Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
54. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the degree to which she can maximise the use of national heritage sites for educational and tourism purposes while ensuring the protection of sites involved and their integrity in line with national and international trends; if this will include castles or heritage houses currently endangered; if European heritage grant schemes can be availed of in this context; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45450/19]
I thank the Deputy for his ongoing interest in my Department's efforts to conserve, present and promote the unique range of cultural and heritage assets, both natural and built, that Ireland is fortunate enough to possess and that do so much to provide enjoyment and amenities for our people, to sustain and create identities for our communities and to generate tourism interest in our country throughout the world.
My replies to the Deputy's previous Question No. 65 on 16 January 2019, Questions Nos. 216, 217 and 220 on 10 April 2019 and Question No. 31 on 19 September 2019 provide a good insight into the work being done by my Department in this area and especially in relation to National Monuments.
My reply to Question No. 33 on 19 September 2019 highlighted the work being done in relation to our National Parks, including investment in Wild Nephin-Ballcroy National Park and Connemara National Park. It also referred to over 30 ongoing projects funded under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund (RRDF).
My Department frequently liaises with other relevant bodies and agencies on an ongoing basis to determine what potential projects could benefit from available funding schemes such as the RRDF, and Fáilte Ireland programmes. EU programmes are also considered as potential contributors to the enhancement, use and protection of Ireland’s heritage, taking into account the suitability and relevance of the recommended projects and timelines for such programmes.
My Department’s Built Heritage Investment Scheme (BHIS) assists the repair and conservation of protected structures - in public and private ownership - on the local authority Record of Protected Structures. It is designed to leverage private capital for investment in small-scale conservation projects and to support the employment of skilled conservation professionals and tradespeople. I allocated funding of €2.5m for the BHIS in 2019. The Historic Structures Fund (formerly the Structures at Risk Fund) is for larger conservation works to such protected structures. I allocated €1.824m for the HSF in 2019. Both the BHIS and the HSF are administered through the local authorities. Details of the 2020 schemes will be announced in the coming days. The Heritage Council, which my Department funds, also provides grants for the protection and preservation of the built heritage. The types of structures referred to in the Deputy’s question would have the potential to be covered under such schemes.
As the representative for the World Heritage Convention on behalf of Ireland, my Department is responsible for the submission of nomination documentation to UNESCO for inclusion of properties on the World Heritage (WH) List. Opening the 2020 Tentative List for WH earlier this year, the National Monuments Service has been working closely with Local Authorities and Stakeholders to guide the application process and subsequent preparation for eventual WH nomination, which includes the long term conservation and protection of such sites and the promotion of their national and international interest. Inclusion on the Tentative List is an opportunity for statutory, voluntary and community organisations to take stock of the naturally and culturally significant heritage resources in their locality.