Ireland gets magical with leprechaun museum

Mythical Ireland at the National Leprechaun Museum.

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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: With the European bailout and a whole lot of budget cuts in the works, you might think it's not the best time to open a new public attraction in Ireland. But some brave souls, who believe magic can still happen, even in a tough economy, have done just that. By opening a Leprechaun museum.

Reporter Anne-Marie McNerney visited the museum in Dublin and filed this report.


Tom O'Rahilly: Leprechaun is a magical being. They're a small-sized people. You'd know one when you see one.

Anne-Marie McNerney: Tom O'Rahilly is founder and director of the world's first leprechaun museum. It opened its doors last March just in time for St. Patrick's Day.

O'Rahilly: We've had 40,000 people through the doors now. We're attracting 75 percent foreign visitors, 25 percent domestic.

McNerney: It couldn't be tougher time to start a new business in Ireland.

O'Rahilly: That's true and there's a range of difficulties presented. But there's opportunities there as well. This business wasn't viable three years ago. This building was scheduled for demolition. It didn't get demolished because the market declined. We were able to rent it at a reasonable rate then.

Museum audio: This is Ireland: Island of Myths and Legends. Our story's rooted in reality and steeped in fantasy.

The Leprechaun Museum invites people into a leprechaun-sized world and allows them to journey to the end of the rainbow to see if that crock of gold exists. Daithi O'Hogain, a professor at the department of folklore in University College Dublin, says the museum opens up the realm of folklore and fairy people to the public.

Daithi O'Hogain: This museum consists of storytelling, maps, and various reconstructions of fairy dwellings and so on. The leprechaun is like the little doorman who invites you into this view of the other world.

Little girl: At first when you go through and it's really dark and really scary.

American woman: We loved it. It was beautiful. The interior is amazing. And then the story of the stories is brilliantly told.

Believe it or not, leprechauns are not just a Hollywood invention. The first documentary evidence goes back to the 8th century. So to the really important question: do leprechauns still exist? Tom O'Rahilly of the Leprechaun Museum in Dublin.

O'Rahilly: If they've been around for 1300 years and cynics haven't managed to rid of them now, well, they're obviously quite persistent. And there's a reason for them being here. They're a part of the culture.

In Dublin, I'm Anne-McNerney for Marketplace.

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