Laois’ bog body could end up as the star attraction in its native county, but there is no cash to build a museum that could attract many visitors here.
The National Museum confirmed to the Leinster Express that the body discovered in Cashel Bog near Portlaoise last month could be handed back after tests are complete, if a museum was built.
Along with countless items such as Iron Age axes and bog butter, found by generations of Laois people, it is being stored in the National Museum in Dublin. Keeper of Antiquities, Ned Kelly is overseeing tests on the 2,000 year old body. He said it would be up to Laois County Council to apply to have all local artifacts returned.
“The National Museum has been proactive in setting up a process to enable antiquities be returned. There are eleven designated museums in Ireland, and most of the important material on display is from the National Museum. We’ve done our bit. If the people want it they can go talk to the county manager,” said Mr Kelly.
There are no designated museums in several counties bordering Laois including Offaly, Kildare and Carlow, leading to the possibility of a Midlands Museum in Portlaoise. County hall already earmarked a site in the town centre.
Laois County Manager Peter Carey welcomed the idea, but said funding was a major problem.
“I would certainly support the concept of a Midlands Museum of Antiquities located in Portlaoise. Indeed we did a certain amount of work on a proposal to redevelop the old fort in Portlaoise to include a library and museum facilities.
“However, it is very unlikely that the capital funding and grant aid would be available for any such project. The Council will continue to examine all options in this regard, as I agree it would be a fantastic project,” said Mr Carey.
Teddy Fennelly of the Laois Heritage Society believe the project has potential.
“Portlaoise lacks an identity, this would help to establish that. We are aware money is scarce but it is certainly a good move to put it in their plans, for when money becomes available, which it will. I think it is possible. Apart from displaying Laois’ great historical heritage, it would be a fantastic attraction to the town.
“It could be not just a “dead” museum, but a living interactive one, showing our heritage and famous citizens, as well as the 1,000s of bog artifacts. With a library and archive centre, it would be a centre of research,” he suggested.
The bog body is most likely a male from the Iron Age, and of royal blood, sacrificed and dumped in a bog pool. It is about to undergo a plethora of tests, after which it will be preserved by freeze drying, ready for permanent display.