I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. In 2010 a tentative list of sites for designation to UNESCO world heritage status was put forward by this State. Unfortunately, nothing very much happened after that with regard to that tentative list. During my time as a Deputy in the Thirty-first Dáil, the Dáil before last, I took the opportunity to visit UNESCO to hear what was happening with the list and the body was surprised to hear from somebody from Ireland, such was the lack of communication or follow-up from here. I am glad that Ireland is now putting forward a new tentative list and I very much hope there will be a degree of energy involved in that that was sorely absent over the past decade or so.
The 2010 list contained a grouping of early monastic sites, namely, Clonmacnoise, Glendalough, Inis Cealtra, Durrow, Kells and Monasterboice. Fortunately, any UNESCO proposal or designation for a world heritage list has to be accompanied by local buy-in and support and that is something to which UNESCO very much looks. Unfortunately, in the case of the early monastic site grouping, Offaly County Council for one reason or another was not very interested in having Clonmacnoise designated. Of the six sites that I mentioned, most people would agree that Clonmacnoise from an archaeological perspective, or even perhaps an architectural one, is the most interesting. Due to that site not being progressed and the lack of appetite from Offaly to do so, the entire group did not progress.
Similarly, there was a western stone forts designation which included Dún Aonghusa, which would probably be the most well-known of them, Cahercommaun, in Killinaboy, north Clare, and three other forts, including two in County Kerry. As Kerry County Council, for one reason or another, was not very interested in advancing its designation, that grouping fell. There were other single designations such as the Burren and Georgian Dublin. It is hardly surprising that Georgian Dublin did not proceed given Dublin City Council’s propensity to destroy its Georgian culture at most available opportunities and Senator McDowell has recently commented on that. While everybody likes to see contemporary architecture, when there is existing architecture of world merit it should be preserved. I am not suggesting that one builds a faux replica of it in any way, as once it is gone it is gone. There was for a very long time, and perhaps even now, a lack of awareness on the part of Dublin City Council of the importance of preserving what is there.
Returning to the main topic, a new list is being developed. One of the UNESCO criteria is: “to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance". In that context, Kerry County Council is moving forward with the Valentia Transatlantic Cable Station as a proposal because it was a tangible moment in time when global telecommunications was born and I wish it luck with that.
There are sites in County Clare in particular, Inis Cealtra and Inis Cathaigh, and these sites are linked with the birth or nascence of a European civilisation, namely, that period in time, the early Middle Ages and the Carolingian court, when the idea of Europe was born. Whether Europe had a Christian tradition or not was an issue of controversy when the constitution for Europe was being framed.
Whether one agrees with that or not, it is indisputable that the idea of Europe was born in the early Middle Ages through the work of a network of monks and they had their origins in monasteries, including Inis Cealtra and Inis Cathaigh.