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The Heritage Council lobbies TDs and Senators for Greater Financial Support for Local Heritage Projects

-“Ireland’s Heritage Playing Vital Role in Tourism and Job Creation” — Michael Starrett, Chief Executive, Heritage Council

-Council lobbies TDs and Senators for Greater Financial Support for Local Heritage Projects

-€547,000  Fund This Year Attracts 612 Applications

“Nearly 90% of tourists who come to Ireland say that our natural heritage is an important factor influencing their decision to holiday here, and Ireland’s historic environment directly supports over 25,000 jobs and contributes in excess of €1.5 billion  to the economy annually”. This was stated by the Chief Executive of the Heritage Council, Mr. Michael Starrett, who was speaking at an Oireachtas Information Day organised by the Council in Dublin (Buswell’s Hotel) for TDs and Senators from all over the country. “We want our legislators to understand how important it is to provide reasonable financial support for local heritage projects and events, and the enormous payback it secures both in terms of quality of life and economic activity”, he added.

The event is also being attended by 12 heritage organisations from around the country to explain to TDs and Senators the valuable work they are doing, and the importance of reasonable financial support.

Today’s event takes place against a background of drastic cuts in the Heritage Council’s budget in recent years.  Whereas in 2011 it was able to allocate grants totalling €4.6m to 400 local projects and €2.25m for 370 projects in 2012, it was unable to fund any local grants programme in 2013. 

Last year, it struggled to fund a slimmed-down grants programme with just €700,000 available, and the Council faces an even greater challenge this year, with only €547,000 available. This year’s fund has been massively oversubscribed with 612 applications from local community groups, and the Council can provide only small grants to one third of that number.

“Over the past 20 years, the Heritage Council has built a unique, community-based heritage infrastructure embracing every county and many community organisations across Ireland. During that time, the value and effectiveness of investing in heritage in this manner has been well researched, documented and demonstrated”, Mr. Starrett said.  

New research, now being finalised for the Council, also confirms increased involvement in heritage activities by local communities. This shows that 10% of people are actively involved in heritage issues at a local level, as compared with just 2% fifteen years ago.  

He also points to the critical role the Heritage Council has played in growing public awareness and appreciation of heritage issues: “For example through our support for the county heritage officer network, and our outreach through Heritage Week, the Heritage in Schools Programme, the Irish Walled Towns Network, and our Museums Standards Programme, I am satisfied that we have helped enhance greatly the public value attached to our heritage”.

 He also said that despite the massive budgetary cuts, and the consequent decimation of the Council’s community grants programme, “the community-based infrastructure that has been built up has shown itself resilient and flexible, and is clamouring for modest financial support to implement many projects. The value of these projects to communities during the economic downturn has been immense, allowing people to engage socially and make a positive contribution to where they live and work.” 

“Today we are asking TDs and Senators to support local community organisations in developing our economy through valuing, and investing in, our local heritage assets. Given the welcome, if slow economic recovery now under way, this is the time to start investing once again in these communities in a phased and incremental way over the next few years”, he added.

MINISTER HEATHER HUMPHRIES SUPPORTS HERITAGE COUNCIL WORK WITH COMMUNITIES

“I also want to acknowledge the work of the Heritage Council and heritage officers at a local level in engaging and empowering communities to value and protect our heritage. I increased the Heritage Council's funding this year, and as the economy continues to improve, we will be in a better position to further increase its funding. Our heritage is so important to us. It gives us a sense of who we are and where we come from. As a member of a local heritage group, I fully appreciate the importance of small grants and how they can make such a difference to communities across the country in helping them to protect their heritage. The Heritage Council has done a great job in engaging communities and developing a sense of pride in their heritage. As has been said, it must all be done on a local basis”.