Punitive cuts, announced in the Budget, will decimate the heritage sector and close many small enterprises that are dependent on it. This will have detrimental affects on both our national heritage and the quality of our tourism offering, according to the Heritage Council.
The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government’s Heritage Unit, which has responsibility for protected structures, including world heritage sites, suffered a 77% budget cut. National Parks and Wildlife, whose remit includes the protection of our natural heritage and running all our national parks, suffered a 56% cut. The Heritage Council, whose role is to protect, preserve and enhance Ireland’s national heritage, suffered a 47% cut. This is on top of a 30% cut in 2010.
Michael Starrett, chief executive of the Heritage Council, comments: “We are extremely concerned about the disproportionate nature of the cuts to the heritage sector. While the heritage sector recognises that it must share the burden of the cuts required to tackle the country’s economic crisis, the cuts announced are completely disproportionate in comparison to other Departmental cuts. As a result, the future of heritage initiatives nationwide which have created hundreds of jobs, empowered local communities and enhanced the value of heritage as a tourism resource, are severely threatened.”
He continues: “In 2009, over three million overseas visitors engaged in cultural/historical visits while in Ireland, and spent an estimated Eur1.9 billion while here. In particular, 76% of tourists identified landscape and nature as the primary reason for visiting Ireland, and heritage is what defines the uniqueness of a country. Funding will now no longer be available to protect and manage our iconic buildings, unique and threatened species, landscapes, cultural collections and rare artifacts, or indeed to support local communities in taking care of their everyday heritage.”
The majority of counties in Ireland have a County Heritage Plan which is prepared by Local Heritage Fora on behalf of the local people and the Local Authority. Research conducted in September 2010 by economist Jim Power examined the economic value of these County Heritage Plans. The implementation of these plans between 2004 and 2008 at a cost of Eur6.15 million supported the creation of 1,012 full-time jobs in small businesses across the regions, with an estimated return of Eur30 million. Between 2004 and 2008, the Eur6.15 million that the Heritage Council invested over 26 local authority areas led to an additional investment of around Eur10 million from other sources.