October 26th, 2023
It was a pleasure to open the second annual Heritage Ireland 2030 Summit yesterday at Trinity College, and there was certainly lots to celebrate as we heard across the day from heritage leaders, community groups and Government representatives in various discussions on Ireland’s built, archaeological and natural heritage.
The implementation of Heritage Ireland 2030 - Ireland’s national heritage plan - is a collaborative exercise that spans natural, built, cultural and archaeological heritage. It was fantastic to meet stakeholders from right across those sectors as we continue to work together to realise the ambition set out in that strategy.
As we learned at last year's inaugural event, the Heritage Ireland Summit is an excellent forum for dialogue with key stakeholders working to advance the protection of our built, cultural, tangible, intangible and natural heritage. Capacity-building has emerged as an important point of discussion and I’m delighted that this forum offers a platform to bring us all together to share ideas and ambitions for the future evolution of the sector.
For my part, I was keen to reiterate the support for capacity-building that exists within my Department’s three main heritage grant schemes: the Community Monuments Fund, Built Heritage Investment Scheme, and Historic Structures Fund. The 2024 strands of these funding schemes will soon open for applications, and over the last few years I have been able to witness first hand the extent to which each scheme plays a vital role in sustaining and strengthening the expertise and skills of heritage and conservation practitioners across the country, in addition to supporting the conservation and protection of our historic buildings and monuments.
Ultimately the good health of our cultural, built, natural, and archaeological heritage depends entirely on the expertise and energy of the heritage practitioners and others who work with it and look after it. That includes all sorts of people - craftspeople, curators, archaeologists, ecologists, archivists, building professionals, researchers, teachers, and many other specialists.
I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders to hear their experiences and share information that helps us all in our shared goal of safeguarding our heritage. As Minister I've been able to build year-on-year on what have been significant budgetary increases for Heritage, with a 2024 allocation of €166 million, which provides additional capacity to invest in the people and skills needed to protect our heritage.
Bolstered by this funding, a number of key initiatives are currently underway which are designed to bring biodiversity, heritage and conservation professionals into our Local Authority workforces, and I was proud to see these highlighted and discussed at the event, including:
• Increased Budget '24 funding for the Heritage Council bringing the organisation's budget to €16m for 2024.
• The ongoing roll out of the Biodiversity Officers Programme in every local authority, to the direct benefit of communities and community-driven action for nature at the local-level.
• Ongoing work to extend the support in future years to other heritage professions such as archivists, architectural conservation officers, and archaeologists.
• The detailed research which is underway assessing the feasibility of a traditional skills training centre, engaging with stakeholders across the heritage, education, and construction sectors.
• The development of an apprenticeship programme with the Office of Public Works.
During various presentations and panel discussions, attendees also heard about important developments across the Heritage sector, including the recent enactment of the Historic and Archaeological Heritage Act, and budget outcomes which will - among other things - support ongoing transformation of NPWS; a Masterplan for the new Boyne Valley Brú na Bóinne National Park at Dowth; the continued conservation and provision of visitor facilities at the 14-17 Moore Street National Monument; and support for local authorities to develop their nominations to UNESCO of World Heritage Tentative List sites under a new World Heritage Strategy for Ireland.
I hope we can build on the success of these types of programmes to further increase capacity and skill building across the many different professions involved in the protection of our heritage.
You can watch the Heritage Ireland 2030 summit in two parts on the Department of Housing Facebook page. It's available for two weeks from today.