Environment Minister Phil Hogan should do all within his power to protect the Kilkenny-based Heritage Council from closure under a forthcoming review, argues Cllr Malcolm Noonan.
“Shutting down the Heritage Council and subsuming its functions back into the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht would surely mark as one of the most retrograde, myopic and misguided steps this Government could make under its so-called reform agenda,” said Cllr Noonan, who is the Green Party’s environment spokesman.
“Notwithstanding the fact that the Heritage Council jobs are based here in Kilkenny, the agency has been responsible in my view for the creation and protection of thousands of jobs in heritage conservation, heritage management and heritage tourism since its foundation by Michael D Higgins in 1995. Abolishing it would make no economic or cultural sense and would set the heritage agenda back 20 years in this country,” he said.
Cllr Noonan cited the recent purchase of St Mary’s Church and the successful restoration of Talbot’s Tower as examples of how Kilkenny has benefited disproportionately from the presence of the Heritage Council in Kilkenny.
“The Heritage Council has connected with communities and bridged the gap between the heritage skills sector, statutory bodies, local authorities and community and voluntary sector in a unique way to put heritage conservation and enhancement at the forefront of the recovery of this country and has done so in a cost-effective manner with a small core staff,” he said. “The good will that the Heritage Council has garnered throughout the country cannot be replicated from within the department. This is why Michael D Higgins’ vision was so successful in the first place.”