Push for Valentia Island's Unesco status

Valentia Island’s telecommunications history is “of outstanding universal value” and it should be inscribed as a Unesco world heritage site, 200 delegates at a convention will hear this weekend.

The delegates from the US, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and Ireland will attend the talk to mark the 151st anniversary of the laying of the transatlantic cable from Valentia to Heart’s Content Newfoundland in Canada.

The event, the first of what is to be an annual lecture series, will outline “a trans-national” proposal for world heritage status for both sites.

The heavy multi-strand copper cable, covered in brass, was laid from the world’s biggest ship The Great Eastern from Foilhommerum Bay, Valentia, across 1,686 nautical miles and was brought ashore in Newfoundland 13 days later.

Tonnes of the heavy and valuable cable still line the seabed in south Kerry, testimony to several failed attempts as well as to the successful connection.

In August 1858, from her summer home on the Isle of Wight, Queen Victoria sent a message of congratulations to the president of the United States, James Buchanan.

The neighbouring sixth century monastic island Skellig Michael is one of only two sites in the Republic to hold Unesco world heritage status, alongside the Boyne Valley/ Newgrange.

Both of these sites are inscribed for their natural and cultural value. However, Valentia’s bid is on the grounds of “industrial heritage”.

The transatlantic cable was the foundation of the digital age and it reduced the time it took to communicate “from two weeks to just two minutes,” chairman of the Valentia Transatlantic Cable Foundation, Leonard Hobbs, of Trinity College Dublin, said.

Unesco heritage expert Professor Alexander Gillespie from the University of Waikatu in New Zealand has carried out an assessment of Valentia.

“The significance of what happened on Valentia Island, as evidenced by its associated and remaining features, gives it a strong chance of becoming a World Heritage site due to its Outstanding Universal Value,” Prof Gillespie will tell delegates.

“If this is achieved, Valentia Island, as the exemplar of the Industrial Revolution in Ireland and the world, has the capacity to attract thousands of national and global visitors each year,” he said.

The theme of the event sponsored by BT and the IDA is ‘Globalisation: Our Interconnected World’.

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