Heritage Council near 'catastrophic point' from fund cuts
THE HERITAGE Council is “nearing a catastrophic point” due to “disproportionate” cuts which have seen its funding decrease significantly in recent years, the council’s chief executive said yesterday at the launch of the organisation’s 2011 annual report.
Michael Starrett said that, for every €1 spent by the Heritage Council on grant projects in 2011, the tourism industry benefited by €4.40.
However, he said a “background of disproportionate cuts” had resulted in a significant decrease in the number of overall projects supported by the council.
Mr Starrett said that, having received funding of €20 million in 2008, the council, the statutory body charged with identifying, protecting, preserving and enhancing Ireland’s national heritage, was now running on a budget of just €6 million.
“We’re nearing a catastrophic point,” Mr Starrett said.
“Things have been pared back so much. As you can see we’re down 65/70 per cent in terms of budget.
“We’ve pared back all the staff, we’ve pared back the contract work. It’s not administrative costs we’re talking about, it’s the grants that we offer to communities that are going to be the ones that will suffer.
“We can’t cut any more, there’s no fat there.”
Mr Starrett continued: “For example, in 2011 no research grants were awarded. Funding for partner organisations such as the Landmark Trust and the internationally recognised Discovery Programme also continued to be very stretched, and the availability of heritage offices to secure match funding from their local authorities, even for small grants, became increasingly difficult.”
Mr Starrett said the work done by the Heritage Council was not just about preserving “a few old buildings”.
He said the council created 70 jobs directly, while grants it gives out indirectly support another 1,000 or so jobs.
The chairman of the Heritage Council, Conor Newman, compared some of the heritage projects supported by the council to “endangered species”.
He added that while some of them did not attract a huge amount of public interest, they were “irreplaceable”.
“With the loss of each collection is the loss of something that has an intrinsic value to all of us,” he said.
He said it would be a “disaster” were the Heritage Council to cease to exist.
Last year the council funded 327 projects across the State, and provided €3.9 million in grants projects.