Our heritage is a priceless and irreplaceable national asset which belongs to all of us. The natural and built heritage around us enriches our lives, inspires our achievements and gives life to our communities. It underpins our culture, our economy and our society. We want everyone to be able to enjoy this heritage, to have a sense of pride in it, and to keep it safe for the future.
The four-month public consultation process, which I announced on 1 November and which is open until the end of February 2019, is a critical phase of the development of the new national heritage plan for Ireland, Heritage Ireland 2030. This consultation offers us a unique opportunity to rethink how we care for our habitats, landscapes, wildlife, historic buildings and monuments so they can be celebrated and enjoyed long into the future.
The Heritage Council is a key partner of the Department in the consultation process and the heritage officers, as the Deputy correctly mentioned, in every county will have a significant role to play in engaging with communities and heritage partners at a local and county level to ensure that everyone in our communities across the country who wishes to do so has the opportunity to contribute and help shape the plan. My Department is in contact with the Heritage Council about this engagement and details will be announced shortly. It will more than likely involve a series of workshops and town-hall-type meetings, all feeding into the final document. The Heritage Officers' Network is in a unique position to bring their particular expertise into the consultation process and I look forward very much to their input as key partners. As heritage officers, they are closer to communities and have an instinctive feel for what those communities want in a national plan and for what will deliver real and tangible heritage returns.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
In developing the public consultation document guiding this public consultation, my Department met the Heritage Council and other key stakeholders. Written submissions were also sought and received from various other stakeholders, including the heritage officers. This engagement was critical to developing the broad themes of Heritage Ireland 2030.
Our vision for heritage is simple - that heritage is valued and protected. Heritage Ireland 2030 is built around that vision: that the way in which we identify and protect our heritage is the best it can be. Heritage Ireland 2030 is built around three emerging themes: national leadership, stronger heritage partnerships and communities and heritage. It is intended to draw up an action plan under each theme with full, open and regular review of objectives over the lifetime of the plan to 2030. We now look forward to the public and all other stakeholders expressing their views on these central themes, draft objectives and actions so we can all deliver on our central vision for heritage so it will be valued and protected.
I am grateful to all those key stakeholders, including the heritage officers around the country, who have engaged with us in shaping the consultation strategy for Heritage Ireland 2030.