Speech by Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD, at the launch of the European Year of Cultural Heritage Programme


A dhaoine uaisle,

I am delighted to welcome you all here today to the National Museum for the launch of Ireland’s European Year of Cultural Heritage Programme.

The European Year of Cultural Heritage is a European initiative, designed to put a spotlight on Europe’s wealth of cultural heritage, and to involve all citizens in events that promote a sense of belonging to a shared European space.

The aims of the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 are essentially threefold;

  • Firstly, it encourages the sharing and appreciation of Europe’s cultural heritage.
  • Secondly, it seeks to raise awareness of our common history and values and,
  • Thirdly, and most importantly, it is for all our citizens. People and communities – across Ireland – are the custodians of our heritage in all its richness. They are very much at the heart of the programme for this year.

These aims are reflected in the theme selected by Ireland which is entitled ‘Make a Connection’. This theme aims to deepen the connection between people and heritage.  Our heritage underpins our cultural identity. It encompassed our values and traditions, which we have inherited from previous generations, and will in turn pass on to future generations. As our heritage belongs us to all I would like to encourage all to take this special opportunity to engage with this Year of European Cultural Heritage. It offers us the chance to step back and appreciate the riches of Ireland’s culture and to consider how we might contribute to its ongoing protection, enhancement and promotion.

Is iontach an oidhreacht a d’fhág na nglúnta a d’imigh againn. Déanfaimid macnamh agus ceiliúradh ar an oidhreacht sin i mbliana. Agus déanfaimid cinnte go mairfidh saibhreas na h-oidhreachta sin do na glúnta atá le teacht.

I wish to thank the Heritage Council for overseeing Ireland’s programme for this year. The programme complements the ongoing work of the Heritage Council  in promoting, educating and encouraging enjoyment of our heritage. The Heritage Council is working with cultural institutions, heritage organisations, local councils, community groups and individuals on this year’s programme and I know that all these organisations both at national and local level will participate with enthusiasm.

The programme is strong and is continually being expanded with the aim of making this year an exceptional one for Irish cultural heritage.

Many of you gathered here today are involved in one way or another and know the commitment of Irish people to our cultural heritage: we value it, we engage with it, and we support it. It will come as no surprise that a study conducted in Autumn 2017 by Eurobarometer found that Irish people volunteer with cultural heritage organisations at over twice the EU average.

As well as the heritage of this island, over 70% of us indicated that we would like to know more about Europe’s cultural heritage.

This year’s initiative hopes to make it easy for everybody to make new connection with our Irish and European heritage. We can visit a museum; get to know the history behind a historic monument in our locality; or learn about our unique landscapes and wildlife habitats. I hope that this year will leave a legacy and be the platform for greater engagement with our heritage in future years.

This is also an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the work being done all around the country on our heritage by local communities, local authorities and national agencies.

We can also highlight the social and economic benefits that heritage projects bring to the community.

On the European level it gives us an opportunity to explore and celebrate our wider shared heritage  – to rediscover the Irish links which stretch across the continent, and to reflect a shared sense of belonging, while celebrating the incredible diversity of culture within Europe. This shared and diverse cultural heritage can unite us – not divide us.

Agus ar ndóigh seo Bliain na Gaeilge chomh maith. Mar chuid lárnach d’oidhreacht na hÉireann tá mé cinnte go mbeidh go leor imeachtaí gaelacha ar siúl i rith na bliana, fud fad na tíre.

While the programme is too extensive to detail I would like to mention the Heritage Council’s Community Heritage Grant Scheme for 2018, which will focus on year’s theme ‘Make a Connection’. This will encourage communities throughout Ireland to build heritage connections that will last long beyond this year. This scheme is intended to enable communities and heritage non-governmental organisations to continue their work in this area or to start new initiatives.

The other project I would like to note is being supported by the Department under the Creative Ireland Programme: Le Chéile san Eoraip, and focuses on building and strengthening European connections. This aim of this project is to encourage local communities to rediscover connections, both geographic and thematic to other places in Europe through their local heritage and will be launched in mid-2018

Of course Heritage Week, to be held 18- 27 August, will form a high point of the year from the public engagement aspect both in Ireland and through the European Heritage Days across Europe, which has a theme this year of ‘Sharing Stories’.

I would like to commend the Heritage Council and especially Beatrice Kelly as National Coordinator, for their hard work and commitment to the European Year of Cultural Heritage programme initiative and also the staff of my Department who work on an ongoing basis in protecting and promoting our heritage and coordinating this year’s initiative.

Later today, in Iveagh House, we will be acknowledging the unique success of Uilleann Piping being inscribed on the UNESCO representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

In that context, I have decided to adjust the registration system to allow for an ongoing flow, on a rolling basis of applications to my Department for inscribing our cultural practices, and traditions – our living heritage – on the new National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

As a nation we are renowned for our rich cultural heritage, whether it is in song, dance, the custom of the Wren Boys calling, or indeed the skill of making Currachs or Wexford Cots.  All of these living traditions form part of our cultural heritage, which each generation enjoys, and then transmits to the next generation. This new National Inventory, being compiled by the Department will act as a record for future generations, to inform them of the stories which lie behind the cultural customs and practices which the next generations will continue to be the bearers of during their lifetime.

Mar fhocal scoir- is féidir le gach duine tairbhe agus sult a bhaint as a bheith ag plé lenár n-oidhreacht. Tá mé féin ag súil go mór le h-imeachtaí na bliana.

Déanaimís Nasc!  – Make a Connection!

Go raibh maith agaibh go léir.

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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