The Heritage Council is continuing to fight for survival of both itself and heritage projects around Ireland despite “disproportionate cuts,” the council outlined in the launch of its 2011 Annual Report last week.
“Despite a background of disproportionate cuts on our resources and undergoing a critical review as part of the Government Programme for Public Sector Reform, during 2011 the Heritage Council continued to ensure our work remained relevant to the current economic and social priorities supporting employment, building education and awareness, and enhancing the quality of our heritage tourism,” Heritage Council chief executive Michael Starrett said at the launch of the Annual Report.
The report outlines how in 2011 the Heritage Council, whose headquarters is located in Kilkenny, directly supported 70 jobs and indirectly supported many more through grants, facilitated 1,595 school visits and built on its Museum Standards Programme for Ireland, with 50 museums and galleries participating, including Kilkenny’s Butler Gallery and Rothe House.
It also points to the Heritage Council’s support of the Irish Walled Towns Network, with an investment of €600,00 to 10 towns and cities, including Kilkenny.
Among the grant projects highlighted in the report is Newtown Jerpoint, which contains the humps and bumps of former houses, grassed-over streets, fallen bridge remains and ruined church of a medieval Anglo-Norman town.
However, Mr Starrett said, “Despite this background of successes, resources in 2011 were cut disproportionately, resulting in a significant decrease in the number of overall projects supported by the Council. For example, in 2011 no research grants were awarded.”
“Funding for partner organisations such as the Landmark Trust and the internationally recognised Discovery Programme also continued to be very stretched and the availability of Heritage Offices to secure match funding from their local authorities, even for small grants, became increasingly difficult,” he said. “As we reflect on 2011, we cannot ignore that the work outlined in the Annual Report and that of the heritage networks created over the past decade, would be lost, if as a result of the Critical Review, the Heritage Council is merged with the Department.”