I thank Deputy O'Keeffe for raising this issue. My role as Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, in respect of the protection and management of our architectural heritage, is set out in the provisions of relevant legislation, as are the role of local authorities and the responsibilities of owners as regards heritage assets.
The Irish Walled Towns Network was established by the Heritage Council in 2005. The network supports Irish walled towns through strategic input and funding of conservation, training and promotional programmes. It focuses on uniting and co-ordinating the strategic efforts of local authorities and communities involved in the management, conservation and enhancement of historic walled towns in Ireland, both North and South.
There are currently 29 member towns and villages throughout Ireland. The Deputy mentioned Buttevant Heritage Group in County Cork, which is a member of the network. I know the group held a conference in October 2017 to mark 700 years as a walled town.
The Heritage Council, which is funded by my Department, is independent in the performance of its functions. The allocation of its resources across the range of research, education and conservation programmes it supports annually is a matter for the Heritage Council, having regard to the principles of proper public financial management and competing priorities for limited resources. The Heritage Council is considering a suite of further supports and will continue to offer the network support in the context of this year's allocation. A final decision on funding has not been made but I am confident about it.
The Deputy is probably aware that last week, it was announced that there would be a ring-fenced allocation of €1 million in funding specifically for a historic towns initiative. It is open for applications and will complement any capital component of the Heritage Council's walled towns initiative.