Heritage Council funding has been slashed by almost 90% since 2011.
The news comes less than a month after the launch of a tourism campaign promoting Ireland’s 5,000-year-old heritage.
Heritage Council chief executive Michael Starrett said there had been drastic cuts in its budget in recent years, despite heritage being one of the key reasons why tourists visit the country.
A study by Fáilte Ireland found that nearly 90% of tourists who come to Ireland say our heritage — such as monuments, archaeological objects, wildlife habitats, flora, and fauna — is an important factor for their decision to holiday here.
A 2012 Ecorys Consultants report commissioned by the Heritage Council found that Ireland’s historic environment directly supports more than 25,000 jobs and contributes in excess of €1.5bn to the economy annually.
New research being finalised for the council shows that 10% of people are actively involved in heritage issues at a local level, compared to just 2% 15 years ago.
The Heritage Council allocated grants totalling €4.6m to 400 projects in 2011 and €2.25m for 370 projects in 2012. However, it was unable to fund any local grants programme in 2013.
Last year, it struggled to fund a slimmed-down grants programme, with just €700,000 available.
This year it has been allocated just €547,000. The fund has been “massively oversubscribed” with 612 applications from community groups. The council said it can provide only small grants to one third of that number.
Mr Starrett said it was clear that heritage was important to Irish people as well as those visiting our shores.
“We want our legislators to understand how important it is to provide reasonable financial support for local heritage projects and events, and the enormous payback it secures both in terms of quality of life and economic activity,” he said.
The funding cuts come as a major tourism campaign promoting Ireland’s diverse 5,000-year-old heritage was launched last month with the aim of bringing 600,000 more visitors to the south and east by 2020 — helping to grow the local economy by almost €1bn.
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