Cuts to heritage community grants

 

Sir, – The Heritage Council has stated that it is not in a position to allocate funding towards the Community Grants Scheme this year, and that it would be directing its budget towards achieving some of the objectives in its strategic plan.

We acknowledge that these objectives are highly important. In previous years funding has been available for many of these projects as well as the community grants.

The loss of the Community Grants Scheme is a bitter blow to the many communities that have relied upon the scheme to help them promote and protect their local heritage.

In recent years, local communities, aided and empowered through the hard work of the Heritage Council and local authority heritage officers around the country, have significantly contributed to the preservation and promotion of our heritage. The community grants have helped a wide range of projects. The grants have funded surveys, training, educational days and events, tours, talks, important conservation work on our built and natural heritage and many more wonderful and diverse projects. The Community Grant Scheme is a key driver of Heritage Week, where Ireland’s heritage is widely celebrated. The loss of the community grants will mean that many projects that have been planned for 2019 are in grave jeopardy, and many will not go ahead. This is particularly worrying with regard to conservation projects, and it has a demoralising effect on our communities, upon whom we rely so much.

The Heritage Council funding is allocated by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and as a body has suffered significant and ongoing budget cuts over the past number of years.

The work of the Heritage Council and our local heritage officers in helping to deliver key Government policies in promoting and encouraging engagement in Ireland’s heritage is fundamental to local community heritage.

The grants scheme is a much-appreciated funding stream to an area which is already very much underfunded, yet few schemes can compare for return on investment and goodwill.

We call upon Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan to explain the reasoning that led to these cuts.

These cuts are all the more unexpected in light of recent announcements of increased investment in the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht. In the Project Ireland 2040 document investing in our culture, language and heritage, the Taoiseach states that “heritage plays a major role in creating and sustaining community cohesion, collective wellbeing and instilling a deep sense of belonging”. Furthermore, the recently published Heritage Council Strategic Plan 2018-2022 acknowledges the importance of “community-based custodians of heritage” in promoting Irish culture, as well as contributing to a sense of “national wellbeing”, and yet these cuts run contrary to these statements.

Should these cuts to the Heritage Council Community Grants Scheme remain, it would demonstrate that the current Government is not living up to its own words. It has announced increased funding for the heritage and culture sector, yet has redirected the most vital aspect of funding available away from the very community it acknowledges is best at promoting Irish culture both at home and abroad.

We implore the Minister to reconsider the decision, and to help empower our communities in their efforts to protect and promote our shared heritage. – Yours, etc,

GARY DEMPSEY,

ORLA-PEACH POWER,

(Digital Heritage Age);

NEIL JACKMAN,

RÓISÍN BURKE,

(Abarta Heritage);

NORA WHITE,

(Ogham3D);

TAMLYN McHUGH;

CHRISTY CUNNIFFE,

(Galway Community

Archaeology);

BRIAN CALLAGAN,

(Moybologue

Historical Society);

SALLY SIGGINS;

ROBERT M CHAPPLE;

Dr SHARON GREENE,

(Archaeologist);

BARRY LACEY;

OWEN J DUNBARR;

MARTIN DUFFY;

TOM POLLARD.