Banners to be put up outside GPO in bid to boost visitor numbers

Company secures permission for efforts to advertise Witness History Exhibition

An Post has been given planning permission to hang two large banners outside the GPO in a bid to arrest a decline in visitor numbers to its flagship 1916 exhibition.

Dublin City Council has granted An Post permission to hang the banners from the portico outside the building advertising the GPO Witness History Exhibition.

The exhibition is the flagship programme for the Government's 1916 centenary commemorations and cost €10 million. It was opened by former taoiseach Enda Kenny in March 2016 in the company of his predecessor Liam Cosgrave. Mr Cosgrave's father WT opened the rebuilt GPO in 1929 after it had been destroyed by shelling during the Easter Rising when it was the rebel headquarters.

The GPO Witness History exhibition is run by Shannon Heritage on behalf of An Post. It includes a 15-minute animated film about the Rising, memorabilia, message boards and a cafe.

In its submission to Dublin City Council, An Post pointed out that visitor numbers had fallen steeply since a high in 2016 of 160,833 visitors. In 2017, there were 100,343 visitors and in 2018 the numbers fell to 87,899.

The company warned: “Without heavy expenditure on marketing, the decline in visitor numbers to the exhibition would likely have been greater. In any case, these declining numbers will not sustain the exhibition which must at least pay its operating costs.”

An Post went on to state that the Witness History exhibition has little presence on the street and there is an absence of good signage which it describes as a “substantial handicap”.

It sought planning permission for two lightweight banners which will measure 6.5m high and 2.6m wide. They will be suspended 4.75m off the ground.

Dublin City Council decided to grant planning permission despite objections by An Taisce and Dublin Civic Trust who felt that the banners would have an undesirable visual and design impact on the GPO portico.

The council granted planning permission for the banners for two years rather than the three requested by An Post.

After two years, An Post will have to take the banners down or apply for further permission.

It is unclear whether any of the objecting parties will appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanála.

A spokesman for An Post said: “An Post are happy to let the planning process take its course.”

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times