Letter to An Taoiseach regarding proposed incorporation of the Heritage Council with the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht

Full text of letter to An Taoiseach
Ref: Proposed incorporation of the Heritage Council with the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht
cc. Minister Phil Hogan, Minister Jimmy Deenihan
Dear Taoiseach,
The Environmental Pillar, whilst realising the necessity of cost savings across government, is very concerned at proposals to incorporate the Heritage Council into the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht. It is imperative that the Government resists these proposals to reduce its independence; proposals which do not take account of the strategic importance of our national heritage.
In order to recover our national prosperity we need to trim the fat, not the muscle.
As you are aware, the Irish landscape is a core cultural resource, a touchstone for our diaspora, a source of identity, and a sustainable economic resource through farming, forestry, tourism and heritage – it is both our inheritance and our gift to the future.  Our recovering tourism sector depends heavily on our built and natural heritage. Tourists visit our wildlife habitats, our scenery, our architectural heritage and our monuments. If we do not adequately protect these assets they will wither and decline, with a subsequent fall in tourist numbers.
As a country, we need to play to our strengths. Regarding tourism Ireland’s twin strengths are its landscape and its people. As Minister Deenihan said in a speech recently, “Ireland’s built heritage supports over 30,000 jobs and contributes in excess of €1 billion to the economy.”  Similarly the value of the natural environment in providing the raw materials for farming, fisheries and forestry is estimated at €2.6 billion.  Some of the other valuable services provided by nature include: natural flood control provided by wetlands; pollination of crops by insects; natural purification of waters polluted by human activity; and the beauty of landscape.
The Heritage Council is to our country as the Arts Council is to our people. It is so important, especially in these straightened times, that the Council needs to be able to have a distinct and independent voice that continues to highlight the importance of heritage to public policy and everyday life.
In its efforts to gain public support for these environmental improvements, the Heritage Council is an independent strategic partner for the government, promoting active citizenship and creative communities. It is charged with the responsibility to: promote interest, education, knowledge and pride in, and facilitate the appreciation and enjoyment of the national heritage.  A diminished role for the Heritage Council will only make the government’s efforts at generating this support more difficult.
I hope you find this letter of assistance. The Environmental Pillar stresses its willingness and dedication to work with you on this and other environmental matters.
Kind regards,
Michael Ewing,
Co-ordinator, Environment Pillar of Social Partnership