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John Conlon in action against Aidan Walsh, Shane O'Neill and Mark Ellis of Cork in Thurles. Photograph by John Kelly.

Clare link to hurling UNESCO application

CLARE historian Daniel McCarthy is playing a key role in seeking approval for hurling to be included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

The Cabinet has approved the application and it is due to be ratified by the Dáil in early 2016. A formal application for inclusion on the list must then be submitted to UNESCO by March 31 next.

In outlining their interpretation of Intangible Cultural Heritage, UNESCO maintains cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from ancestors and passed on, including oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events.

Lissycasey man Daniel McCarthy is manager of the GAA’s Heritage Framework Policy, which identified the merits of seeking UNESCO designation for hurling. He believes that if UNESCO recognition is granted for the game, it will expose hurling’s merits to a world-wide audience.

“The GAA is unique amongst world sporting bodies in that it upholds, within its constitution, a cultural mandate. Much social capital will accrue at all levels for members of the association, both at home and abroad, as a result of this in terms of sporting, tourism, curricular and community benefits,” Mr McCarthy predicts.

“This is an excellent opportunity to maximise an increased international audience and exposure and to integrate hurling into Ireland’s heritage tourism, which is worth approximately €1.5 billion in total to the economy and directly supports 25,000 jobs,” Daniel McCarthy pointed out, noting these figures were published in the Economic Value of Ireland’s Historic Environment report to the Heritage Council in 2011.

Mr McCarthy is also presently pioneering Ireland’s first outdoor heritage interactive trails, which go live in 2016 as part of a digital heritage map series, following extensive collaboration with CIT and Enterprise Ireland over the past two years.

Meanwhile, Deputy Pat Breen says he has been lobbying intensely to have UNESCO designation awarded for hurling. He raised the issue of statutory heritage status for hurling in Dáil Éireann and, as chairman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, he invited the GAA’s top officials before a formal meeting of the committee.

Along with Deputy Breen, Dr Padraic Quinn, the Clare GAA team doctor, had also supported this initiative, led by Pat Daly, GAA director of Gaelic Games Development.

“This is a very important development,” Deputy Breen said. “It will not only give due recognition to the game of hurling but it provides the opportunity to build on the increasing global popularity of the game. The GAA is now the largest Irish organisation abroad, supporting over 400 clubs in 41 countries,” he pointed out.

“When Galway played Kilkenny in an 11-a-side modified hurling game in Fenway Park in Boston in November, the game attracted the highest attendance at a GAA game in the US since the 1950s. We now have a unique opportunity to capitalise on its growing popularity in the same way as this country has built a strong international reputation for our traditional dance,” the Clare Fine Gael TD added.

The next annual meeting of the inter-governmental committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage will take place from November 28 to December 2, 2016 in Ethiopia.

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