15 January, 2024
A special Heritage Council publication featuring stories from heritage officers in every county is being launched today to mark 25 years since the Heritage Officer Network was founded. The booklet, ‘Opening the door to Ireland’s heritage’ details one key heritage project from each local authority from the last three years which collectively, highlight the enormous contribution the Network has made to the preservation of our heritage over the last quarter of a century.
The story features details of the ‘Magic Under Monaghan’ film that grabbed the attention of young people across the county. Its aim was to explain the wonder of Monaghan’s bogs in way that was educational, but also entertaining and accessible. Young people are increasingly concerned about environmental degradation, and with that can come anxiety about the effects of climate change. The entertaining and satirical approach in the film aimed to lift the worry enough for them to see practical solutions.
The film is locally significant while addressing the overarching global themes of climate change and biodiversity loss. It clearly illustrates the values of Sliabh Beagh, the cross-border expanse of blanket bog where filming took place over five days. Talented children’s TV presenter John Sharpson presents the film and is well known as Múinteoir John from RTÉ Home School Hub. The film was distributed to all schools in the county and has assumed a pivotal role within their interpretation and educational resources. ‘Magic Under Monaghan’ was shortlisted in the Sustainable Environment & Biodiversity category in the Excellence in Local Government Awards 2023.
It can be viewed from the link below:
In a partnership between the Heritage Council and local authorities, the first heritage officers were appointed in 1999 in Kerry, Sligo and Galway with the aim of raising awareness of heritage issues within the local authority and among local communities. Since then, the heritage officer network has become synonymous with the protection and promotion of Ireland’s heritage and for the first time in 2021, every local authority in the country had appointed somebody to the role.
While highlighting the important work they do, the stories in the publication also offer a stark insight into what may have been lost were it not for the heritage officers. Mangan’s Clock in the heart of Cork city may have fallen into disrepair. The most historic buildings in Ballyshannon or Listowel may have been left derelict and allowed to crumble. The natural beach and dune habitats along the coast of Wicklow may have become irrevocably degraded and the craftsmanship of dry-stone walling on Inis Oirr may have receded.
The publication can be read in full on the Heritage Council website here:
More information about the Heritage Officer Network is available here:
Speaking on the launch of the booklet, Heritage Officer for Monaghan County Council, Kara Ward, said:
“It is deeply satisfying to see documented in this publication the influence of the Heritage Officer Network in shaping our approach to heritage conservation and protection. Although we work as individuals at local authority level, what is clear from these pages is that the real strength of the Network is in the collective. These stories cover only a snapshot of recently completed projects from current heritage officers, so when we factor in the hundreds of past projects completed since 1999, it brings into the focus the enormous impact that the Local Authority Heritage Officer Programme has had.”
Chairperson of the Heritage Council Martina Moloney added:
“I have had the pleasure of working extensively with our Heritage Officers over many years and am constantly amazed by the shear variety of their work which is excellently captured in this beautiful publication. Not only do they provide advice, guidance, and information on all aspects of heritage, but they also secure funding, undertake research, collect data, and develop and lead a multitude of highly impactful and engaging projects. Raising awareness locally, Heritage Officers inspire communities to value and take ownership of their important local heritage in all its forms. What their work achieves, ultimately, is that it opens the door to our heritage for people across Ireland and further afield, so that it can be enjoyed and appreciated by everyone.”
John Mulholland, Chair of the CCMA Rural Development, Community, Culture and Heritage (RCCH) Committee also attended the launch, and said:
“What has always stood out to me about the Heritage Officer Network is the range and number of individuals, groups and funders involved in the projects they undertake. It is very difficult to keep such a diverse range of interested parties singing off the same hymn sheet and getting the job done. This is the silent but tireless work of the Heritage Officers at play, to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude. On behalf of the CCMA, I commend them for their dedication.”