Deenihan warns planning fears hindering World Heritage designations

Minister says fears will have to be overcome if Ireland is to get more UNESCO sites

A view off Skellig Michael  in Co Kerry. Skellig Michael and  Brú na Bóinne, Co Meath, are designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage sites. Minister for  Heritage Jimmy Deenihan has warned the number of World Heritage sites will not expand unless the objections of landowners can be overcome. Photograph:   Don MacMonagle

A view off Skellig Michael in Co Kerry. Skellig Michael and Brú na Bóinne, Co Meath, are designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage sites. Minister for Heritage Jimmy Deenihan has warned the number of World Heritage sites will not expand unless the objections of landowners can be overcome. Photograph: Don MacMonagle

Wed, Jan 22, 2014, 00:56

The number of World Heritage sites in the State will not expand unless the objections of local landowners can be overcome, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan has said.

Currently, both Brú na Bóinne in Co Meath and Skellig Michael in Kerry are designated by Unesco as World Heritage sites.

Mr Deenihan told the select sub-committee on arts, heritage and the Gaeltacht that Clonmacnoise could be added to the list, but local farmers were afraid it would restrict planning permissions in the area. Similar concerns were expressed by locals living close to the Céide Fields in Co Mayo.

He said Unesco officials had met community groups from the areas and the groups were going to consult with locals.

“Hopefully something will come out of that,” he said. “At the end of the day, unless these proposals are agreed locally with the local authorities, we just couldn’t propose that designation.”

Labour TD Jed Nash said the “value and richness of our cultural heritage really should, dare I say, take priority over some concerns that people might have. Those concerns might not in fact be entirely legitimate. If we could some way alleviate those concerns, it would be terribly helpful”.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Deenihan confirmed the next city of culture project would be put out to competitive tender.

It will not take place until 2018 to avoid a clash with the 2016 commemorations and to give the cities time to put together their bids.

Mr Deenihan said Limerick had been chosen due to the efforts of Denis Brosnan, the chair of the regeneration implementation group, who was contemplating a similar initiative.

Mr Nash said it had to be a competitive and transparent process the next time around.