The Office of Public Works (OPW) and the National Monuments Service (NMS) at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage announced that the World Heritage Property of Sceilg Mhichíl site has joined a new global initiative to safeguard sites of cultural significance from the impacts of climate change.
The OPW and NMS will develop the scientific knowledge and technical training of site management teams and the local community to develop place and people-based climate change adaptation plans for the islands. The work will harness the global expertise of other heritage partners around the world in partnership with the International Council on Monuments and Sites, and the Climate Heritage Network, through the Preserving Legacies: A Future for our Past project for the ongoing preservation of sites, such as Sceilg Mhichíl, in the face of increased threats due to climate change. Internationally, the project will empower community and site leaders with the scientific knowledge and technical training to develop place and people-based climate change adaptation plans.
The Preserving Legacies project will equip communities worldwide with the tools to accurately anticipate and assess worsening and future climate impacts on culture, and help them turn that scientific knowledge into action to safeguard sites.
Sceilg Mhichíl will be one of ten global sites initially involved in the project, which is funded by the National Geographic Society and Manulife. There are two primary sites: the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras and Petra, Jordan and eight observer sites, of which Sceilg Mhichíl is one: Angkor Archeological Park, Cambodia; Border Fields, USA and Mexico; Historical Mosque City of Bagerhat, Bangladesh; Nan Madol, Micronesia; Levuka, Fiji; Koutammakou, the Land of the Batammariba, Togo and Benin; Sceilg Mhichíl, Ireland; and Port, Fortress, and Group of Monuments at Cartagena, Columbia.
The training of OPW and NMS staff and working with the local community surrounding Sceilg Mhichíl align with objectives under the 10 Year World Heritage Management Plan for the island published in December 2021, to safeguard its future and its significant heritage importance. Community-led approaches also align with implementation of Ireland’s Climate Change Sectoral Adaptation Plan for Built and Archaeological Heritage, supporting the development of improved approaches to adaptation, learning from past ancestral practices to safeguard values for the next generations.Image: Aerial view of Skelligs
Welcoming the announcement, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcom Noonan TD said, “it is an honour for Ireland to be part of this global programme led by National Geographic. It is recognition of Sceilg Mhichíl’s place in the pantheon of World Heritage sites and also of our obligations to ensure its protection. Our National Monuments Service team, with OPW, look forward to sharing our experiences, working with communities and learning from approaches elsewhere, as we join together to address what is a shared challenge of the impact of climate change on the world’s heritage.”
Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works, Patrick O’Donovan TD said, “Sceilg Mhichíl is undoubtedly one of the most challenging sites in the care of the OPW. Our team carries out tremendous work against the severe challenges of its location, isolation and unpredictable weather conditions to ensure safe access for visitors and the protection of the island’s heritage. As custodians of this World Heritage property we in the OPW, alongside NMS, are privileged to work with others around the globe in this important project, strengthening our engagement with the community of south Kerry in terms of the islands value and significance.”
Dr Victoria Herrmann, National Geographic Explorer and Project Director of Preserving Legacies said, “our ambitious approach to addressing this critical issue will not only lead to tangible protection of cultural heritage sites; it will be the game-changers needed to increase access to heritage adaptation and transform conservation as a field to meet the challenges of a climate changed world.”
Dr Will Megarry, Focal Point for Climate Change at the International Council on Monuments and sites and Senior Lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast said, “ICOMOS firmly believes in the power of culture and heritage for climate action. This important project will empower communities and site custodians to protect their heritage from the impacts of climate change. It will also provide them with a platform to tell their stories and share their valuable experiences with the world.”