Protecting Our Heritage
Siobhán Ryan, Heritage Officer with Sligo County Council, talks about the importance of protecting our rich heritage.
- Siobhán Ryan
What is heritage?Heritage includes everything that we have inherited from our past and want to maintain for our future. If there was to be a heritage county in Ireland, you wouldn’t have to look further than Sligo. We have an exceptionally rich and diverse heritage, be it Carrowmore, Carrowkeel, Inishmurray, the rich variety of wildlife habitats that range from mountain top to the seashore, or our built heritage tradition - Sligo literally has it all. Heritage also encompasses, landscape, place names, local history, geology, so at a local level, heritage is what makes our county special.
What is being done at county level for heritage?The County Heritage Plan is the mechanism through which coordinated action for Sligoís heritage takes place at county level. It is an action plan, and a wide range of actions from the current heritage plan (2002-2006) have already been implemented. In fact through the Heritage Forum, local groups and agencies, over 90% of the key actions have been addressed. The Heritage Plan has focussed on collection of heritage information, working with Sligo Local Authorities in their management of heritage, raising awareness and promoting best practice. The current Heritage Plan is in its final year of implementation and a new five year heritage plan (2007-2011) has been drafted. The draft plan will now go before Sligo County Council for adoption.
Some of the projects undertaken, or in progress, have been the establishment of a Field Monument Advisor, provision of training opportunities for communities in relation to graveyards and museum collections, conservation plans for Carrowkeel and Inishmurray, village design statements for Ballisodare, Grange, Collooney and Easkey, Inventories of thatched buildings, geological heritage sites, industrial heritage sites, archaeological objects held in museum collections, natural heritage publications and an award winning schools heritage and IT programme.
What projects are planned for 2007?In partnership with the Heritage Council, the Sligo Heritage Forum and Sligo County Council propose to carry out a number of key projects next year. A new phase of habitat mapping of the county will be undertaken, focusing on the Sligo City area and its hinterland. There will also be a desk top survey of important ecological landscape features which connect important habitats such as river corridors, woodlands and wetlands for the wider county.
Getting information on the level of heritage awareness at county level, will also be undertaken through a Heritage awareness Survey in 2007. This will provide a benchmark for evaluating the impact of the heritage plan in the county and it is proposed to repeat the survey again in five years time. It is also proposed to audit and record traditional crafts and skills, carry out a historic graveyard survey, conduct an audit of access to heritage, develop a place names survey and to hold a seminar for owners of protected structures.
What are the key heritage challenges that face us?Placing heritage at the heart of public life is one of the key challenges, but of equal importance is engaging with individuals and communities, so that the citizens of Sligo are involved in their heritage. If we as the wider Sligo community know and value our heritage, then we can take steps towards caring for that resource.
We also need to address our understanding of what constitutes heritage, we readily identify heritage as being a historic house or archaeological sites, but less so wildlife.
What other services does the Heritage Office provide?About half of the work undertaken by the Heritage Office relates to the County Heritage Forum and delivery of the County Sligo Heritage Plan. This represents the Offices input to policy formulation and programme planning at a county level.
A key role is undertaken in contributing to heritage policy formulation within development plans and providing professional heritage input where heritage issues arise at preplanning, special projects or senior management level within the Local Authority. In addition, the Heritage Office provides an ongoing heritage advisory role to all Local Authority staff, elected members and members of the public.
The outlook is good, but Sligo has such a wealth of heritage that it would be easy to become complacent about it, the decline of the corncrake is perhaps an evocative example of how easily as aspect of our heritage can be lost. Ultimately, we need to be informed and aware of our heritage, while all the time looking to the future at the opportunities and possibilities that present themselves to create a new heritage for our county.
- Rosses Point Lighthouse
© Sligo County Council,
County Hall, Riverside,
Sligo, Co. Sligo.