I understand that the Heritage Town Programme, referenced by the Deputy, was an initiative promoted by Fáilte Ireland in the 1990s. As Fáilte Ireland is under the aegis of my colleague the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Sport, he may be in a position to advise on any possible successor to that programme.
The Deputy may be interested in the Historic Towns Initiative (HTI) which is a joint undertaking between my Department and the Heritage Council. Historic towns include those of medieval and pre-medieval foundation, plantation towns, planned estate towns and those established around local industries. Each local authority is invited to apply in respect of one historic town with an indicative minimum population of 1,500 inhabitants. Priority is given to projects that are ‘plan-led’ and likely to make a meaningful contribution to the heritage-led regeneration of the town. On 27 February this year, along with the Heritage Council, I announced funding of €1 million, to be shared by six towns under the 2019 Initiative.
These towns are
- Kilrush, County Clare
- Letterkenny, County Donegal
- Ballina, County Mayo
- Navan, County Meath
- Boyle, County Roscommon
- Nenagh, County Tipperary
I intend to retain this funding in 2020. While there are no specific plans at present to revise the scheme my Department is currently engaged in drafting Heritage Ireland 2030, the Government’s commitment to a revitalised and refreshed National Heritage Plan. Any revision or extension of this particular initiative will be informed by this process.
My colleague, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, also has programmes to assist rural development. His Department's Town and Village Renewal Scheme is a key part of the Government's Action Plan for Rural Development and is part of a package of national and local support measures to rejuvenate rural towns and villages throughout Ireland. Applications can be made under this scheme for funding for the enhancement of heritage and/or other community assets.
In relation to the second part of the question, County Heritage Officers are employed by local authorities in partnership with the Heritage Council under the auspices of the Heritage Officer Programme, which was initiated in 1999. It is a matter for each local authority to decide whether to employ a Heritage Officer.