Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Ceisteanna (44, 48)

Oral answers (12 contributions) (Ceist ar Culture)

The question was submitted by Deputy Burke but permission has been given to Deputy Joe Carey to ask this question. I understand it may be grouped.

Peter Burke

Ceist:

44. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to outline the details of the public consultation process for Heritage Ireland 2030; and the opportunities for residents of counties Longford and Westmeath to contribute to the process, including details on public events. [1720/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Tom Neville

Ceist:

48. Deputy Tom Neville asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to outline the details of the public consultation process for Heritage Ireland 2030; and the opportunities for residents of County Limerick to contribute to the process, including details on public events. [1777/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

I am asking this question on behalf of Deputy Burke and I thank the Ceann Comhairle for his co-operation in this regard.

Will the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltactht provide details of the public consultation process for Heritage Ireland 2030 and the opportunities for residents of counties Longford and Westmeath to contribute to the process, including details on public events?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 44 and 48 together.

Our heritage is a priceless and irreplaceable national asset that belongs to all of us. 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 that I announced on 1 November 2018 is a critical phase in the development of Heritage Ireland 2030, the new national heritage plan for Ireland. The consultation is open until the end of February 2019. The public consultation is designed to afford plenty of opportunity for everyone to have their say.

There are four means whereby people can participate. The first is to go to the Heritage Ireland 2030 section on my Department's website and complete the online survey. People can send a written submission by post to Heritage Ireland 2030 at the Department. People can email heritageireland2030@chg.gov.ie. People can participate in local or regional events throughout the country. There will be a series of regional workshops in the coming weeks, the first of which will be in Dublin on 29 January. As more details and dates are confirmed for these regional workshops they will be published on my Department's website.

I anticipate that many people will be most interested in the events in their local area. I acknowledge the contribution of the county heritage officers in arranging these events. To find out about Heritage Ireland 2030 public events in their own county, individuals should contact the heritage officer in their local authority. A list of heritage officers is available on the Heritage Council website, www.heritagecouncil.ie. I am aware that a small number of local authorities do not have a heritage officer. My Department will work with these local authorities and the Heritage Council to ensure that all counties are catered for and have a public event for people to attend. People may also contact my Department directly or make a submission through any of the channels I have already mentioned.

Our vision for heritage is a simple one: that heritage will be valued and protected. Heritage Ireland 2030 is built around the vision that the way in which we identify and protect our heritage is the best it can be. I am very grateful to all the key stakeholders who engaged with us in shaping the public consultation strategy for Heritage Ireland 2030. I would encourage everyone to avail of this 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.

Longford and Westmeath are in Ireland's hidden heartlands and are home to our majestic Shannon, a shimmering lakescape, rolling pastoral landscapes, wild peatlands and villages and towns with built heritage that is lovingly preserved. Together and separately these counties provide a heritage centre of gravity for the entire country and island. Their contribution to this strategy is essential. Limerick includes the "Treaty City", one of contrasts where the contemporary embraces a past of heritage treasures, and a county that remains guardian of a rich medieval and monastic history. A strategy uninformed by what Limerick has to offer is irretrievably impoverished.

The public consultation on Westmeath will be discussed at the Westmeath heritage forum in Westmeath County Council on 26 January. Deputy Burke might be interested in that. There will also be a public drop-in event at Athlone library on 31 January where those concerned can hear about the plan and get advice on preparing a submission. If anyone would like further information, the contact person is Ms Melanie McQuade of Westmeath County Council.

I congratulate and commend the Minister and her Department on taking this initiative. It makes an awful lot of sense to revitalise and refresh our heritage plan. The initiative Heritage Ireland 2030 does just that.

It is important that we publicise these events and let individuals and groups know they can have an input into the process. I welcome the various ways by which individuals can have an input. The Minister outlined them. Has she any other plans to publicise the events? The heritage officers who work in the local authorities, in County Clare in particular, do a very fine job. Has the Minister any other ideas or ways to publicise the public consultation process?

I understand there is a heritage officer in County Clare. It would be good to liaise with that officer. Perhaps the officer would have ideas on how to promote the public consultation of the heritage plan. The role of a heritage officer is really important. An officer works with other sections in the local authority to develop policies and projects that highlight the importance of our national built heritage when planning for the future. The officers co-ordinate and implement county heritage plans and also help inform, develop and implement national and regional heritage policy at local level.

The Department is updating its website daily as details on more events come in. The Deputy talked about highlighting the heritage plan. In general, Members should contact the local authority heritage officer, who will have the most up-to-date information on events locally. A list of heritage officers is available on the Heritage Council's website.

I thank the Minister for her reply and for visiting Lough Gur in County Limerick recently to attend the launch of the book by Ms Rose Cleary, The Archaeology of Lough Gur. I thank Minister of State, Deputy Griffin, through the Minister's offices, for visiting St. Kieran's Heritage Association in regard to the celebration of the finding of the Ardagh chalice 150 years ago.

With regard to heritage consultation, I would like to take matters a step further in regard to county towns. We should use our heritage and culture to market those towns and enhance how they are perceived. We should encourage an influx to the towns and drive industry in them. My town, Rathkeale, has the Augustinian Abbey, Castle Matrix, Holy Trinity Church of Ireland, the Palatine Museum, St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church an a Victorian courthouse. Mr. Ernest Walton, the Irish physicist famous for splitting the atom, spent part of his childhood in Rathkeale. The tenor Christopher Lynch is from Rathkeale, as was Seán Ó Faoláin's mother. All such facts should be used as a marketing tool to create an influx to a town. If something could be done between the local authorities and the Department to drive such an initiative, through social media or above-the-line advertising, it would generate more industry. As we know, the arts and culture are now migrating to digital platforms. New occupations are being created, particularly in the visual arts and also in the sound arts.

It was a pleasure to visit Lough Gur and meet Ms Rose Cleary and launch her book on the archaeology of Lough Gur. I accept the Deputy's points on Rathkeale and the area of Limerick in question. It would be worthwhile having a conversation with the heritage officer there on bringing that part of the country to light and also working from a tourism perspective because it is certainly beautiful part of the world.

Some of the projects we funded in Limerick include the Georgian core project in Limerick city. This involved repairs to the wrought- and cast-iron railings. In regard to the Georgian terrace on Mallow Street, there was a pilot scheme for the restoration of the historic railings. Also included were the guardhouse at Castlegarde, Cappamore, County Limerick. That benefited from the built heritage investment scheme and the structures-at-risk fund over a number of years, including 2016 and 2017. Limerick is working on a regional workshop related to Heritage Ireland 2030. It would be a good idea to go to that.

Could the Minister outline and expand on the intention behind the three themes of the Heritage Ireland 2030 campaign?

Again I recognise the Minister's visit to Lough Gur. I thank the Government for the funding it is providing through the outdoor recreation scheme. Moneys have been coming through in this regard and they all feed into their heritage and culture side.

Lough Gur, which the Minister visited, for which we are very grateful, has 1,000 field monuments within 5 km. On the night the Minister visited, Dr. Philip O'Regan, dean of the Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, stated in his speech that the area is the home of Ireland's largest stone circle. It is a key driver of tourism in the region. Such a feature could be used as a key driver of tourism on a global scale. We have attractions that can do this. I ask that the Government continue to help in using such attractions to market Limerick and Ireland globally. Anybody who pops into County Limerick might also pop into County Clare, County Tipperary or County Kerry. It is a way of enhancing and fostering more development and employment in rural areas.

One of the primary purposes of the public consultation was to have people in a position to make submissions by the end of February. Certainly the points the Deputy raised on Limerick will be very valuable. I acknowledge the Deputy's point on attracting overseas tourists to Ireland, including the part of the world to which he referred.

For his information, Ms Conjella McGuire is Clare County Council's heritage officer.

Mr. Tom O'Neill is the heritage officer for County Limerick.

Deputy Carey referred to themes. There are three main themes in the context of the Heritage Ireland 2030 project. The first is that of national leadership to provide an overall national heritage policy direction reflecting commentary in recent years and the strong need for leadership by Government in the heritage area. The second is the need for organisations and communities to work better in partnership to manage, protect and conserve the heritage. The third relates to the importance of communities and supporting local people in caring for heritage in their areas. The plan also seeks to empower local authorities and communities in the increasingly important role that they play in protecting and managing heritage for the enjoyment and benefit of all.