Burren and Inis Cealtra heritage list announcement delayed until June

Clare Independent T.D. Michael McNamara says a decision regarding the inclusion of the Cultural Landscape of the Burren Uplands and Holy Island (Inis Cealtra) on a new Tentative List of potential World Heritage Properties for Ireland has been pushed back until June.

An announcement was due to be made this month but responding to Deputy McNamara’s Parliamentary Question on the matter, Minister for Housing; Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien said he has requested an Expert Advisory Group (EAG) to undertake further technical assessment of the six applications to the list.

The applications include the two Clare sites, the Passage Tomb Landscape of County Sligo, the Transatlantic Cable Ensemble (Valentia & Newfoundland), Glendalough Valley (Wicklow) and the Royal Sites of Ireland (Dún Ailinne, Hill of Uisneach, Cashel, Rathcroghan Complex, Tara Complex, and Navan Fort).

“The Department has informed me that only the Sligo application has sufficiently demonstrated Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), which is key in UNESCO’s World Heritage requirements in determining what sites should be included on the Tentative List,” explained Deputy McNamara.

He continued, “The EAG has determined that there is more work to be done by the other applicants to see if they could sufficiently demonstrate OUV. In addition, the EAG also considered that the full implications of being a World Heritage Property in terms of long-term management, protection and conservation, alongside capacity building and the resources needed to progress any future World Heritage nomination dossier required further consideration by all applicants.”

The Clare TD said the potential benefits of either or both Clare sites receiving World heritage Site designation by UNESCO would have significant positive impact on tourism in the county, particularly considering the challenging environment in which the sector was now operating.

“World Heritage Properties are sites of cultural and/or natural heritage designated by UNESCO to be of outstanding universal value to humanity,” he said.

“Ireland has currently two properties on the UNESCO World Heritage List – Brú na Bóinne and Sceilg Mhichíl – both of which were inscribed in the 1990s. Studies show that most locations get a 30% increase in tourism numbers in the year following their designation as UNESCO world heritage sites, and I am sure this growth could be sustainably managed at Clare’s two sites. I look forward to outcome of the Department’s review in June,” added Deputy McNamara.

In a written response to Deputy McNamara, Minister O’Brien stated, “Given the issues raised by the EAG, and having engaged further with all the applicants over recent weeks, my Department has reconvened the EAG to offer further detailed technical advice and support to all applicants, so they may attempt to address issues raised in terms of the EAG recommendations, and to offer further specific advice and guidance in terms of the future management of a World Heritage Property.”

He continued, “I anticipate that this current support process will be concluded around June 2022, and I would intend to make an announcement then on the composition of a new Tentative List. It is important to reiterate that only those sites whose applications – by the conclusion of this new support phase of engagement – clearly demonstrate OUV will be included on the new Tentative List. If by the conclusion of this current process, any applications require yet further work to determine eligibility in terms of OUV we will continue to offer our support.”

“It should be stressed that if any application does not demonstrate OUV for UNESCO World Heritage process purposes, this does not in any way lessen the significance of the site in terms of its heritage and meaning to those communities who care passionately about them; in such a case we would continue to offer our support in whatever way we can to ensure that this ambition for our wonderful heritage is recognised,” concluded Minister O’Brien.