04 Dec 2021

World Heritage Status for Rock is bleak after 20 years

Chances that the Rock of Cashel will be granted coveted UNESCO World Heritage state is ‘as far away as ever,’ according to one local public representative.

Chances that the Rock of Cashel will be granted coveted UNESCO World Heritage state is ‘as far away as ever,’ according to one local public representative.

Following correspondence with the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Mr. Jimmy Deenihan TD, relating to the application for the Rock of Cashel to be inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Cllr Tom Wood believes that despite having been placed on a tentative list in 1992, the Cashel cause is as far away as ever from receiving that recognition.

Cllr Wood has always advocated that the premier national monument, with its five buildings constructed between the 12th and 15th centuries and attracting an estimated 250,000 visitors annually, should be considered on its own merits as an ecclesiastical and stand alone site. He contends that a decision taken some years ago following a consultative process, to include the Rock as part of a wider group, Royal Sites of Ireland, was erroneous and would only complicate matters and delay the process significantly.

Now, he says, the Minister’s recent reply only confirms those fears.

Minister Deenihan’s letter reads: “The site in Cashel is included on the tentative list as part of a wider group, Royal sites of Ireland. These sites, including the Tara complex in County Meath and the Rathcroghan site in County Roscommon, are grouped together as a single unit and are on the list on the basis that the Royal Sites are associated with Irish mythology and traditional belief and bear exceptional testimony to Iron Age civilisation. Furthermore, the ensemble of monuments of the Royal Sites are universally unique through their well preserved cultural continuity and large scale Iron Age complexes.”

The Minister continues: “While getting on to the tentative list is in itself a very positive step, it is only the beginning of a lengthy process. Because of the range of factors at play, it is not possible to speculate about the likely timeframe for progressing any one case forward from that point on to inscription as a World Heritage Site. In this instance, there is also the point that, as several locations are being combined as a single unit with the Rock of Cashel, the groups associated with the individual sites will each have to engage with the process in their own local areas. Once there is local agreement in all cases, early consideration can then be given to making an application to UNESCO for World Heritage Site status for the group of Royal Sites of Ireland.”

While Cllr Wood’s preference would be for the Department to review the situation and allow the Rock of Cashel to stand alone and submit its own application he does not believe that this would be granted so he is calling on Minister Deenihans Department to become the facilitator and bring all the relevant interests from the various sites together in order to guide and assist in the complicated process. He also understands that a funding mechanism in is place through the Leader programme to help local groups meet the challenge and he is calling for that to be utilised in their favour.

Other sites included in the Royal Sites of Ireland package are Dun Ailline in County Kildare and the Hill of Uisneach in Westmeath.

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