Unique landscapes hope to get Unesco status

Areas include Waterford’s Copper Coast, the Marble Arch Caves in Fermanagh and Cavan, and the Burren Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare

The Cliffs of Moher is one of the three landscapes hoping for Unesco status. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Cliffs of Moher is one of the three landscapes hoping for Unesco status. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Three unique landscapes – Waterford’s Copper Coast, the Marble Arch Caves in Fermanagh and Cavan, and the Burren Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare – could gain official Unesco status following a vote next month.

The three areas are already part of a 120-strong Global Geopark network: territories that promote geodiversity through community-led initiatives. The decision is due to be taken at Unesco’s general conference. If the vote passes, these three areas would gain official designation.

Geoparks

International Geoscience Programme

Taking the Copper Coast in Co Waterford as an example, Prof McKeever said its status as a geopark had empowered local people. “It has given them a real sense of worth in their area,” he said

The final decision requires agreement among all 195 Unesco member states.

Dr Sarah Gatley, head of geological heritage with the Geological Survey of Ireland, said Unesco had supported the geoparks from the beginning but said this change would bring the three Irish sites – which form part of a network in 33 countries – under the official Unesco banner. She said the move would increase interest and generate funding.

However, it would also mean that aspiring geoparks – including the Mourne Cooley Gullion region, located in Down, Armagh and north Louth, and Joyce Country in Mayo and Galway, both of which have indicated they will apply in future – will undergo a longer application process.

It is expected that, if the process comes under the Unesco umbrella, it will take a year-and-a-half, six months longer than previously.