Heritage Council and CCMA publish evaluation report on Local Authority Heritage Officer Programme

Nuacht /

Discover the findings of our evaluation report on the value of the Local Authority Heritage Officer Programme.

A new report on the value of the Local Authority Heritage Officer Programme (LAHOP) has found that it plays a key and valued role in Ireland’s heritage. The report also identifies the need for the role to be adapted to continue to deliver into the future. The evaluation report on the programme was launched today (24.11.21) by Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD. It was commissioned by the Heritage Council and the County and City Management Association (CCMA). The research was conducted by M.Co.

LAHOP is an initiative of the Heritage Council, in partnership with local authorities. It has been in operation since 1999, when it ran as a pilot scheme involving 3 local authorities. It now operates in all 31 local authorities across the country. It is aimed at increasing the public’s understanding and awareness of our natural, cultural, and built heritage. The county heritage officers are employed by local authorities in partnership with and with funding support from the Heritage Council.

The evaluation report considers the impact, relevance, and effectiveness of the LAHOP programme in the context of the Heritage Council’s strategic objectives, national heritage policy, and local authority objectives. It found a significant rationale for the continued development of the heritage officer role as a strategic and integrating force, which can develop and optimise heritage assets for local authorities and for local communities. The report makes recommendations to inform the strategic direction and resourcing of the programme over the next five years. These include that:

  • The focus of LAHOP objectives be refined to meet the future requirements of the programme.
  • The Heritage Council continues to support heritage officer salary costs.
  • A framework for strategic partnership between the Heritage Council and each local authority be developed and supported.
  • New guidance for local authority heritage plans and heritage forums be developed and supported.
  • Support for the heritage officer network be continued, and investment be made in training, aligned to the strategic needs of the LAHOP.

The report has been approved by the Heritage Council and the CCMA both bodies will work together to oversee the implementation of these recommendations.

Commenting, Minister for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan TD said: “I warmly welcome the publication of this report today. Heritage has always been a core part of who we are in Ireland and, since the arrival of the pandemic, we are even more aware of just how valuable it is to our everyday wellbeing. Heritage officers play an integral part in promoting and conserving local heritage in communities across the country. I am delighted that we now have a heritage officer in each of the 31 local authorities for the first time, following appointments in Carlow and Wexford this year. This, along with the recommendations contained in this report, will further strengthen this important service for our communities.”

Pat Gallagher, Chief Executive, Westmeath, County Council of the CCMA, said “This programme ensures the skills and expertise of professional heritage officers are available in each county on an ongoing basis, not just to develop an appropriate and ambitious County Heritage Plan, but also to oversee its implementation, and to advise on heritage matters as they arise. We are delighted to continue to work with the Heritage Council on this programme and we look forward to working together to develop an even more dynamic programme.”

Chief executive of the Heritage Council, Virginia Teehan added: “Local authority heritage officers promote heritage awareness, develop policy, and provide advice and information on local and national heritage issues. Employed by local authorities with funding support from the Heritage Council, heritage officers are a vital link between the Heritage Council and the local authorities. They provide the Heritage Council with a network into every community in the country. Given the increasingly ambitious policy landscape for heritage, this review of the programme is timely, and we look forward to working with local authorities – and the heritage officers themselves – to further strengthen this valuable programme.”

Chair designate of the Heritage Council, Dr Martina Moloney said: “I am delighted to welcome this report, which sets out a clear pathway for how this nationally important programme can be developed over the coming years. I look forward to working closely with our key partners in the local authorities in implementing recommendations.”

The report - ’An evaluation of the local authority heritage officer programme (LAHOP)’ – can be found below.

Media contact: Joanne Ahern, DHR Communications, Tel: 087-9881837.

Photo below: Charles Duggan, Heritage Officer, Dublin City Council, Virginia Teehan, Chief Executive, Malcolm Noonan T.D. Minister of State for Heritage at Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Pat Gallagher, CCMA & Chief Executive, Westmeath County Council and Martina Moloney, Chairperson of The Heritage Council.