Death of former Heritage Council Board Member Emer Colleran
The Heritage Council has learnt of the recent death of one of its first board members, Professor Emer Colleran.
On behalf of The Heritage Council, its members and staff I extend our deepest sympathies to Emer’s family, colleagues and friends.
Emer was one of the first cohort of members appointed to the Heritage Council board upon its establishment in 1995 by the then Minister of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, and now President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins.
It was following my appointment as the Heritage Council’s Chief Executive in 1996 that I got to know Emer first hand, although I had been aware of her work and environmental credentials before that time. An outstanding microbiologist, academic and environmental campaigner Emer was one of those very rare people who not only developed deep knowledge and understanding through her own research, but was also able to see how that research could be applied to improve the quality of the environment in which we all live.
It was in this context that her contribution to the work of the Heritage Council proved most effective and valuable. Working with others (and she was a wonderful motivator of people at all levels of involvement) she shaped the culture of Council to be one that developed evidence based policy proposals on all aspects of our national heritage.
In partnership with her colleagues in NUI Galway, and in particular then Heritage Council board members Micheline Sheehy Skeffington and Jimmy Dunne, pioneering work such as the Evaluation of the Impact of Environmental Designations in Ireland proved to be the precursor of environmental monitoring and evaluation initiatives which we now all take for granted.
Early Policy proposals from the Heritage Council such as those on Forestry, Agriculture and Ireland’s landscapes all had the stamp of this approach and what’s more encouraged major land uses, and land use planning to consider their impact on our natural and cultural heritage. Emer’s contribution to the work of Heritage Council had been honed through her defence of the quality of the Burren landscape, and through that process she gained and later applied to all the work of Council, an emphasis on securing full community participation in our work.
Without her commitment and guidance to the work of the Heritage Council we would not now have a National Landscape Strategy nor an established National Biodiversity Data Centre, nor would high nature value farming or our native woodlands be valued to the extent in which they currently are. I have had, and enjoyed, regular contact with Emer in the intervening years. She never hesitated to call and keep me informed of current issues in her beloved Galway. I will miss those calls which were always informative and focused on making the lives of people better. It is a measure of her character as a very special person that she retained that very positive focus right to the very end.