Historic Preservation in Ireland, Part III: National Monuments

Where any church or ecclesiastical building or structure appears to the Commissioners to be ruinous, or if a church to be wholly disused as a place of public worship, and not suitable for restoration as a place of public worship, and yet to be deserving of being maintained as a national monument by reason of its architectural character or antiquity, the Commissioners shall by order vest such church, building, or structure in the secretary of the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, to be held by such secretary, his heirs and assigns, upon trust for the Commissions of Public Works, to be preserved as a national monument, and not to be used as a place of public worship.

Irish Church Act, Section 25.1 (1869)

Not only did the Irish Church Act of 1869 disestablish the Church of Ireland, but it also provided for the protection of the first national monuments in Ireland.  They were to be placed under the control of what is now the Office of Public Works, founded in 1831 and one of the oldest government agencies still in existence in Ireland.

The first group of monuments, those at the Rock of Cashel, were taken into state care in 1874.

rock-of-cashel-aerial-1970

Rock of Cashel, 1970 – photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Rock of Cashel, a medieval site in County Tipperary, contains several 12th and 13th century religious structures, with roots dating back much further as the traditional seat of the kings of Munster. Continue reading

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Historic Preservation in Ireland, Part II: The European Union

Lough Key Forest Park - photo credit: wikimedia commons

Lough Key Forest Park (project with funding from the ERDF) – photo credit: wikimedia commons

Find Part I of this series here.

As a member of the European Union, Ireland’s cultural heritage and historic preservation policies are impacted by transnational policies and initiatives from the European Commission.  A wide range of heritage-related areas are impacted by EU membership, including agriculture, agritourism, natural heritage, fisheries, environmental policies, rural development, education, and languages.  This is in addition to the cultural heritage policies and programs put in place by the EU.

The Maastricht Treaty set out policies relating to the cultural heritage of EU member states, including:

  • Contributing to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore
  • Encouraging cooperation between Member States, and supporting action in the following areas: improvement of knowledge and dissemination of the culture and history of European peoples; conservation and safeguarding of cultural heritage of European significance; non-commercial cultural exchanges; artistic and literary creation

The current European Agenda for Culture sets out to “address common challenges” among EU member states, including “promoting cultural diversity, protecting cultural heritage, easing obstacles to the mobility of cultural professionals, and supporting the contribution of cultural and creative industries to boosting growth and jobs across the EU.”

The current EU Work Plan for Culture sets out four main priorities: Accessible and inclusive culture; Cultural heritage; Cultural and creative sectors: creative economy and innovation; Promotion of cultural diversity, culture in EU external relations, and mobility.

There are several layers to the EU policies and programs on cultural heritage.  One strand promotes projects that encompass several Member States as well as other international organizations.  The Creative Europe Culture Sub-Program has provided €13.7 million in funding to projects with Irish partners and €2 million to Irish-led projects to date.  The projects range widely from the National Museum of Ireland and UCD partnered-project, CEMEC (Connecting Early Medieval European Collections) to the Follow the Vikings project in which Dublinia and Waterford Treasures at the Granary are partners, to many other projects promoting creativity, the arts, and cultural heritage.  The full list of Irish-participant projects is here.

Another strand invests in regional development, including through support of innovation and research, the digital agenda, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, and the low-carbon economy.  Along with projects in other areas of regional development, the EU helped fund projects at Lough Key, Cork’s Triskel Christchurch Arts Centre, the House of Waterford Crystal, and other investments in Irish towns and cities.  Find the list of Irish projects here.

The European Union has many other programs and policies which have the potential to impact cultural heritage preservation in Ireland, especially through cultural exchanges and transnational projects, and it is interesting to think about how cultural heritage is interwoven into the layers of EU policies which apply to Ireland.

Further Reading:

Valerie C. Fletcher, “The European Union and Heritage,” in The Heritage of Ireland, ed. Neil Buttimer, Colin Rynne, and Helen Guerin (Cork: Collins, 2000).