Killarney park and Clara Bog fail to make Unesco shortlist


CONCERNS OVER the global merits of Killarney National Park and some of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions resulted in their removal from the Government’s shortlist for inclusion as World Heritage nominees.

Documents released through the Freedom of Information Act show the hopes for inclusion for Killarney National Park, Clara Bog, the Blasket Islands and the Aran Islands were ended after the Government’s Tentative List Expert Advisory Group raised concerns over the sites.

Earlier this year, Minister for the Environment John Gormley selected the Burren, Georgian Dublin, the Céide Fields, the Royal Sites of Ireland, the monastic site at Clonmacnoise, early Medieval monastic sites and the Western Stone Forts for the Government’s “tentative list” of nominees to Unesco as world heritage sites.

Ireland has three existing world heritage sites: Skellig Michael off the Kerry coast; Brú na Bóinne in Co Meath, and the Giant’s Causeway in Co Antrim.

In order for sites to qualify for the list, they have to meet the criteria of having “Outstanding Universal Value” (OUV).

According to the minutes of a group meeting in April last year, there was a consensus within the group that Killarney National Park and Clara Bog “do not have OUV”.

The Killarney National Park and Clara Bog were included in a Government tentative list in 1992.

A large raised bog and a nature reserve, Clara Bog is located near Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s hometown in Co Offaly. The minutes on the sites state: “There are much better examples of natural sites on the World Heritage List and the integrity of Clara Bog has been compromised by peat extraction.”

At the group’s meeting in February 2009, Prof Adrian Philips of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) stated that there were obstacles in respect of integrity and management in relation to Killarney National Park, citing invasive vegetation and animal species.

Prof Philips told the meeting there were too many similarities between Killarney National Park and the Lake District in the UK, pointing out that the Lake District had failed to make the grade as a natural site.

Dermot Burke of the Office of Public Works (OPW) told the meeting that the Burren has overtaken Killarney National Park in terms of being proposed as our prime natural landscape.

The mayor of Killarney, Cllr Michael Gleeson (South Kerry Ind Alliance) said yesterday: “I would hope that Killarney National Park would make the list in due course and whatever obstacles that are there can be overcome as inclusion on the list would enhance the park’s status as a tourism mecca.”

The Blasket Islands, with its rich literary heritage, was also put forward as a proposal.

However, Unesco expert Dr Jukka Jokilehto told the committee that although the site’s heritage is intriguing, the justification for OUV needs to be established, pointing out that only 60 per cent of nominations currently find favour with the World Heritage Committee.

On the proposal to nominate the Aran Islands, the chair, Lord Donald Hankey, said the anthropological aspects of the island need to be researched further if the islands are to be nominated on the basis of a cultural landscape.

The minutes record that Brian Lucas of the Department of the Environment suggested that the islands could be nominated on a future tentative list.

The Government’s list is to be presented to Unesco’s World Heritage Committee meeting in Brasilia at the end of July.