Areas of geological importance in Waterford, Clare, and Fermanagh have been designated Unesco Global Geoparks following a vote in Paris yesterday.
Now, the Copper Coast Geopark in Co Waterford, the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark in Co Clare, and the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark in Fermanagh each enjoy the same status as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
There are three other such sites in Ireland — Newgrange in Co Meath, Skellig Michael in Co Kerry, and the Giant’s Causeway in Co Antrim.
The decision to confer the new designations on the geoparks took place at Unesco’s general conference in Paris.
“These are areas where the memories of our planet are written, but they are also living areas with vibrant communities and strategies to promote sustainable economic development,” Unesco Professor Patrick McKeever said.
“The Copper Coast is probably the best example of a geopark in the global network that started with a small group of enthusiasts, and little else, and built this into the internationally recognised entity it is today.”
Mike Sweeney, chairman of the geo-park, which spans 90sq km along the Waterford coast, praised the organisation’s volunteers for all their work to date.
“This remarkable achievement would not have been possible without the support of the communities within our boundary and the dedicated work of a small number of individuals,” said Mr Sweeney.
Waterford City and County Council also welcomed the new designation, calling it a “major statement” which recognises the value the area has from both a geological and a tourism perspective.
“The Copper Coast Geopark community, and its leaders, are deserving of both our congratulations for existing achievements and our support in developing its future potential,” said mayor of Waterford John Cummins.
The news was also widely welcomed in Co Clare. The manager of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark, Carol Gleeson, said the new status is “more than just a designation” and represents the area’s membership in a worldwide network.
“We are very proud of the fact that the Burren and Cliffs of Moher is now one of 120 Unesco Global Geoparks across the world,” she said.
“This new designation will act as a catalyst for promoting the sustainable, community-based tourism development of the Burren, using the already successful Unesco brand as a mechanism for sharing this wonderful landscapes with the world.”
The Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, James Breen, said that the designation further establishes the Burren as “a thriving, sustainable destination”.
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