Battle of Boyne commemoration brings Paisley to the Republic

THE Battle of the Boyne site will today witness another milestone in Irish history as Ian Paisley makes his inaugural visit to the Republic as the North’s First Minister.

He and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will commemorate the momentous clash which saw Protestant King William of Orange defeat Catholic King James.

Mr Ahern drew criticism from some opponents who accused him of trying to use the peace process for party gain in the General Election due to the symbolic nature of the Boyne event, coupled with the start of power sharing and next week’s address to the British parliament falling during the campaign.

The Boyne, the most celebrated historic battlefield in loyalist folklore, is expected to become one of the biggest tourist draws in Ireland. Ministers believe the €15 million centre will rival republican and nationalist landmarks for tourists.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said he expects the new centre, due to open next spring, to be catapulted into Ireland’s top 10 tourism attractions.

“Already, although the location is not open to visitors, about 25,000 people visited the site between May and September,” he said.

“When the visitor centre and parkland are opened to the public on an all-year basis, officials estimate there will be 100,000 visitors.”

Mr Paisley is to present a 300-year-old musket rifle used in the 1690 battle to the centre in Co Meath during the latest cross-border milestone.

The battle is still celebrated every year, contentiously in some areas, by many Protestants in the Orange Order during the marching season in the North.

The new centre at the former Oldbridge Estate will house exhibitions using maps, models and graphics to depict the historic clash.

Both kings commanded their armies in person in what was the largest number of troops ever deployed on an Irish battlefield — William had 36,000 men while his father-in-law James had 25,000.

Around 1,500 soldiers were killed, sparked by competing claims to the British throne, French dominance in Europe and religious power in Ireland.

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