Heritage attracts almost 90% of visitors to Ireland

Almost 90% of visitors come to Ireland because of the country’s heritage attractions, according to new research.

Levels of engagement with the natural and built heritage have grown significantly over the past 15 years, although the area has suffered severe cuts in Government funding since the recession began.

Research conducted on behalf of the Heritage Council shows direct community involvement has increased from 7% in 2000 to 19% this year, while the number of people interested in specific aspects of Irish heritage has gone from 25% to 36% in the same period.

This amounts to more than 1.6m Irish residents.

Speaking in advance of celebrations in Kilkenny today to mark the Heritage Council’s 20th anniversary, chief executive Michael Starrett said its community grants programme had a fund of just €547,000 to distribute nationally. That meant only a third of 612 applications from community groups all over the country could receive any assistance.

“This is the first time we have run a programme, and offered grants, where so many people have got back to us commenting on the small size of grants and the relative lack of funding,” he said. “It is very frustrating for us all, as the value and potential that is offered if we had more capacity to invest in those communities is just immense.”

Appealing for a funding increase, Mr Starrett said the historic environment directly supported more than 25,000 jobs and contributed over €1.5bn to the economy.

President Michael D Higgins, who piloted the Heritage Act into law in 1995, will be guest of honour at today’s celebrations.



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