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Three Clare sites should be included on Ireland’s tentative list for future World Heritage nominations to UNESCO, the county’s only Independent Oireachtas member stated.

Michael McNamara TD (IND) has urged Clare County Council to submit applications for Inis Cealtra (Holy Island), Cahercommaun Ringfort and the Burren for inclusion on Ireland’s Tentative List for future World Heritage nominations to UNESCO and to explore submitting additional sites such as Scattery Island and Mooghaun Hillfort.

A review of the tentative list is underway with local authorities invited to submit applications to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage by June 30th.

Holy Island was originally named on the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tentative List for Ireland as part of a group of early medieval monastic site along with Clonmacnoise, Durrow, Glendalough, Kells and Monasterboice in 2010. Cahercommaun was a one of a group of five Western Stone Forts on the List, along with Dun Aonghusa on Inishmore and Caherconree, Benagh and Staigue, all in Kerry.

Deputy McNamara recounted a meeting with UNESCO representatives in 2014 whereby he learned “there had been little or no communication from the Irish government on the matter for some time and little effort had been made to advance the Irish tentative list since it was handed over in 2010”.

Progression of the designation of the tentative list has been a failure of successive Governments, the Scariff native stated. “As well as a requirement to ensure any development is sympathetic to and protects the integrity of the sites, which may explain the reluctance of some, more cavalier local authorities, designation also typically results in an increase in tourism, with associated economic benefits”.

“Given the increase in tourism typically generated by World Heritage site designation, and the unprecedented challenges that will face the domestic and international tourism sector when we open up to world again, every effort must be made to advance built and natural heritage sites across Ireland to the World Heritage list,” he added.

Both Scattery Island and Mooghaun should be progressed via the Upstream Process introduced in 2010 by UNESCO “to determine whether applications for these sites is feasible as an alternative to the current groupings whose designations have stalled due to lack of interest by other local authorities”.

Having pressed the Department to nominate Irish sites for World Heritage Status during his first term as a TD, McNamara pointed to the presence of Skellig Michael and Newgrange as the country’s only two sites on the UNESCO world heritage list as under-representation. “That is the same number as Afghanistan which have spent much of this century in internal strife and without and effective government. By comparison, Austria and Denmark both have ten world heritage sites, the latter having advanced five sites to designation in the past decade”.

He said Ireland’s efforts to green global historic sites such as the Sydney Opera House, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Pyramids of Giza for St Patrick’s Day is in marked contrast to “lacklustre efforts to win recognition for historic sites in our own country. Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening project comes about as a result of much effort and some cost to the State (€48,583 in 2019), but I accept that it results in a benefit, not limited to direct income, to our State. We have, however, neglected to progress various sites in Ireland to UNESCO world heritage status over the past decade”.

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