UNESCO sets out a formal process for State signatories to the World Heritage Convention for the purpose of nominating properties on their territory for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List. A particular criterion is for a site to be considered to be of outstanding universal value, defined by UNESCO as meaning of “cultural and or natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations of all humanity.”
The nomination process is initiated by the relevant State authorities drawing up a Tentative List of what they consider to be the most important heritage sites within their national boundaries. Following a public consultation process and consideration by an expert advisory group, a new Tentative List for Ireland was approved and submitted to UNESCO in March 2010 containing the following sites: the Burren; Céide Fields and North West Mayo Boglands; the Monastic City of Clonmacnoise and its Cultural Landscape; the Historic City of Dublin; early Medieval Monastic Sites (Clonmacnoise, Durrow, Glendalough, Inis Cealtra, Kells and Monasterboice); the Royal Sites of Ireland (Cashel, Dún Ailinne, Hill of Uisneach, Rathcroghan Complex, Tara Complex and potentially Navan Fort in Armagh); western Stone Forts (Aran Islands - 7 forts, Cahercommaun, The Burren, Caherconree, Staigue, Benagh and Dingle Peninsula.
The nomination of a property to the World Heritage List is a significant undertaking that requires the development of comprehensive nomination documentation, including a management plan for the property. Following submission of a nomination to UNESCO, it is evaluated by three advisory bodies: the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS); the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); and the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM). Once the site has been evaluated, the intergovernmental World Heritage Committee makes the final decision regarding the site’s inclusion on the World Heritage List.
I believe that there are significant economic and cultural benefits to be gained from having additional Irish sites added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list. I also share UNESCO’s view that the nomination process must be driven at a local level and enjoy strong support amongst the communities within the potential world heritage areas. Against that background, in order to further progress the nomination process for the sites on the current Tentative List, I have arranged a seminar in the Autumn for local authorities and relevant local/community groups from areas with sites on the Tentative List.
The objective of the seminar will be to guide and equip participants, in particular the local authorities, to produce the detailed material needed by my Department to support the preparation and submission of substantive applications to UNESCO for World Heritage inscription. The seminar will assemble relevant experts, local authorities and other groups and provide a forum where all elements of applying for and retaining World Heritage status will be explored and explained. My Department will provide all assistance possible to local authorities and communities wishing to progress a site from the Tentative List towards nomination. I expect that, following the Autumn seminar, there will be a substantive basis for advancing one or more sites from the current Tentative List with a view to inscription on the World Heritage list.