Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 5 July 2017
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
Preserving Ireland's Natural Heritage: Discussion
I thank the witnesses for attending today. Tá brón orm. Tá píosa beag that I have at the moment, but hopefully that will change over the summer, Mr. Ó Cuinneagáin. The presentations have been very insightful, and I thank the witnesses for taking the time to be with us today. I know much preparation work goes into being here and I have had the pleasure of meeting with both Mr. Michael Starrett and Mr. Ian Lumley here previously, so I am delighted to have them here today.
On Mr. Liam Ó Cuinneagáin's proposition to use the Irish language more as a tourism attraction, he talked about Gleann Cholm Cille and how the landscape has so much history itself. Unfortunately, not every nook and cranny of Ireland has that benefit of a cultural attachment with regard to big names, historical events or historical buildings attached to that, but I like his idea or premise, perhaps, of thinking differently about the Irish language and how it could be used. I would say that perhaps we are not taught the love of the language firstly, and our educational experience has not been about the love of the language, but it was more something that we had to do. Does Mr. Ó Cuinneagáin see opportunities in schools for how we could change that mindset and thought-frame? I wonder about other parts of the country where there is not natural tourist attraction in the area such as in Gleann Cholm Cille, and how the Irish language could be used. I will be very parochial about it and use the Cavan-Monaghan region as an example. How could we initiate Gaeltacht in counties such as that that maybe do not have a natural grá for it, or maybe have that impetus such as there is in Gleann Cholm Cille to promote the language?
On Mr. Michael Starrett's presentation, I was deeply involved with the heritage officer. It is a great credit to Ms Anne-Marie Ward and Ms Shirley Clerkin in Monaghan County Council, who do fantastic, real, tangible work on the ground that gets our local communities involved in the Golden Mile, in the discovery of the castle in Clones, and Heritage Week is a fantastic impetus for all that. It is similar to getting people involved with the arts, but with heritage, for people who do not necessarily have an inroad to it. Heritage Week and the Golden Mile provide an opportunity for those from all walks of life to get involved and to have an appreciation of heritage and culture.
I think Mr. Starrett said that there are 28 heritage offices around the country. From our point of view, what more could we do to provide resources that might be needed to have a greater impact? Mr. Starrett told us a little about how important the buy-in is from the local authority. I know that there are targets to meet laid out the five-year heritage plan. The heritage forum is very important too for getting people involved. If the ordinary Joe Soap in our communities is not involved, there is an issue. Creating a link with local authorities and with communities has been a real success of our heritage officers. Could Mr. Starrett expand on that a little bit more for us? I think the Heritage Council has done a very hands-on, bottom-up approach by having that engagement with the local authority. Is there any involvement with our education and training boards, ETBs, across the country in the Heritage Council, or could there be?
Is that something we could work on for the witnesses?
Mr. Starrett spoke about Brexit, which is the greatest challenge faced by all of us in decades. What are the challenges for the Heritage Council, and this question is to Mr. Lumley also in terms of An Taisce not just for the organisations, but in terms of the work they do? Does Mr. Ó Cuinneagáin see that having an impact on his organisation? What are the opportunities it might present, and what can we do to enhance those?