Ireland’s current World Heritage Tentative List has come about from a very comprehensive process undertaken by a panel of Irish and international heritage experts specifically appointed for that purpose. The process included full public consultation and an in-depth review of all proposed candidate sites.
The Tentative List produced by the expert group contains a list of seven potential nominations, including Early Medieval Monastic Sites of which Kells forms part, along with Clonmacnoise, Durrow, Glendalough, Inis Cealtra and Monasterboice. The expert group considered that these six sites were exemplars of the early Church’s rich cultural and historical past which played a crucial role in Europe’s educational and artistic development.
In the meantime, my Department has engaged with local authorities and local groups from the areas with proposals on the Tentative List to gauge the extent of the support available to advance the proposals and to clarify the work and resources required for that purpose. The fundamental requirement is that each site must be capable of demonstrating Outstanding Universal Value to UNESCO.
As Kells is included in a serial nomination, and is part of a representative sample of Irish monuments, all the component parts must enjoy local support to ensure that the overall proposal can proceed to formal nomination stage. My Department is happy to continue to engage with representatives of the areas in the Early Medieval Monastic Sites nomination if the local communities and especially the local authorities, who must generally take the lead, consider that it would be of assistance.
I am committed to supporting the current proposals in every way that I can. The process is undoubtedly both complex and lengthy and the work at every stage must be supported and developed from the local level up with stakeholder buy-in and commitment at every stage. While this adds to the timescale, it avoids a top down approach lacking the engagement necessary with local communities to secure full support for the proposals and for the protection and preservation of the sites into the future.