster District Council to take full advantage of the Executive's use of the hill, and nearby Ranfurly House.

Speaking during a meeting of the council's development committee, Ulster Unionist councillor Walter Cuddy said the decision to hold press briefings at the site is a great opportunity to highlight Dungannon as a place for people to visit.

"I look at the way the Hill of the O'Neill and Ranfurly House is being used at present.

"We have the First and Deputy First Minister up on the Castle Hill almost every week. All of us would know where they are but very few people outside of Mid-Ulster would.

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Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill holding a Covid media brefiing

Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill holding a Covid media brefiing

Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill holding a Covid media brefiing

"This is a real opportunity to try and show one of our main sites in Mid-Ulster and I am just appealing to our senior management to see if they could try and get some Mid-Ulster District Council signs in there somewhere. People will be wondering where this is and I think we are missing a trick here."

The council's chief executive, Adrian McCreesh, said officials have done what they can to advertise the location of the press conferences. "We have tried to maximise the opportunity and you will notice, based on the wind, they move about a bit but we can try again," he said.

The council's head of culture and arts, Tony McCance, explained that ministers also try to draw attention to the location.

"Every time they have used it they do make reference to the fact they are in Dungannon," he said. "People will know that is where they are, they might not know the actual location of it but they certainly know they are at the Hill of the O'Neill or they are at Dungannon when they make their announcements."

The Belfast Telegraph reported last month that the Executive decided to move press conferences from Belfast temporarily so ministers can work from home where possible in line with the Covid guidelines.

Generally the briefings are fronted by Mrs Foster, who lives in Co Fermanagh, and Mrs O'Neill, who is from Clonoe, and Dungannon is seen as a suitable meeting point.

The last three briefings have been conducted by Mrs Foster and Sinn Fein's Finance Minister Conor Murphy.

The Hill of The O'Neill was once the seat of power of the O'Neill family, one of the most powerful dynasties in Gaelic Ulster. The site has a varied history, also serving as the residence of the Plantation of Ulster Commissioner Sir Arthur Chichester. More recently, a British Army base was located here.

Over the last decade the site has been redeveloped to become a publicly accessible park, while two towers at the 18th century Knox Hannyngton House have been restored.

Belfast Telegraph


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