Five heritage landscapes and sites are expected to apply for inclusion on Ireland’s tentative list of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) world heritage sites.
Ireland currently has two such sites – the Brú na Bóinne complex of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth in Co Meath; and Skellig Michael in Co Kerry.
Applications from the Valentia transatlantic cable station in Co Kerry; the Burren, Co Clare; Glendalough monastic city in Co Wicklow; the passage tomb landscapes of Co Sligo; and the royal sites of ancient Ireland are expected ahead of the June 30th deadline.
The royal sites include Dún Ailinne in Co Kildare, where the kings of Leinster were said to be inaugurated; the Rock of Cashel in Co Tipperary; the Hill of Uisneach in Co Westmeath; and Rathcroghan complex in Tulsk, Co Roscommon, the ancient capital of Connacht.
To be designated a Unesco world heritage site the applicant must demonstrate outstanding universal value such that its significance is “so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and to be of common importance for present and future generations to all humanity”.
A site or property has to be on the tentative list for at least a year to proceed to nomination for the status.
The last tentative list, drawn up in 2010, included a grouping of early monastic sites – Clonmacnoise, Co Offaly; Glendalough; Inis Cealtra or Holy Island in Co Clare; Durrow in Co Laois; Kells in Co Meath; and Monasterboice in Co Louth.
Minister of State Peter Burke said that his department "does not anticipate receipt of an application with respect to the early medieval monastic sites", though Glendalough is expected to submit a standalone application.
Clare TD Michael McNamara criticised the failure to include the monastic sites grouping in the application process. He said there were sites in his constituency “in particular Inis Cealtra and Inis Cathaigh” which were linked “with the birth or nascence of a European civilisation”.
Raising the issue in the Dáil, he criticised Government inaction on progressing the 2010 tentative list, and said the “big difference” between the inclusion of Glendalough and exclusion of Inis Cealtra was that “Glendalough is situated in the constituency of two Cabinet Ministers”.
Mr Burke rejected the “connotation that essentially there is Cabinet interference” in what was “a robust, independent process”.
He said that after the closing date the applications would go to an expert advisory group for independent assessment and accreditation. The group would recommend which sites should be included in the revised tentative list, and his department would make the final decision.