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12 January 2018
Unique winter solstice experience in Ireland

There is a World Heritage Site, at Newgrange, in the Boyne Valley in the East of the Republic of Ireland which is the location of a world famous Stone Age passage tomb. It is over 5,000 years old a comprises a mound which is 83 metres in diameter and 13.5 metres high, enclosing three internal compartments.
     The uniqueness of this site is embodied in the fact that it is aligned with the sun for the Winter Solstice. This phenomenon was first realised by Professor Michael O'Kelly during the excavation and restoration of the tomb in the period between 1962 and 1975.
     Many countries have developed Lotteries to raise money for various projects and good causes but in Ireland, the Office for Public Works, in an effort to boost local tourism, has devised a unique Winter Solstice Lottery for this site, with the winners being able to witness the rising of the Winter Solstice sun first hand. The Lottery had proved to be extremely popular, with over 33,000 applicants worldwide. Unfortunately on the day of the Solstice the sky was overcast and the sun not visible, otherwise they would have witnessed the sun penetrating a special roof aperture and illuminating the interior.
     The Irish Minister of State for the Office of Public Works is quoted as saying " I am delighted to be here alongside Minister Madigan [Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht] to celebrate the 50th Anniversary since Professor M.J. O'Kelly rediscovered the sunrise illumination on the chamber at Newgrange o n the Winter Solstice, and to witness the live streaming of this phenomenon in association with Failte Ireland [TV]". He went on to add "That some of the winners have come this week from as far afield as Switzerland and the USA shows the continuing fascination the Solstice has the world over".

Edited from Meath Chronicle (22 December 2017)

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