Walled towns and cities in Ireland are an important national heritage asset. They link our communities to the past, whilst shaping the current and future urban form and fabric of our modern settlements. The history of Ireland can literally be found in its walled towns.
The Irish Walled Towns Network (IWTN) was established by the Heritage Council in 2005 and currently comprises 21 walled towns and villages throughout Ireland. These are Ardee, Athenry, Athlone, Bandon, Carlingford, Carrickfergus, Cashel, Clonmel, Cork, Derry, Drogheda, Dublin, Fethard, Galway, Kilkenny, Kilmallock, Limerick, New Ross, Rinn Duin, Trim, Waterford, Wexford and Youghal.
The role of the IWTN is to unite and co-ordinate the strategic efforts of local authorities involved in the management, conservation and enhancement of historic walled towns in Ireland, both North and South. IWTN is formally linked to the International Walled Towns Friendship Circle (WTFC), which is the international association for the sustainable development of walled towns, walled cities and fortified historic towns.
IWTN seeks to ensure that Ireland’s unique cultural and archaeological heritage in relation to its walled and fortified towns and cities is protected and managed in a sustainable and appropriate manner in the long-term.
IWTN liaises with other historic walled and fortified towns in Europe on a regular basis, e.g. Chester, Dubrovnik and Alcudia. Improved networks and links will ensure that quality management and effective conservation plans and systems are designed and implemented to protect and conserve historic walled towns for the enjoyment and appreciation of current and future generations in Ireland and further afield.
Why Conserve Walled Towns?
The remaining walls or former sites/ routes, when effectively conserved, managed and promoted, help to create a unique sense of place, belonging and identity and are an important, long-term source of civic pride and focus for tourism, cultural and economic development. The conservation and management of the historic walls also contribute to an enhanced quality of life for residents and visitors alike.
The Heritage Council’s responsibilities under the provisions of The Heritage Act 1995 [pdf 93kb] include devising policies and priorities for the identification, protection, preservation and enhancement of the national heritage, which includes monuments (i.e. extant town walls).
IWTN is committed to operate, in accordance with the European Walled Towns' Constitition [pdf 131kb] and international conservation best-practice. IWTN also endorses the Piran Declaration [external website] and aims to ensure that walled towns in Ireland are protected, conserved and managed for the benefit of existing and future generations. According to the Piran Declaration:
"Walled Towns are unique inheritances from times long past and should be treasured, maintained and safeguarded from neglect, damage and destruction and passed on into perpetuity as irreplaceable 'timestones of history". - Piran Declaration, 2003
It is an objective of the IWTN that all consultants and contractors conduct adequate research and planning before conservation works begin on the medieval fabric and conduct all actions according to international best-practice as detailed in both the Venice Charter 1964 [pdf 99kb] and Burra Charter 1999 [pdf 4.7mb]. Similarly, any site interpretation or events which take place with the support of the IWTN are to be carried out in keeping with the guidelines set out in the Burra Charter and only after proper consideration is given to the meanings of the walls.
The IWTN committee is appointed by the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht and is currently made up of the following participants:
- Brian Tyrell: IWTN Chairman, Senior Executive Officer, Kilkenny Borough Council
- Ciara Brett: Archaeologist, Cork City Council
- Pat Collins: Wexford Town Clerk, Acting Chairman IWTN
- Ian Doyle: Head of Conservation Services, Heritage Council
- Andrew Gault: Archaeologist, Northern Ireland Environment Agency
- Liam Mannix: Project Manager, IWTN
- Sarah McCutcheon: Archaeologist, Limerick County Council
- Craig McGuicken: Head of Museum and Heritage Services, Derry City Council
- Maeve McKeever: Heritage Product Officer, Fáilte Ireland
- Nessa Roche: Architectural Advisor, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government
The Committee's role is to raise awareness of the IWTN, to organise Irish Walled Towns Day and to provide feedback and direction to the Heritage Council.
Membership of the IWTN is dependent on the town being in 'List A' of Avril Thomas’ publication, The Walled Towns of Ireland (1992), please see the below. Failing inclusion on this list, membership is open to those towns that have illustrated through scholarly research that their town has or once had town walls.
List A, The Walled Towns of Ireland (1992):
Adare, Ardee, Athboy, Athenry, Athlone, Athy, Bandon, Belfast, Buttevant, Callan, Carlingford, Carlow, Carrickfergus, Carrick-on-Suir, Cashel, Castledermot, Clonmel, Clonmines, Coleraine, Cork, Derry, Dingle, Downpatrick, Drogheda, Dublin, Dungarvan, Fethard, Fore, Galway, Gowran, Inistioge, Jamestown, Kells (Meath), Kildare, Kilkenny, Kilmallock, Kinsale, Limerick, Loughrea, Naas, Navan, Nenagh, New Ross, Newry, Philipstown, Portlaoise, Rindoon, Roscommon, Thomastown, Thurles, Tipperary, Trim, Waterford, Wexford, Youghal.
The Legal Context
The Heritage Council and members of IWTN acknowledge existing legislation in the area of planning and conservation relating to walled towns and seek to ensure that approval for works/ projects is sought from a number of bodies including the following:
- Local Authorities
- National Monuments & Historic Properties [external website]
- National Museum of Ireland [external website]
The primary relevant legislation includes: