In 2010, Ireland submitted what is known as a tentative list to UNESCO, which is an inventory of properties we asked to be considered for nomination to the world heritage list. That list is as follows: the Burren; the Céide Fields and north west Mayo boglands; the monastic city of Clonmacnoise and its cultural landscape; the historic city of Dublin; early monastic sites, including Clonmacnoise, Durrow, Glendalough, Inis Cealtra - which lies in Lough Derg and is of particular interest to me - Kells and Monasterboice; the royal sites of Ireland, which comprise Cashel, Dún Ailinne, the Hill of Uisneach, the Tara complex, the Rathcroghan complex; and the western stone forts.
Ireland is spectacularly under-represented on the UNESCO world heritage site list. Italy has 50 sites on the list, while Germany has 39. Afghanistan, much of which has been war-torn since Ireland ratified the World Heritage Convention in 1979, has the same number of sites on the list as Ireland. We have had the unfortunate troubles in Northern Ireland, but they have not hindered the progress of this State to the same extent as Afghanistan has had its progress hindered.
There is little excuse for the lack of progress in getting Irish sites onto the tentative list. Much of that lack of progress occurred long before the current Minister's tenure, but I am not entirely convinced that there has been much of an improvement under this Government. I had a meeting off my own bat with UNESCO officials in Paris and they were surprised to see somebody from Ireland, given the lack of interaction from here. Very little progress has been made to advance the Irish tentative list since it was handed over in 2010.
I wrote to the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, and I am grateful for her reply. It told me what I already knew with regard to a couple of those sites. The Burren, in particular, largely due to the activities of Clare County Council, is advancing, which is very welcome. Likewise, it looks like the historic city of Dublin may also advance, or what was left of it after the wanton destruction that took place under previous city managers. Again, that was long before the Minister's tenure in politics. Wood Quay was destroyed but it almost seemed to be a point of pride for certain city managers.
Now, however, the relevant local authority does not seem to want to advance Clonmacnoise. As a result, the early monastic sites cannot advance either since Clonmacnoise is one of them. Similarly, the local authority in Kerry does not seem to want to advance one of the western stone forts there, which means that they will all fail to advance.
Local authorities should recognise the benefits of advancing such sites. Most locations get a 30% increase in tourism numbers in the year following their designation as UNESCO world heritage sites. That increase in tourism would be hugely advantageous for any such locations here, although it is up to individual local authorities to adopt their own approach.
Clare County Council is advancing the Burren and is also proposing to purchase Inis Cealtra. I welcome the council's initiative in that regard, which is being done with its own funds. The State could and should play a role in seeking to get world heritage status for sites. It would be an important recognition of our heritage that we should be proud of and seek to promote. Such a designation also has a monetary value through the increase in tourism. What does the Minister's Department propose to do in this regard? If it does not propose to do very much, could it devolve some responsibilities and funding to local authorities that want to advance such sites? I appreciate, however, that some local authorities are not as interested in UNESCO designation, for whatever reason.