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TD alleges cabinet interference as Inis Cealtra misses heritage listing

A CLARE TD has alleged Cabinet interference in the selection of sites for potential inclusion on a highly prestigious World Heritage listing.
Deputy Michael McNamara made his remarks on receiving written confirmation that The Burren is the only Clare site likely to be put forward for inclusion on a Tentative List of Unesco World Heritage Sites.
Currently, Ireland has just two sites recognised for their universal value – Brú na Boinne and Sceilig Mhicíl.
Inis Cealtra had been included in a grouping of six early medieval monastic sites, alongside Glendalough and Clonmacnoise, for the 2010 Tentative List.
Designation did not progress, Deputy McNamara told the Dáil this Wednesday over a lack of interest from Offaly County Council.
The likely applications, ahead of a June 30 deadline, for inclusion on the updated list were outlined this week by Minister Peter Burke and include The Burren, Glendalough Monastic Site, the Passage Tomb Landscapes of Sligo, The Royal Sites, and Valentia Transatlantic Cable Station.
Reacting, Deputy McNamara expressed concerns over political influence.
“The minister said he anticipates certain applications and doesn’t anticipate others, so is this a done deal?,” he asked.
“I said of the early [medieval] monastic sites, I readily acknowledge that Clonmacnoise would be universally accepted to be the most important. Glendalough is a beautiful place, don’t get me wrong, so is Holy Island. They’re beautiful places.
“The big difference I say that they have is that Glendalough is situated in the constituency of two cabinet ministers and Inis Cealtra isn’t situated in the constituency of a cabinet minister.
“Now, that of course, should not be anywhere near the criteria. It should be based on universal criteria and indeed universal values.
“This is about protecting sites of universal importance… It is generally accepted that Irish monks and the network of monasteries that came out of Ireland… this idea of the re-evangelisation of Europe from Ireland is of universal significance.”
Rejecting Deputy McNamara’s assertions, Minister Burke said: “I want to reject the deputy’s connotation that essentially there’s cabinet interference. There’s absolutely no interference. This is a robust, independent process,” he claimed.
“I did say in my speech and was very clear that other individuals or organisations are encouraged, in collaboration with the local authority, because the local authority places structure on any process, they’re the key focal point, throughout the 31 regions in our State, and obviously, they are needed to give direction. I would make no apologies whatsoever in relation that.”
A deadline of June 30 has been set for receipt of applications for the Irish Tentative List.
“My Department will conduct an initial screening of all applications received before transmitting them to an expert advisory group for independent assessment and accreditation,” the minister said.
“The expert advisory group will make recommendations to my Department as to which properties should be included in the revised tentative list.”

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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