The Irish Times view on Heritage Week: Something for every citizen

People all over the country have taken ownership of week, reflected in great diversity of its hundreds of events

National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin – one of Ireland’s national heritage sites. Photograph: Tom Honan

National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin – one of Ireland’s national heritage sites. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

The notion that our national heritage is limited to “old buildings” – very valuable as these often are – has long been obsolete. The Heritage Act (1995) definition includes “monuments, archaeological objects, heritage objects, architectural heritage, flora, fauna, wildlife habitats, landscapes, seascapes, wrecks, geology, heritage gardens, and parks and inland waterways”.

The remarkably high profile of the natural world in this description was probably not, however, widely shared at the time. According to early research by the Heritage Council, established by the Act, only 3 per cent of Irish people associated the environment with heritage in 2000.

But more recent surveys show that figure rising significantly. Some credit for this and other remarkable shifts in awareness must go to repeated innovations by the council, since 2005, in developing National Heritage Week, which this year runs from last Saturday, August 14th, to Sunday, August 22nd.

At a moment when celebration is very difficult for most of us, this is a national occasion to be welcomed

Ireland was both the first country to expand the EU initiative of Heritage Days to a week, and to include in it explorations of local biodiversity.

From the outset, the council did not impose national programmes, but encouraged local communities, groups and even families to organise their own activities, celebrating the heritage that mattered most to them.

Rarely practised

This bottom-up approach, often preached but rarely practised, means that people all over the country have taken ownership of the week, and this is reflected in the great diversity of its hundreds of events in recent years.

The council has further stimulated diversification this year by creating categories such as “Heritage Newcomers”, for those who have not participated to date, and “Heritage Sharing”, for communities or individuals who may not yet feel included in local cultures. It also reaches out to both older and younger people.

The pandemic has inevitably shifted events away from public activities, and towards projects that can be shared online, though both are included, subject to public health advice.

The range of projects on offer this week is more varied than ever. There really is something here for every citizen. At a moment when celebration is very difficult for most of us, this is a national occasion to be welcomed warmly and worthy of our involvement.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.