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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Heritage Council cuts mean no Living History Club funding in 2011


Monday 13th December: Punitive cuts, announced in last Tuesday’s Budget, will decimate the heritage sector and close many small enterprises that are dependent on it. This will have detrimental affects on both our national heritage and the quality of our tourism offering, according to the Heritage Council.

The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government’s Heritage Unit, which has responsibility for protected structures, including world heritage sites, suffered a 77% budget cut. National Parks and Wildlife, whose remit includes the protection of our natural heritage and running all our national parks, suffered a 56% cut. The Heritage Council, whose role is to protect, preserve and enhance Ireland’s national heritage, suffered a 47% cut. This is on top of a 30% cut in 2010.
Speaking about the situation, Chief Executive of the Heritage Council, Michael Starrett commented, ‚We are extremely concerned about the disproportionate nature of the cuts to the Heritage sector. While the heritage sector recognises that it must share the burden of the cuts required to tackle the country’s economic crisis, the cuts announced last Tuesday are completely disproportionate in comparison to other Departmental cuts. As a result, the future of heritage initiatives nationwide which have created hundreds of jobs, empowered local communities and enhanced the value of heritage as a tourism resource, are severely threatened".

In 2009, over three million overseas visitors engaged in cultural/historical visits while in Ireland, and spent an estimated €1.9 billion while here. In particular, 76% of tourists identified landscape and nature as the primary reason for visiting Ireland, and heritage is what defines the uniqueness of a country. Funding will now no longer be available to protect and manage our iconic buildings, unique and threatened species, landscapes, cultural collections and rare artifacts, or indeed to support local communities in taking care of their everyday heritage‛.

The majority of counties in Ireland have a County Heritage Plan which is prepared by Local Heritage Fora on behalf of the local people and the Local Authority. Research conducted in September 2010 by economist Jim Power examined the economic value of these County Heritage Plans. The implementation of these plans between 2004 and 2008 at a cost of € 6.15m supported the creation of 1,012 full-time jobs in small businesses across the regions, with an estimated return of €30.1 million to the economy. Between 2004 and 2008, the €6.15m that the Heritage Council invested over 26 local authority areas led to an additional investment of around €10 million from other sources.

Looking at the economic impact of an event such as the Irish Walled Towns Day held in Youghal during National Heritage Week, KPMG analysts found that support
of €16,000 to the Irish Walled Towns Network for the day brought a return of €480,000 in to the local economy.

Our shared heritage is the country’s inheritance that we only get to borrow for a time, enjoy, and benefit enormously from but we have an obligation as a people to pass it on to future generations, Mr. Starrett said. These punitive cuts put at risk, not just jobs which are critically important, but also vulnerable aspects of the nation’s unique natural and cultural heritage which now may be lost for ever to the country.

At this point, the day to day implications of the cuts are hard to fully estimate. What is clear from the Heritage Council’s standing is that we will no longer be in a position to provide support for local community groups, non-governmental organisations, charities, individuals, small businesses, local authorities and others. This will make it extremely difficult for the survival of the wider heritage profession of conservators, thatchers, ecologists, archaeologists, conservation architects, museum curators and other specialist work such as researchers and data collectors.

We cannot talk about the importance of marketing our heritage and promoting tourism if we cut the funding to those who work tirelessly behind the scenes to care for our heritage. The reality is that these unique heritage skills may now be lost to the nation along with the heritage assets and memory that these represent. We will all be poorer economically, environmentally and socially as a result‛, added Mr. Starrett.

Media Queries:
Michelle Guinan, MKC Communications 01 7038604 / 086 3846630
Isabell Smyth, Heritage Council, 0879676889

Note to editor:
·In 2009 €114,000 was offered to 19 building conservation projects. Each grant required at least as much money again to be expended on the project (50% match funding). This represents a minimum two-times multiplier for the spend from the public purse. These grants resulted in the direct employment of at least 5 people per year.
·In 2010 a total of €600,000 was spent on conservation works to significant churches and cathedrals of all denominations. This single scheme created direct employment for 16 people.
·Conservation works to our historic walled town defences (such as in Kilkenny, Cashel, Drogheda, Dublin city, Wexford) ,will be scaled back with the loss of 25 contracting and supervisory jobs.
·A cessation in grants to historic buildings and thatched houses will see this iconic vernacular architecture put at risk and the loss of highly skilled thatchers.
·The Irish Strategic Archaeological Research Programme allocated €2 million to advanced collaborative research in 2008-10. External review considered this scheme to be ‘a spectacular success and a model for other countries to follow’. This created research posts for 25 young researchers making sense of the vast amounts of archaeological information generated during the recent boom. The survival of this scheme is now questionable.

The Heritage Council is the statutory body charged with identifying, protecting, preserving and enhancing Ireland’s national heritage. National heritage includes Monuments, Archaeological objects, Heritage objects, Architectural heritage, Flora, Fauna, Wildlife habitats, Landscapes, Seascapes, Wrecks, Geology, Heritage gardens and parks, and Inland waterways.

Established under the Heritage Act 1995, and operating under the aegis of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the Heritage Council provides advice to the Minister, and partners and networks with Local Authorities and a wide range of other organisations and individuals to promote Ireland’s heritage.

Isabell Smyth
Head of Communications & Education
The Heritage Council
Áras na hOidhreachta
Church Lane
T. + 353 (0) 56 777 0777
F + 353 (0) 56 777 0788