The need to develop additional expertise and to boost skills in the heritage sector took centre stage at the second annual Heritage Ireland 2030 Summit, with over 250 attendees hearing from heritage leaders, community groups and Government representatives in discussion on Ireland’s built, archaeological and natural heritage.
Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan TD reiterated the support for capacity building in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage’s three main heritage grant schemes. The 2024 Community Monuments Fund, Built Heritage Investment Scheme, and Historic Structures Fund will soon open for applications, with each scheme playing a vital role in sustaining and strengthening the expertise and skills of heritage and conservation practitioners across the country, in addition to supporting the conservation and protection of our historic buildings and monuments.
Minister Noonan commented, “the Heritage Ireland Summit is an excellent forum for dialogue with key stakeholders working to advance the protection of our built, cultural, tangible, intangible and natural heritage. Capacity building has emerged as an important point of discussion and I’m delighted that this forum can bring us all together to share ideas and ambitions for the future evolution of the sector.”
“We’ve been able to build on significant budgetary increases for Heritage, with a 2024 allocation of €166 million, which provides additional capacity to invest in the people and skills needed to protect our heritage. Ultimately the good health of our cultural, built, natural, and archaeological heritage depends entirely on the expertise and energy of the heritage practitioners and others who work with it and look after it. That includes all sorts: craftspeople, curators, archaeologists, ecologists, archivists, building professionals, researchers, teachers, and many other specialists. We look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders to hear their experiences, share information and work together to safeguard our heritage.”
The Heritage Council CEO Virginia Teehan added, “we’ve seen considerable success in the professionalization of the local authority workforce to bring in biodiversity, heritage and conservation professionals and we in the Heritage Council are proud to support these initiatives. We hope we can build on the success of these types of programmes to build further capacity and skill building across the many different professions involved in the protection of our heritage.”
Several successful initiatives to build capacity in the heritage sector were highlighted and discussed at the event, including:
• Increased funding for the Heritage Council announced at Budget 2024 to further support our transition to a nature positive Ireland, with an increase in funding that brings the organisation to €16m for 2024.
• The roll out of the Biodiversity Officers Programme in every local authority– a major achievement that will benefit communities and support action for nature at the local-level.
• Ongoing work to extend the support in future years to other heritage professions such as archivists, architectural conservation officers, and archaeologists.
• The Heritage Council is also carrying out detailed research on the feasibility of a traditional skills training centre, engaging with stakeholders across the heritage, education, and construction sectors.
• OPW apprenticeship development
Attendees also heard about recent developments across the Heritage sector, including the recent enactment of the Historic and Archaeological Heritage Act and budget outcomes which will, among other things, support ongoing transformation of NPWS, a Masterplan for the new Boyne Valley Brú na Bóinne National Park at Dowth, the continued conservation and provision of visitor facilities at the 14-17 Moore Street National Monument, and support for local authorities to develop their nominations to UNESCO of World Heritage Tentative List sites under a new World Heritage Strategy for Ireland.