Presentation by Michael Starrett at at Talbot’s Tower, Kilkenny
An Chomhairle Oidreachta
At Talbot’s Tower, Kilkenny.
Monday 28th November 2011
Mayor, Ministers, Members of the Oireachtas, Chair of Kilkenny County Council, Councillors, Colleagues and Friends.
It really is a privilege and a pleasure to be celebrating with all of you the conservation and restoration of Talbot’s Tower.
When the Heritage Council was established in Kilkenny some 15 years ago this tower was considered a dangerous structure and was earmarked for demolition.
Now, through a steady process of engaging in active citizenship, Kilkenny has its Conservation Plan for its walls, its Heritage Forum, its very active Heritage Officer and it is of course a member of the Irish Walled Towns Network. And we all reap the benefit of Kilkenny’s growing reputation for its cultural heritage.
It is a tribute to the perseverance of many people in this community that the value of the Tower to all the citizens of Kilkenny has now, at least in part, been realised. It is, and will now continue to be, an essential part of the uniqueness and character of what makes Kilkenny such a great City.
There are far too many people for me to pay tribute to, at the risk of leaving someone out, however I must mention Councillor Betty Manning who long ago appreciated the connection between the quality of people’s heritage and the value it adds to our tourism product. It is after all futile to invest in the marketing of a tourism product and yet at the same time allow those aspects that define and underpin that product to fall down around us. Betty has worked tirelessly, both in her lifetime of work as a local councillor and more recently as Chair of the Walled Towns Committee, to get that message across.
I must also mention our current Mayor, David Fitzgerald. At the risk of making myself feel old, I remember long before he was actively involved in politics his involvement in the Tidy Towns volunteers as a concerned and committed member of this community, trudging along on the many clean up days with plastic bag and litter picker in hand.
What can you say about the Irish Walled Towns Network (IWTN)? That network and what it achieves in the 21 member towns from Derry to Youghal, from Athenry to Fethard is nothing short of amazing. The type of work we see today is replicated for very modest investment (relative to its return) right across the Country. The IWTN epitomises everything that the Heritage Council works to achieve, namely it provides a flexible, innovative and imaginative framework within which creative communities can work to realise the potential and value of their heritage. It enables and empowers. The benefits this brings are not just confined to aesthetics or the intrinsic value of heritage in which we can all take pride.
The benefits include jobs:
for example the €600,000 invested in the IWTN in 2011 directly created 70 jobs – 40 in construction and 30 professional.
The benefits include economic spin off:
in 2011 IWTN provided €70,000 to 13 medieval festivals
42,000 people attended the Walled Town’s Days.
The boost to local economies has conservatively been estimated at €1.4m – twenty fold return.
These investments bring a broad range of long term benefits that serve Kilkenny and the country in general very well even during these tough times. We should be redoubling our efforts to make sure they are not unseen or ignored or swept aside.
The Heritage Council has in the last 15 years worked in partnership with many communities to put in place similar creative communities right across the Country. The Heritage Officers in 28 counties work with their Local Authority and their Heritage Forum to bring similar benefits.
Similarly the Wicklow Uplands Council, the Woodlands of Ireland, the Landmark Trust, the National Biodiversity Data Centre and the Museum Standards Programme and our Village Design Programme invest in job creation and conserve the quality of our natural and cultural heritage.
All are working with and for local communities helping to change how we think about our heritage assets and adding to the value they can deliver for ourselves and for our visitors. It is also worth noting that 70% OF THE 70 JOBS directly created in the above list are in the private sector.
Despite recent reports of the amalgamation of the Heritage Council I am optimistic that the service we provide, and most significantly how we provide it, is sufficiently valued that we will continue to build on the networks and projects we have worked hard to bring about in the few short years since we were established.
I will be working assiduously in the next weeks and months to make sure this work too is not swept aside. If you value the work the Heritage Council does and most importantly the unique way in which it does it, your support will be essential.
I intend that The Heritage Council will continue to provide support and advice to you in a ‘can do’ and imaginative way in the years ahead and that we will see many more projects like this come to fruition helping to build Ireland’s unique cultural offering and maintain its reputation as a place with a rich and vibrant heritage...