News and Views

Joint project seeks to unlock the cultural potential of Irish and Welsh ports

14 Jun 2019
The project will help turn five Welsh and Irish Sea ports into vibrant tourist destinations in their own right.

A major joint Irish and Welsh project will seek to unlock the cultural potential of ports of Dublin and Rosslare, and the Welsh ports of Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke Dock.

The four year project – ‘Ports, Pasts and Present: Cultural Crossings between Ireland and Wales’ - is a joint initiative with University College Cork (UCC) and Wexford County Council in Ireland, and in Wales with Aberystwyth University and the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. The project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Cooperation programme and is led by UCC. 

The Welsh Minister for International Relations, Eluned Morgan commented

“I’m really pleased to announce this incredibly exciting new project, which will help turn five Welsh and Irish Sea ports into vibrant tourist destinations in their own right. Our ports make a critical contribution to our economy - providing jobs and added value to local communities. UK and Welsh business depends on ports in order to move their goods efficiently and quickly between Wales and Ireland. This new project will help enhance our ports even further, by bringing their unique cultural heritage to life, allowing people to understand the rich and economic and cultural roles they’ve played in our past, and the vital roles they play today and in the future.”

The €2.6 million project will work with tourism stakeholders and local communities to make tourists better aware of the deep history of these ports. Creative works in the visual arts, literature and film will be commissioned to bring these histories to life, while digital technology will be deployed to engage new audiences in the deep heritage of these ports. Work with local authorities and tourism operators will seek to develop new tourism activities, while a joint Irish and Welsh tourism network will be established to assist in developing economic growth in these ports.

“There has been a movement of people between Ireland and Wales for thousands of years for reasons of trade, leisure, religious, political and family and also in times of war. A rich vein of culture exists in Irish and Welsh ports, which this study will seek to bring to life, so that our ports become a destination in themselves,” commented Professor Claire Connolly, University College Cork.

“Our ports can too often be transient, bypassed as we rush from and to another destination, but there are extraordinary histories and stories attached to ports. This project seeks to awaken audiences to this heritage and in so doing aims to work with communities to generate new tourism markets for Irish and Welsh ports," said Professor Connolly. "Cultural tourism is one of the fastest growing areas of global tourism and this project seeks to enhance understanding of the roles that Irish and Welsh ports played in our culture and heritage.”

 “This exciting new project aims to unlock the tourism potential of Welsh and Irish Sea ports, not only for ferry passengers but also cruise ship passengers, which is one of the fastest growing tourism sectors in Wales. The project will uncover hidden histories and heritage of the seaports and past journeys through them, working with local residents, businesses and stakeholders to boost the tourism industry in these important coastal communities,” stated Professor Peter Merriman, project lead in Aberystwyth University.  

“We are delighted to be part of this collaboration with our Irish colleagues,” said Dr Mary-Ann Constantine of the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. “There is so much potential here for working with the port communities to help bring stories to life.”

George Colfer, Coastal Engineer at Wexford County Council stated, “Rosslare port has provided both a physical and cultural link between Wexford and Wales over the years. Wexford County Council recognises the importance of this link to the south-east region; we look forward to working with our project partners and the local community to build on this strong connection and to develop economic activity in the area.

The project will run from 2019 to 2024 and members of the public can obtain additional information by emailing

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF